The next stop on our journey was one that all four of us traveling vagabonds and two Peace Corps additions were looking forward to! Since we had parted ways with Richard & Andrea before entering Argentina, this was suggested as a great meetup point. We got a promotion with a bus line called Tigre Iguazu for 652 pesos, packed a snack and did an overnight. Upon arrival we realized, not only is it a tiny city, therefore easy to find missed friends, it is also a 10 minute bus-ride away from one of the most beautiful natural sights in the world!
Before I wax poetic about Iguazu… we spent a significant amount of time on the bus in order to get to the city of Puerto Iguazu (the sister city in Brazil is Foz de Iguazu), where it was raining softly, but steadily. What this city lacks in size it more than makes up for in tourism! The Iguazu falls are such a popular destination, especially the much-reviewed and gushed-over Argentinian side, that there are more hostels and hotels than restaurants! However the city itself seems not to have expanded or diversified its tourist endeavours, as illustrated by the scarcity of bars, parks and anything else to do besides taking a bus to Iguazu Falls… Well, not quite, but you’ll see what I mean 😉
It is only two blocks from the industrious bus station to El Güembe Hostel where we would extend our stay from the initial two nights, to four. The people at the hostel were welcoming and the breakfast was the standard bread, jam and caramel to which we had become accustomed (with varying degrees of acceptance). The first room we stayed in was quite damp… our towels were in danger of becoming as mouldy as the closet, but with the amount of rain they were getting, it’s hardly a surprise! When we unexpectedly renewed our stay and changed rooms, there was not a moist spot in the room.
I mention the rain, not only because it started pouring cats and dogs just as we got to the hostel (and apparently had been for the last couple of days), but because this was the reason for our delay in Iguazu. The rest of our first afternoon we got ourselves settled, got some lunch down our gullets (empanadas… of course) and kind of waited for the rain to calm down some. Alas… the rain pelted without pause that day, and most of the next morning! As lunch rolled around it seemed like we would be able to get out of the hostel for a bit of fresh, post-rain air. Kiernan, Ryan and Tom headed out to check out the only other things we’d been recommended to do in the city: an animal rehabilitation sanctuary called Guira Oga, and the meeting point of three countries (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay) called Tres Fronteras for three borders. They have a cool little mini obelisk on each side of the border of the 3 countries that you can make out without binoculars, so that’s pretty neat.
With the park shut down due to the torrential downpour, Ryan Tom and I (Kiernan) decided to check out the Guira Oga animal sanctuary near the falls. We took the same bus to the falls, but hopped off after 6 or 7 minutes when we saw the sign on the main road. Tickets are 75 pesos a person and they do tours in both English and Spanish I believe.
We got there just in time for the last tour of the day, in Spanish which was cool, jumped into the safari truck and took a 5 minute ride into the park. From there on it’s about a 90 minute walking tour through he sanctuary. You can check out their website below, they say they’re definitely not a zoo and use the proceeds for charity. The animals we’re pretty locked up, some recuperating, some there for endangered breeding and some possibly there for show. But they a couple dozen really large open pens and we saw; emu looking birds, toucans, vultures, monkeys, coatis, capybara, ocelot, a Jaguarundi wild cat, river otter, giant ants, owls, deer and loads more.
Along the way we also met a really fun couple from the US, I think they were most recently out of Colorado, but on their own around-the-world trip. I can’t remember their names for the life of me, both maybe around 30 years old, really chill, outdoorsy types who were biking around Argentina and exploring. We chatted throughout the tour and fell into easy conversation.
If you have time to kill, the sanctuary is nice, and I definitely got to see what kind of wildlife is in the area that I didn’t get to see around the falls. After the tour we saw a road sign for an eco-friendly house made entirely out of plastic bottles but they were charging some ridiculous price to walk through it so we walked around.
So the 5 of us headed back to the city, but because we were talking so much missed our stop. Turns out the other side of the bus route goes to the three fronteras! Which was excellent, just a little touristy walk on a hill overlooking the huge Parana river, where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay all have matching obelisks near the river with their nations’ colors, showing how close the three frontiers really are. There’s not much else to see but on a clear day it’s quite a sight. After that we made it back downtown, picked up Marelise and found a really cute little “Mexican” restaurant where we had an excellent meal of beer, Argentinian tacos and burritos, and plenty of good conversation.
The next day was bright and sunny, mildly warm and quite comfortable. We decided to go check out this natural wonder of a waterfall that we had come all this way to see… but it wasn’t until after paying ARP40 on the Rio Uruguay bus and sitting on the bus for an hour to get to the National Park, that we realized something was amiss… There were too few people out and about to be awed by this wonder of water, especially after about a week of troublesome rain. Walking up to the ticket counter we finally saw what was up – Iguazu National Park was closed, because the waterfall and river were absolutely flooded and a major part of the walkways and train track to the Devil’s Throat were completely washed away. The bus company that took us there was not unaware of the fact that they were picking people up in the same spot and minutes after dropping them off, because of the park closure; but how else would they have made their money that day? When we asked them why they didn’t let anyone know that the park was closed before taking them (or indeed, before selling them a ARP80 return bus ticket), they suddenly spoke less English than a moment ago, and declined to respond to my Spanish.
Whatever, this didn’t stop us seeing Iguazu, but merely delayed the visit another day or so; hence staying in Puerto Iguazu two nights longer than planned, and doing little other than drinking Argentina wine (delicioso!) and eating briny green olives (double delicioso), and of course plenty of cheap filling pasta on the side.
The Iguazu Falls are so amazingly beautiful, it was a soothing balm on our pride after being taken advantage of, but it was so much more as well. In fact, we’re doing an entire separate post just for the falls.