Iguazu Falls – Argentina/Brazil/Paraguay
A MONSTER of a day. Irmante and I decided to head to the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls. We took two new friends with us who, one of which we stole form the hostels expensive ‘tour package’ and we made our own adventure to figure out how to get to Argentina to see the waterfalls from there. The hostel agreed to store our luggage, and the four of us adventured off, with some semi-informed instructions of an Israeli who had been in the hostel the previous night.
We took a bus to the center of Foz do Iguaçu city in Brazil, caught a bus to the Argentinean border. We exited the bus to get exit stamps from Brazilian immigration. We had our receipt from the bus, and we were waiting for the next to pick us up for free. A new bus arrived but he wanted money to let us on, not receipts. When he left us, he said the next bus would be in an hour. There were plenty of gringos standing there, waiting. They told us it was too far to walk to the Argentinean border. So, Irmante and I took our two new friends, Fridolf from the Netherlands and Andrey from Russia, further up the road where we hitchhiked through no-mans-land with a man heading to Argentina to buy meat. We went through immigration to Argentina and caught a taxi to the falls after doing a little bit of dirty money exchange with a bank who gave us a better exchange rate when we asked. Fridolf asked me how long I have been travelling for. I told him, “Years.” He said, “Yea, I can see that. It’s pretty cool.” I am not sure if I looked grizzled or if I look like I know what I am doing.
The Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls is so much more beautiful than the Brazilian side. You have to catch a little train through the forest to be transported around. When we arrived at Devil’s Throat/Garganta del Diablo, and we were blown away. It is amazing how strong, awesome and powerful the water feels. It is sort of hypnotizing. It is difficult to even try to describe with words as it is such a powerful visual. Eventually, we made our way to the bottom of the water to Aventura Nautica where we took a boat that took us under some of the falls where the mist was pummeling us sitting there. I could not open my eyes. It was a crazy feeling.
I had stripped down to my boxer shorts before the boat trip and kept everything else in a dry-sack, so after we were leaving the Aventura Nautica, I decided to strip off my wet boxers so that I could just put on my shorts and t-shirt to feel dry. I found some rocks to get around and I thought I was far enough ahead of the crowd. So, I tore off my underwear and I was standing there naked, in between a couple of rocks when the crowd came along. First it was a middle aged Argentinean man who came along as I wast trying to get my shorts on my feet, but before I could a Japanese man came along who looked at me in horror, because his wife was behind him and she got a look at me, and then an American girl came next and just said, “Nice,” to me as she passed by laughing. I later got caught up with the crowd, and I apologized to the American girl for the show. She said, “You have some confidence hey?” I had only been wearing boxer shorts that said ‘Kapow!’ on them when I was on the boat. She said, “You have some style, your boxer shirts, your ‘Bad Mother Fucker’ belt buckle, your wooden sunglasses… I want to get a picture with you…”
My crew and I caught a bus back to Brazil and we talked our driver into waiting for us to get our passport stamps through the borders. We got stamped out of Argentina. We got stamped into Brazil. At the Brazilian immigration the lady behind the counter was making a big deal about something with my initial stamp when I first arrived in Brazil in February. I thought she was just confused about how we were stamped out of Brazil and then we were trying to get stamped back in again during the same day and she was looking at the wrong stamps. Eventually, she pointed out that my initial stamp into Brazil was on 15 February 2015. The lady at immigration when I initially came into Brazil had her stamp set incorrectly. So, basically, this lady behind the counter today was wondering why I had come back to 2014.
We caught a bus to our hostel and collected out bags. Fridolf was boasting to the whole hostel that we had hitch-hiked to Argentina. The hostel dude told us that there would be no more buses to cross into Ciudad del Este, Paraguay where we had a hostel booked. So, we improvised a plan. As we left the hostel Fridolf told Irmante and I that we are awesome. The the two of us caught a but to the center of Foz do Iguaçu city in Brazil. Then we waited for about an hour with some freshman civil engineering university students who had been hazed by the older students and had half shaved heads and painted faces and fingernails. Eventually, we caught a but to a place in the city called ‘Ponte,’ where we got off the bus and caught a taxi with a confident driver who knew where our hostel in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay was located. We agreed on $20 Brazilian Reais, and loaded into his car. We stopped at the Brazilian immigration for an exit stamp. Then our cabbie, who did not even check into immigration at all took us to Paraguay who stamped us through as well. That was six times we were at immigration in one day. And, there is no organization on no reason to stop at the land crossing between Brazil and Paraguay at Igauzu unless you make an effort to stop. We could have just carried a lot of guns, coke, cigarettes and dead hookers with us and none would have been the wiser.
Our cabbie got lost in Ciudad del Este and he drove us around asking other taxi drivers where we had to go, who also did not seem to know. Eventually our cabbie got mad decided it was too far, and decided to drop us off so that we could find a new cabbie to take us to our hostel. At that time we were driving in an area where there were very dirty pre-teen children everywhere in the streets. We were next to an area of slums where many many families of people were living in tents on what was once a sidewalk. It was a terrifying place to imagine being dropped off, and when we got out at the nearby bus station, thankfully there were many cabs close by. Our cabbie wanted more money, but Irmante told him off. We went to get into a new taxi, who seemed to overcharge us right away based on skin color tax. We barely argued, just wanted to get away from where we were.
We drove for about 10 minutes, and we seen a sign that said Casa Alta Hostel. Salvation. And then our taxi cab quit in the middle of the road and our cabbie could not get it to start again. So, we renegotiated the fee, and walked the rest of the way to the hostel. So much of a day… And the hostel was an actual paradise. It is one of the nicest hostels I have been to, and a man there bought us weary travelers a pizza as Irmante and I were starved and had no Paraguayan currency.
Paraguay… This should be a trip.
*For the story and photos of the falls on the Brazilian side, click this link!