Unfortunately when we arrived at the hostel in Iguazú, the Brazil v Croatia game was finished. We were a little disappointed but there will be plenty more games to watch! We paid a visit to the nearby supermarket and ended up making a bit of a veggie and egg scramble due to the limited supermarket options and kitchen facilities.
In the morning, we arose to grey, gloomy skies with a forecast of rain and severe storms in the afternoon. Nothing like the day prior that we had spent entirely on a bus! We headed for the Argentinian side of Iguazú Falls hoping the rain would only arrive later in the day, as forecast. A bus left from the terminal which took about half an hour to reach the entrance gates so we took it.
Armed with a map, we set off to check out the falls. We had heard there had been so much water lately that the river level at the bottom left only a fraction of the usual drop of the falls, but we hadn't known what this would actually affect when we arrived.
A train takes you from near the entrance, and usually has 2 stops. The furthest station, Garganta del Diablo, takes you to the start of a boardwalk that leads you to stand right over the edge of the Garganta del Diablo section of the falls. We thought we would start there, in the hope of beating the crowds, but the train only went as far as Cataratas Station (Waterfalls Station). The train and the viewing platform further along were closed due to the water levels.
So instead, we elected to first take the upper falls trail, which takes you to several viewing platforms above different sections of the falls. The sound of the water hammering down the rock face to the river below hits you first, as the trail weaves through the trees offering a few teasing glimpes. Then suddenly you are standing on a platform staring at one of the most powerful sights imaginable, Iguazú Falls.
While the water has subsided a little from its recent high point (I think we heard the highest water levels in 70 years), there was still an enormous amount of water flowing over the cliff. It was so churned up the water was unusually brown, though this created an almost romantic sepia tone and provided some contrast against the grey skies.
The falls that are usually split into sections separated by rocks and pockets of higher ground, were basically one continuous wall of water thundering down underneath us.
As we made our way along the boardwalk, we reached a sign saying the rest of that trail was also closed. We could see an entire section of the walkway was missing, damaged by the flooding. Unfortunately this meant we weren't able to reach the viewing platforms that went out further over the falls, though we were happy to stick to areas that were still, assumingly, structurally safe!
Next we made our way to the lower trail, and on the way saw countless Coatis, which looked a bit like Racoons. They were more than happy to be near people, especially where people were eating, though there were plenty of warning signs not to pat them as they can become quite nasty. We did witness this when they tried to approach each others food!
The lower trail runs along a lower level of the falls and past several smaller falls. We weren't sure if all those falls existed on a normal day, as we could see some of the damage the water had done to some of the smaller trees and shrubs, basically flattening them in its path.
At the end of this trail, you come face to face with one of the falls, sending sprays of water that blasted and completely saturated us as we ran out to the end of the platform to have our photo taken. We imagine the saturation level probably isn't usually this high at this point, but it added some extra excitement being able to get so close!
We would have really liked to catch the boat across to San Martin Island as well, but this wasn't running as the pathway down to the boat launch seemed to have grown a waterfall over the top, the launch area at the bottom had been damaged, and a significant amount of the island was still under water. Again, disappointing, but what we had already seen was so phenomenal we were ok to put safety first.
Due to the closures we had finished the main parts of the park a little earlier than expected, so we decided to take the 3km Macuco Trail through the jungle out to the Arrechea Waterfalls that are a little further downstream.
The walk was muddy in patches but pleasant. Not far into it we spotted some Capuchin monkeys, though briefly and they did a really good job of staying hidden. We also managed to catch glimpses of little pig like animals that we think were Tapirus, though there were too far away to get a clear look at. Plus stopping meant dealing with masses of mosquitoes, which latched on very quickly. Thankfully though they disappeared when you started moving again.
The Arrechea falls had a viewing platform above, then another path and some stairs led to another viewing platform at the base. It looked like swimming was allowed at the base of the falls which would be lovely in summer!
We then departed the park and caught the bus back to town. A quick change of clothes and we were off to find a venue to watch the Socceroos in their first game against Chile! We spotted some other Aussies and ended up following them to a small pub/restaurant they knew would be showing it.
