My overland trip with Dragoman officially ended the day after we arrived in Buenos Aires, and after nearly four months on the road with varying groups of fellow passengers, I decided to add on a few days of ‘me’ time before heading back to normalcy in Amsterdam. As lovely as BA is, it felt silly not to make the journey to see Iguazu Falls, one of the modern seven wonders of the world, and a place I’d always wanted to visit since seeing a picture of it in a travel magazine over 10 years ago. I had pre-booked a tour to the falls, although in hindsight I should’ve just done it independently. For the first time on this trip I found myself in an airport. I could have taken a 19 hour overnight bus, but after so long sat on the truck, a 1h40m flight was calling to me. Despite not being able to afford to stay at the Sheraton or Belmond hotels which are located inside the park – unless I was willing to forgo a month’s worth of travelling – I was pleasantly surprised by the tour accommodation. I had an enormous double bed, a rare luxury on my travels thus far, great air conditioning, and two swimming pools (let’s not talk about how they were big enough for circa five people at any one time). They also provided the best breakfast I’ve encountered in South America outside of a cafe/ restaurant, although if I’m honest, the hostels and hotels I’ve stayed in up to this point didn’t offer up much competition in this regard.
A couple of hours after arriving at the hotel I was whisked away to the Brazilian side of the falls, Foz de Iguaçu. Our tour guide had earlier asked for our passports and when we arrived at the border he left the vehicle with us inside. Within a matter of minutes we were back on the road, stamped passports in hand. Having endured previous border crossings which had taken over three hours, this was a pleasant surprise, although I’m very surprised that we didn’t have to be seen in person by an immigration officer.
Having paid the $22 to enter the park, nothing can quite prepare you for the first sighting of the falls. Debate rages over whether the Brazilian or Argentinean side is better, with the Brazilian part offering the viewer the ‘big picture’ overview. I was pretty wowed by the cascading water opposite me and stood there mesmerised for many minutes. The Brazilian side is pretty small in terms in walking trails and ninety minutes later we were done, although I spent a similar amount of time watching a family of cute coatis foraging for food. You can obviously go at a slower pace, something done by the two selfie-lovin’, bikini-wearin’ Brazilian chicas I saw on several occasions, as did the posse of young local men who were enamoured by the view. And no, I’m not taking about the waterfalls.
After arriving back in the town of Puerta Iguazú, where I was based for the next few days, I decided to treat myself to a nice meal. Unfortunately for this Libran – I don’t believe any of that astrology bullshit, but I do consistently struggle with choice (insert Tatianna choices gif here) – the menu offered so many delicious sounding dishes, and in the end I plumped for three starters and a salad main. There’s no need for you to judge me as the full restaurant of fellow diners did that already having spied the multiple dishes being delivered to a table with a single diner. After the first delicious mouthful of suriba fishcake, I stopped caring what people thought and spent a wonderful hour eating my way through local specialties, including Patagonian lamb carpaccio which was divine, all of which was washed down with my new favourite beer, Patagonian Amber. Sorry Moosehead from Canada.
Unfortunately, I spent most of the night awake with stomach cramps and just couldn’t face a 0630 wake up call and a full day at the Argentinean falls. Thankfully, the pain passed by late evening and after a good night’s sleep, I was feeling well enough to visit the falls on this side of the border, albeit by myself. However, finding the bus station was easy, as was buying the correct ticket, and 25 minutes later I found myself once again being blown away by Mother Nature. Most people spend a full day on this side, as you’re able to also trek along a lower trail which takes you closer to the falling water, but I was only able to stay a few hours before jumping back on a plane to BA. I walked the upper trail which allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the falls, but before arriving at the first one I was treated to the sight of more coatis and a caiman.
As I wasn’t able to see all of the Argentinean side, I feel unqualified to declare which country has the best of the falls. I was enamoured with both and would encourage anyone visiting this part of the world to include this on their itinerary. It’s an utterly stunning spectacle.
Shortly after my flight took off, the pilot made an announcement, but as it was in Spanish only I didn’t pay much attention, until that is the majority of the passengers burst into applause. The people in the vicinity didn’t speak English so I stayed ignorant until the plane suddenly banked to the right and there was a collective ‘OOOOOOHHHHH AMAZING!’. I quickly realised that the pilot’s announcement was to inform us that we’d see the falls from the sky if we looked out of the right window, and then remembered he’d said derecha at some point, the Spanish word for right. Obviously, I was sat on the left side of the plane. I spent the next few minutes cursing my luck, and the check in agent who’d put me in this stupid seat. All that changed however when the pilot came on the intercom with another Spanish-only announcement which was greeted by an even more thunderous clapping. I tried to recall if I heard the Spanish word for left during his speech, but soon realised that I don’t actually know it. Thankfully at that moment, the left wing of the plane tipped and we were treated to an unforgettable view of the falls from the sky. When I saw that the couple of pictures I took didn’t do the view justice, I put my phone down and just enjoyed this incredible privilege for a few minutes. What a wonderful way to end this trip!