Thursday – November 27, 2008 –
In the early morning hours, our TAM flight landed in Foz do Iguaçu around 1:45 a.m. Jeff and I collected our luggage and looked for our pre-booked transfer.
Our driver, Marco, was Paraguayan and took us to his car. We loaded up for our first and only journey outside Brazil during this trip to South America. We were heading back to Argentina where we would be staying on the Argentine side of the falls. Jeff and I were splurging to stay three nights at the Hotel Sheraton Iguazú, located inside Argentina’s Parque Nacional Cataratas del Iguazú.
After clearing customs and the thirty mile journey from the Brazilian airport, we arrived on the Argentine side. Upon our arrival and checking in, we went immediately to bed.
We decided to sleep until about 11 a.m. When we woke up, we opened the curtains and could see the mist from the falls in the distance past our garden pool. We decided to grab sandwiches for lunch at one of the hotel’s bars. Then we headed out to see the falls!
Today we changed our previous plans. We decided to see the Brazilian side of the falls today in the province of Paraná. We arranged a half-day tour back to Brazil. The falls can be reached from the two main towns on either side of the falls: Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. A little distance further, some visitors come from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, on the other side of the Paraná river from Foz do Iguaçu. However, the falls are shared by the Parque Nacional Cataratas del Iguazú in Argentina and Cataratas do Iguaçu in Brazil – both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Iguazu Falls resemble a reverse letter “J” as the border between Brazil and Argentina runs through the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo). On the right bank is the Brazilian territory, which has just over 20% of the falls, while the remaining 80% are in Argentina. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. A large number of islands along the 1.7-mile edge dissect the falls into separate waterfalls that vary in height from 197 to 269 feet high. There are an average of 275 waterfalls, but this number fluctuates from 150 to 300, depending on the water level.
After our bus picked us up, I got to know a Swedish girl from Göteborg named Johanna Vakkila. She worked as a photographer for a Swedish polar tourism called PolarQuest. She was getting ready to head to Antarctica and had some interesting stories to tell. Needless to say, I asked her for a business card because that was definitely a journey I wanted to take one day.
Shortly thereafter, we crossed the border and into the Brazilian national park. We drove through the lush subtropical vegetation en route to the falls. We began a stroll down a trail descending to a canyon with a panoramic view of more than 240 falls. At the bottom, Johanna show me a photo she took of me earlier. I had almost stepped on one of the most poisonous snakes in the world – the Brazilian coral snake … with only sandals on! I couldn’t believe it and decided to pay more attention during the rest of the day!
At the end of the trail, we took a glass elevator up the cliff face for a view of the falls from the upper deck. We saw prego monkeys, toucans, parrots and yellow-breasted caimans down by the water. After admiring the views from the observation deck and buying a poster of the falls, we descended in the elevators to walk to an incredible place below the falls. We ventured out on a boardwalk extension over the river to the lower based of the Garganta del Diablo. In addition to the panoramic view of the falls, we could see how massive they truly were. We certainly made the most of our half-day tour. The park entrance only cost $20.50.
Following our trip to the falls, we hike bike to the minibus and headed back to Argentina. After saying goodbye to Johanna, Jeff and I went out to the pool and where we enjoyed the water, viewed the mist from the falls in the distance and had some drinks. After getting cleaned up, the Sheraton was having an American-style Thanksgiving dinner in the main restaurant. We splurged for all of the trimmings and felt like we were back home with all of the turkey, dressing, casseroles and desserts.
We slept well this evening and dreamt of another great at the falls on Friday.