We caught the end of the Mexico v Cameroon game before, then were waiting for the Australia v Chile game as the skies opened up and a massive storm hit. The place we were at had a roof but wasn't really enclosed as it was inside a market sort of area. We were surrounded by water streaming down off roofs, and rivers were running down through the markets. The thunder and lightening were bright, loud and regular.
About 5 minutes after commenting that as long as the power stayed on we would be ok, a huge flash of lightening accompanied by possibly the biggest clap of thunder we'd ever heard sent all the power off. Everything around us was pitch black until people, in a few stores, started moving around with torches. Luckily, we were still about half an hour out from kickoff and the outage only lasted 5 minutes.
The power stayed on for the duration of the game, aside from a few flickers. Australia had a very shaky start going down 2 goals within the first 20 minutes. This caused great concern as to how the rest of the game would play out, but after a little while we got one back. We were a different team in the second half and had plenty of opportunities showing some hope, but to no avail. Chile put another goal away late in the game.
By this time there was a bit of a break in the rain, so we helped our fellow Aussies arrange a taxi before walking back through town to grab some dinner, still wearing our Australia shirts proudly and getting some strange looks in the restaurant.
A new day, still grey and gloomy, but fortunately there wasn't much rain about. We jumped on a bus to go and check out the Brasilian side of Iguaçu. After purchasing tickets at the park entrance, visitors are herded onto a bus that takes you what is still a fair distance to the walking trails for the falls.
As the pathway winds along the hillside towards the falls, you are treated to changing views and angles of Iguaçu Falls, neither more or less spectacular than on the Argentina side, though completely different and showing more of an overall view. We were able to look back across to the Argentinian side and see where we had been the day prior seeing it all from a different angle.
Once you reach the falls, there is a walkway that takes you out to overlook the Devils Throat. The water rushing underneath it was so high, it almost reached the platform. The pillars this platform was built on were taking a hammering, and this was only a few days since the water levels had been at their highest, no doubt covering the platform at some point. Was it safe?
We decided it was safe enough (and if you're going to go, over Iguazu would definitely be memorable!), and ventured out to check out the view. We got some great shots with the water rushing underneath us from in between the upper and lower section of the falls. Though when we got to the end and the Devils Throat, there was so much water, and so much spray that we got absolutely saturated and saw very little, but we did make it back to land safely!
There is another viewing platform that under normal circumstances would be quite close to one of the sections of the falls. They are set up to take some great touristy shots of people with nothing but water falling behind them, and in the examples they had on display this looked quite lovely. But today, the water was coming in ridiculously close to the platform. People were running in close to the water, then freaking out when a huge burst of spray would almost send them for 6.
An elevator then takes you back up to the top, where we walked along the riverside to the end where the restaurants are. You could see how high the water had been up the river banks which was quite frightening, and even more so was looking over to the Argentina side at one of the walkways that had been closed. Pretty much all of the sections of it were completely missing!
We concluded our visit to Iguaçu by enjoying a greasy burger and some more of the world cup, then caught the bus back to Argentina to our accommodation. We had really hoped to do the moon walk that night, where you are able to view the falls under the light of the full moon, but of course the weather was still crap so the moon wasn't going to be visible.
The next day we had an afternoon flight from Foz do Iguaçu on the Brasilian side to Porto Alegre, so in the morning we decided to check out the 3 monuments. Where the Iguazú River intersects the Paraná River, each shore is a different country (Argentina, Paraguay and Brasil), and each has a monument painted in their colours. We attempted some photos that would get all 3 monuments in the but rather unsuccessfully.
On the way there, we walked by the river and the port. The entire thing had been flooded, and you could still see some buildings on the Brasilian shore that were half under water. Power lines had been washed down and were just hanging about the place, hopefully not live!
On the way back we walked along the road to find somewhere for lunch, then returned to the hostel for our bags and grabbed a taxi back across the border to the airport. We arrived quite early, but it was busy and we had trouble finding a good view of the Switzerland v Ecuador game on the single TV in the terminal before our flight was called.
We flew via Sao Paulo, with only a short stop between flights. Coming in to land it felt like we could have waved to some of the people in their apartment buildings. We looked at the departure boards inside the airport to find our gate and were a bit worried by all the flights showing a status of cancelled! Fortunately despite some gate changes our fight was fine, and it was only flights to Rio that were cancelled, though we don't know why.
Next stop Porto Alegre and the World Cup!