The wonder from the other side

We started the day with a leisurely breakfast, checking mails, reading on my e-reader and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere in the garden of our hostel.

Shortly after 9am we were on our way to the helicopter take-off which is right next to our hostel. We decided the night before to splurge and just go for it. On the way out we met Pedro from Venezuela and convinced him to come with us. He told us that he was afraid of flying but we suggested that he should face his fears and that we would be his guardian angels. It only took a couple of minutes and he was on his way back to the hostel to get more money. 15 minutes later just the three of us were up in the air with a small helicopter.

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After this 10 minutes trip we were all smiling like crazy and super excited. Pedro was so happy that he got over his fear of flying!

We took the bus and were on our way to the Argentinian side. It is not really around the corner but you have to take the bus to Foz do Iguaçu (which is actually away from the border) and then from the Hotel Bourbon in the village you take another bus back to Argentina. Then they leave you at the Brazilian border to get the passport stamped.
While waiting at the border for the next bus, we were approached by a cab driver who offered us a reasonable deal for driving us to the other side of the Iguaçu falls.

Once arrived we had a big obstacle, the Argentinian park is only taking cash. So off we went with the cab driver to the next bank to get some cash. I had already noticed in the car that I left my ATM card in the hostel and brought my frequent flyer card instead.
Sylvia of course is way more organized than I am and had her card with her and got us cash.
Once inside the next shock, the adventure part had to be paid in cash as well. Which we did originally but then by asking if there were any places in the park to use the credit card, we heard that we could also buy the adventure tickets with a credit card, just not at the first info booth.
We found that information in this park is not written in capital letters! Quite badly done for the tourists. Especially for day tourists from Brazil. It didn’t say in any guide book as well that you needed Pesos! Otherwise Sylvia would have known!
Anyway, all was forgotten once we started the tour. First a little walk up the green trail on which we saw lots of animals already.

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At 13:15 we started our adventure on a kind of truck through the subtropical forest. Explanations about the flora and fauna and the amazing size of the park (67 hectare). And then we were finally on the boat to get near the falls.

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We made two stops with the boat to take pictures and then we got really wet! We drove right into the water fall, at least it seemed so to us. Most of the times I couldn’t even see for too much water.

Then back on land we walked up a trail right near the ‘dos hermanas’ (two sisters).

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By this time it was already after 3pm. We decided to forgo the upper trail along the ‘smaller’ falls and take the little train to the Garganta del Diabolo. And we made it just in time. Caught the last train to the Garganta. Once we arrived we went straight away to the boat for our ecological tour. We had been told to rush, since the boat would be leaving soon and would not wait. With it we would see the wildlife of the falls which is as species-rich as the Amazon (as far as we noticed).

At the boat we were told that the last raft would leave at 5pm. It was 1km to the Garganta and we had 35 minutes left. We really wanted to see it all. So Pedro and I started to run and Sylvia said she we would walk. We arrived there to take some beautiful pictures.

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As you can see Sylvia got to the Garganta as well and she didn’t need to run.

We ran again on the way back to the raft and were told that there would be another one after 5 due to a lot of other people. So there would have been no need for the rush anyway. By this time we were all profusely sweating. Not the best combination with the onset of the mosquito invasion.
Once we got on the raft and started moving it got better.

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The rafting tour was uneventful at best. We saw a couple of birds and that was it. The cayman was not in its usual hiding place which was quite a disappointment for the tour guide. At least there were lots of butterflies.

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When we got off the raft, a small bus that looked like a train on wheels waited for us to bring us to the train station from which we took the train back to the main shopping area.
There we stayed for a bit to wait for Pedro to get his CD from the morning boat ride.

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At the entrance the cab driver from the morning was waiting for us to bring us back to the hostel.
Of course he over-charged us, but it was just way more convenient and still ok for us.
Sylvia and Pedro decided to go the next day together to the San Ignacio Miní and were arranging a price with the cabbie for the transfer. He quoted an outrageous price, which they only realized when we were back.
We spent our last evening together eating some kind of pasta which has never heard of Italy and later Pedro and Sylvia checked for connections to San Ignacio and Posada. This turned out to be more difficult than expected due to lack of information online. In the end they decided on taking a cab to Porto Iguaçu on the Argentinian side and try their luck then at the bus station.

I had no such problems and was finishing the book ‘Gone Girl‘ by Gillian Flynn and started with ‘Disgrace‘ by J.M.Coetzee.
Yours, Pollybert

One Comment

  1. Dear Pollybert,

    if I wrote a journey blog like you, the title of yesterday would be something like: “A Controllfreak´s Nightmare” ;-)

    After our hasty goodbye in the lobby at the Eco Hostel Pedro and I arrived shortly after 8 am at the bus terminal in Puerto Iguacu. I first had to break a 50 peso bill as the cab driver had no change, then I rushed from one travel agency to the next and found one that sold me a ticket to Posadas for 120 peso – and the bus was scheduled to leave at 8:20 – so I could not have planned it better! It was supposed to arrive in San Ignacio at 1 pm. The lady at the travel agency also said that the next bus to Posadas would leave from the Mission at 3:40 pm and it would take about 2 hours to the Posadas bus terminal, which I found a little irritating, since everyone at Tripadvisor wrote “round about” ;-) 1 hour. So I decided to let go of the Mission and just head for the Posadas Airport. Pedro accompanied me to the platform (he was carrying my backpack – poor guy ;-), but it was clear the he would not make that trip with me as it would mean he had to sit the entire day in the minibus.

