But more on that later.
First, the falls.
Iguazu Falls is one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World and lies in both Brazil and Argentina. Because I was heading to Rio from Argentina I thought it would be the perfect spot to cross the border.
I booked two nights in Puerto Iguazu which is a small walkable town on the Argentinian side. You can get up close and personal with the falls on this side and it is recommended to spend a whole day in the National Park, which is a short bus trip from the town.
In the Argentinian side of the National Park there are three main trails you can take to get different perspectives. I started out by heading up to the Devils Throat which is the highest and deepest part of the falls and where water pours in from three sides. This was a spectacular introduction to the Iguazu Falls.
Amoungst the crowds of fat families (seriously!) and international tourists I had noticed a lot of women just wearing bikinis. I thought this was a bit strange even if the weather was in the mid 30s. The bikinis began to make sense however, when I arrived at the lower trail. I had been told by fellow backpackers not to miss the boat trip under the waterfalls but what they hadnt mentioned was how drenched you get. As I lined up with people in their bikinis and boardshorts I felt silly in my Country Road skirt and tshirt but was relieved I had changed my mind about wearing my white dress that morning.
There have been many magical moments on my trip but the few minutes we spent under the falls were perhaps the most beautiful. There was something spiritual about sitting under the shower of those mighty falls.
I had saved the upper trail till last as I had read that if you are there early in the morning or late in the afternoon you might be lucky enough to see rainbows. Today I was lucky.
The Brazilian side of the National Park offers a dramatic panoramic view of the falls and only takes a few hours to visit. The bus from Puerto Iguazu to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil is about 40 minutes so I thought I had plenty of time to have a relaxing morning in Argentina while still have enough time to explore Brazil in the afternoon. I was wrong.
I was wrong for a few reasons. One reason was that there is a time difference. So I lost an hour. Another was that unlike tiny Puerto Iguazu, