This blog post comes from a surprisingly comfortable 17 hour coach journey to Buenos Aeries. It’s 9pm Argentinian time and we’ve just experienced our first in-journey meal of a rather good shepherds pie with the usual ad ons (unfortunately no wine)*.
*As a side note, public transport in South America is amazing. We arrived with expectations of chicken buses and were met with unbelievably comfortable armchair style seating, ample leg room and glorious air conditioning. In all honesty they’re probably the most luxurious part of our travels so far – getting off is the worst part.
Anyway, Iguazu Falls. 275 individual waterfalls covering 2.7 square kilometres cascading 100m into the foamy depths below. Or to sum it up, the largest waterfall in the world. Based on a description Iike that it’s fair to say that our expectations couldn’t really be much higher and yet, somehow, experiencing it first hand exceeded everything we could have possibly imagined. The journey to Iguazu was pretty eventful so I’ve included a couple of paragraphs on that below but feel free to skip them if you just want to hear about the falls.
Leaving Paraty on Monday morning, a 28 hour coach journey via Sau Paulo lay ahead of us. Now without going into too much detail, we’ve both had a bit of trouble adjusting to South American cuisine. Lauren was first to be hit and has declined to share details of her experience on the blog. I was hit slightly later after devouring 2 dodgy South American deep fried pasties on the beach from what can only be described as a shack with a stove. They were delicious yet the after effects only kicked in an hour before we left for Sau Paulo. This wasn’t just unfortunate for me as it turns out. Lauren was only too pleased to tell me that it was just as bad for the whole coach. The traumatised faces of the other passengers told the same story. Unfortunately this pretty much set the tone for the journey.
We were due to change coaches in Sau Paulo and gave ourselves nearly 3 hours to do so. Unfortunately, our inbound coach was delayed as we were caught in one of the ‘natural disaster esq’ thunderstorms that seem to hit this part of the world on a daily basis. In the end, our coach arrived 5 minutes before our coach to Iguazu was due to leave meaning that, while Lauren stayed with the bags, I had to sprint across Sau Paulo station to find our coach and retrieve our tickets. To cut a long story short, I lost my phone. It fell out my pocket and disappeared within a stretch of around 100m (probably nabbed). 20 minutes of frantic searching followed before the sight of our coach driver unloading our bags and threatening to leave meant giving up and getting onboard was the only real option (that was the last coach for 3 days). The next 17 hours were spent mourning my loss, the only rest-bite being the all too frequent toilet trips. All in all, the mood was low.
We arrived at the Brazilian side of Iguazu falls* the following morning.
*Iguazu falls sits at the intersection of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay with each country offering its own form of access to the falls. Buses rotate between the 3 all day.
We were initially met by the huge queues and hoards of tourists that one would associate with ‘the 8th wonder of the world’ however these quickly passed and before we knew it we were on a coach traveling down a winding road through the dense but beautiful Brazilian jungle.
After reading the countless warnings about the local jaguars/pumas and what to do if you encounter one (surprisingly you’re not supposed to stroke them, feed them or cuddle them) we then began a 1.5km walk along a wooden platform which took us further into the jungle. Along the path we got fleeting glimpses of the falls however the the best was most definitely saved until last. The Devils Throat (la Garganta del Diablo) is the valley that runs through the centre of the falls and the final stage of the platform took us right to it. 5 feet to our left, water cascaded down from above, 5 feet to our right, was the edge of the falls and a 100m drop into the devils throat below. You feel like you’re in the waterfall itself. You’re getting soaked as you’re engulfed by the spray, the wind is howling and the noise as thousands of gallons of water cascade all around you is deafening. An unforgettable experience. We left the Brazilian side of the falls soaking wet but with the biggest smiles on our faces thinking surely it couldn’t get much better.
We then jumped on a bus and crossed the border into Argentina and within half an hour we arrived at our hostel, which was conveniently only a 2 minute walk from the station. Now, our Hostel was called Mango Chill hostel which admittedly should have sent some alarm bells ringing, however, us being the innocent souls we just saw it as a cool name and nothing more.
We heard the hostel before we saw it. The reggae beats of Bob Marley’s greatest hits echoed down the street. There was also a strange smell in the air…The sight of the hostel confirmed our suspicions. It was bright orange with the biggest Buddha sign I’ve ever seen. There was also a couple sat outside, the girl was laying on her back and wasn’t moving (possibly dead) while the guy sat next to her playing the bongo drums clearly oblivious to the world around him. Neither of them acknowledged our greetings.
In all honesty, we were a bit taken aback and left wondering if we might have chosen the wrong hostel. Thankfully, that feeling lasted about 5 minutes. We were greeted by some of the most friendly people we’ve met on our trip and immediately invited to join an all you can eat/drink dinner that evening. This turned into an awesome night. Around 20 people all crowded round a long banquet style table where they served homemade pizza of every variety and great Argentinian wine. Our glasses were never empty. We got chatting to the other backpackers, many of which had already been to places on our itinerary. Incidentally, we probably got on best with the couple we passed outside (bongo guy). They were both from Manchester and the guy went to my secondary school. Small world.
After the meal the party was cranked up a notch in the outdoor hostel bar/swimming pool. South American music blaring, the dance floor was filled with Strictly Come Dancing wannabes, including me and Lauren who still maintain we could have given Danny and Oti a run for their money. This was followed by a pretty intense game of beer pong and some seriously sketchy limboing. It was 4am before we hit the sack.
We awoke the next day feeling slightly worse for wear (massive understatement for Lauren) however dragged ourselves out of bed and into the heat of the day to catch a morning coach that would take us to the Argentinian side of the falls.
The night before we had been advised this was an all day experience as appose to the 2 hours recommended for the Brazilian side. At the time we were slightly sceptical but upon arriving we immediately saw why. Whereas the Brazilian side comprised of a single trail, the Argentinian side provides over 20 miles of trails through the jungle and around the falls. It’s hard to put into words how good a day this turned out to be.
Firstly, the wide variety of routes meant that it was nowhere near as busy. We could wander at our own pace without having to navigate our way through hoards of Asian tourists equipped with camera lenses that would rival most deep space telescopes.
Secondly, the whole site was much more organised. Old fashioned trains were used to help you access all areas and there were English signposts guiding you through all the various routes (this doesn’t sound like much but when you spend any amount of time in South America you realise they really don’t usually cater for the English tourists)
And then there’s the wildlife. Wow. At times it felt like we were walking through a safari park. We saw…
Birds of pray
Loadssss of Butterflies
And finally, there’s the falls. Instead of a single close up viewing point, the Argentinian side offers a variety of walkways through the higher and lower canopies giving you continuous views of of the falls both from afar and close up. Without knocking the Brazilian experience, this is by far and away the best way to see Iguazu Falls.The near 180′ views of the falls, when combined with the incredible mountainous jungle surroundings (Jurassic park meets King Kong) meant that we found ourselves being left speechless on countless occasions.
Now I could waffle on endlessly trying in vain to describe our incredible surroundings to you but in all honesty I’d never be able to do it justice (and you’re probably getting bored reading this by now as I’ve wittered on for far too long). Instead I’ll leave it to our photos and videos to do the talking.
So there we go. An emotional rollercoaster of a few days but our overriding memories of Iguazu falls will be of its beauty, it’s scale and its incredible setting. The end of the earth, aw-inspiring and unreal – all words and phrases that we used to describe the scenes we saw. We both agree that the Argentinian side of the falls gave us one of the best experiences we’ve ever had and would be something we’d recommend to anyone.
And breathe .. amazing how much you can fit into 3 days!
Next stop.. Buenos Aires 🇦🇷🇦🇷