    Meanwhile I discovered that my busticket was not correctly marked – the final destination being a completely unknown city so I sent Pedro back to the travel agency to straighten things out in Spanish. He came back smiling and remarking that from now on he would trust me in any travel matter as indeed the travel agency lady (obviously another “Claudia” ;-) had made a mistake.

    Within seconds I convinced Pedro to check again at the travel agency whether he could go on the mining trip to Wanda and off he went. A few seconds later the white little minibus arrived at the platfrom and since Pedro was nowhere to be seen I decided to board. A very handsome young driver – sipping mate tea in a funny pot – tried to make conversation with me – in Spanish. I not only found out that he was of polish origin, but also that I should definitely go and see the Mission – since San Ignacio was his hometown. He showed his thumb up when I tried to explain with every bodypart that I had, that I needed to be at the Posadas Airport at 8pm – according to him, the bus would leave at every full hour from the Mission and it would only take 60 minutes – so nema problema. I was already sitting comfortably in my seat when I saw Pedro running towards the bus. He had bought the ticket to Wanda and would join me – at least for the first hour as the amethyst mine is really close to Iguacu. He would just have to walk 4 km from the busstop … I reassured him, that we had walked longer distances the day before at the Cataractes …

    At 9:10 we kissed good-bye (of course a final picture was taken ;-) and we reconfirmed our next meeting Tuesday in Buenos Aires at 11 am – to go on the free City Tour.

    Time flew by – Argentina´s landscape is completely different to the Brazilian countryside: right after the border vegetation changed – one could see a lot of conifers which immediately reminded me of home and the bus passed by many little settlements – with nicely kept lawns and very neat homes – even the cows looked in a much better shape than their Brazilian counterparts who rather had that starving animal physique…

    I must have looked quite insecure about whether to get off at San Ignacio but the busdriver and especially his assistant reassured me several times that I should go for it – and so I did. I was dropped off at the side entrance (of course at an unofficial busstop) and shouldered my belongings and started to climb up the way in the middle of the hottest part of the day. It was already then that I started doubting whether it had really been a wise decision to interrupt my trip because of this World Heritage Site. I finally bought my ticket – which of course was much more expensive than indicated in the guide book and rushed through the small museum to get to the ruins … and that is exactly what they are … except for the main entrance that is shown in every tourist advertisment there is not much left of the once probably marvelously looking “Jesuit Reduction” (I still wonder what this expression means …). Jesuits tried to evangelize the indigenious population and apparently did so quite successfully – at least the exhibits at the museum tell us how fruitful the meeting of the different cultures had been – only one sidenote: the locals did what the Jesuits told them to do because they hoped to be saved from the attacks by Portugese slave hunters…

    In 20 minutes I had surrounded the entire site – had taken my pictures and hurried back to the very remotely looking stand where I had left the bus. On my way a quite aggressive dog was barking at me and came really close so that I had to scare him off.

    And then I waited … and waited … needless to say that the bus did not show up at the full hour … I cursed myself a hundred times for having been so stupid as to stop for San Ignacio Mini and I started to feel really desperate. On top of everything I was not really sure what time it was as according to my guide book there is a time shift of 1 hour (which is not true by the way), so I was really close to sit down and cry. I asked everyone who passed by whether this was the bus terminal “para Posadas” and nobody knew … a taxi was nowhere to see. For being a World Heritage Site San Ignacio Mini is quite a hidden treasure.

    Finally, after 40 tremendously long 40 minutes of ever growing desperation, a bus appeared on the horizon and I was giving signs like a half mad person – I guess they stopped out of mercy ;-) The rest of the trip to Posadas (it was really only 1 hour) was fine and I took a cab to be at the Airport 2 hours before even check in started. Not a single plan landed or departed – even the restaurant was closed. However I still managed to create a little stress among the very few Airport employees as the cash machine refused to give me money and I thought it had nevertheless deducted the amount from my checking account. Don´t ask how but I was able to find and to “talk” to the bank guy (remember it was Sunday afternoon!) and he inserted a “magic” card into the machine and pressed the balance sheet button which proved that nobody had gotten any cash from that machine since the past 10 days … so note that Posadas Airport is quite a lonely place ;-)

    When the restaurant finally opened and I had eaten a very tasty Pizza Mozzarella I started to relax and suddenly a moment of sadness overcame me that our trip together had already ended – it sure was a perfect journey to Brazil!

    So Pollybert, enjoy the rest of your days in Porto Alegre and in Rio and say hello to Rod and his mom!

    Yours,
    Sylvia

    Buenos Aires, 25.2.2013

    PS. sorry if this is an unusually long blog comment, but I had to share my emotions ;-)

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