Start: April 3, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Finish: April 6, Florianopolis, Brazil
Countries to Date: 17
Border Crossings to Date: 23
Portuguese Words We Know: 3
We are nearing the end my friends. According to our original plans we should have ended two months ago, but the lure of Brazil proved too strong to overcome. Never fear we have at least a month left on the books, and although Brazil is our last stop on our 19-month tour of Latin America, you haven't seen the last of us.
Before experiencing our final border crossing, we have one place left to visit in Argentina. Iguazu Falls is a long drive out of the way, adding three 8+ hour road days to our schedule, but by all accounts people say it's a worthy detour. We brace ourselves for mobs of tourists, but are much looking forward to catching a glimpse of a spectacle that makes Niagara Falls look like a leaky backyard sprinkler.
After regrettably cutting our stay in Uruguay short due to hoards of vacationing locals we cross back into Argentina. We've spent longer in Argentina than any other country, and crossed its border over a half dozen times. Kobus gets a grilling at this crossing when trying to get the vehicle import permit, but we've obviously done this before and they set us loose after a 30 minute delay.
Across the border we tuck into a lovely campground on a man-made lake. Blissfully empty of the Semana Santa-celebrating locals we encountered in Uruguay, it's even quiet enough for Jessica to take a little nap in the hammock.
We leave the next morning, driving through the entirety of Easter Sunday. We found campiground that was still open and poured ourselves a couple drinks. Shortly thereafter our campsite is invaded by a pack of puppies, one of which immediately laps up what remained of Jessica's cuba libre and sets to chewing on her glass. Who doesn't like drunk puppies?
After another long day of driving, we pull into Iguazu, a small Argentinian town on the border of Brazil. After a night recouperating from the drive, we head to check out the falls. As expected, find them packed with vacationing Argentinians.
Not really knowing what we're doing, we wait on the train that leads to the starting area for walking paths and tours around the falls. After waiting 20 minutes for the train to show up we're surprised when the ride only takes us part way there in under 5 minutes, only to leave us waiting for yet another train. Fed up with the mobs and the slow trains, we set out to walk the remainder of the way.
Along the 45-minute hike we encounter several bullet ants. This guy is about one inch long, and is eyeballing a moth as a tasty afternoon snack. Bullet ants are reported to have the most painful sting of any animal in the world. There are Amazonian tribes who weave them into gloves that are worn as part of initiation rituals. Crazy stuff.
The falls are situated in a decidedly tropical environment, not unlike what we experienced in Central America. The amount of wildlife, especially insects like these butterflies, that we encounter on the trip far surpasses what we've grew used to in Patagonia and the high plateaus of the Andes.
We arrived seconds behind the train that we chose not to wait for. That put us soundly at the back of the line following the raised boardwalk that would take us to one of the famous overlooks of the falls.
After a 15 minute walk, spotting catfish, turtles and a cayman, we arrive at our first vista. The size and magnitude are hard to describe. We've been to both Victoria falls (granted, during the dry season) and Niagara falls and can say that Iguazu is much, much larger.
We opt to take the train back to the central staging area and spend a couple more hours following two paths that go both above and below the falls on the Argentinian side. This is our first view from a distance, giving us an idea of just how wide these falls are.
Part of the lower path extends below one of the smaller waterfalls. Jessica puts on her rain jacket and I look forward to a refreshing shower after two hours of walking around in the hot and humid air.
From the lower path we head to the upper rim where we're greeted by a view that helps put the magnitude of the falls in perspective. Stretching for what I would guess to be a mile or more, the falls continue as far as we can see before dissolving into the mists.
This is our last stop on the upper trail, complete with a rainbow. A fitting place to say goodbye to Argentina. Although the extra driving days it took to get here weren't fun, we can easily say a visit to Iguazu is worth the time and gas money.
After visiting the falls we head directly for the border, our last overland crossing of the trip. We're pleasantly surprised to find that the first half is drive-through, we don't even need to leave our car until we get to Brazil. Visas and car paperwork in hand, we're on our way into Portuguese-speaking country in under an hour.
Our first stop is Foz do Iguaçu, the Brazilian city located close to the falls. We considered visiting the falls from this side as well, but opted out of the extra expense feeling that we saw what we came to see from Argentina.
Jessica found our first campsite online, a motorcycle hangout with an incredibly helpful and English-speaking owner named Rob. Rob helps motorcyclists with repairs, sales and shipping, and he has a wealth of information about his country he's more than willing to share. Unfortunately we could only stay one night, we had two more fairly long driving days to get to our beach house in Florianopolis in time to fulfill our reservation.
Our second campsite in Brazil was at a place called No Sol, which in Portugese means "only sun" but in Spanish means "no sun". Although Portugese and Spanish are similar, for example we can read most Portugese and when we speak Spanish many people understand us, the pronunciation is very hard to reconcile. We're fortunate if we find Spanish speakers to tell us what to do, and resort to sign language when all else fails. It's like we're back in Mexico!
No Sol also sports what may be the best bathroom we've encountered to date. Immaculately tiled, working toilets in every stall, no missing toilet seats and showers that are actually hot. Plus, the bathroom has TP! Jessica was so impressed she actually got up from behind her laptop and took this picture, that really says something.
Up next: We spend 10 days in Florianopolis finishing our cookbook, preparing for Overland Expo and getting ready to ship our car and ourselves home. Then we head to Rio de Janeiro for a few final days of being tourists.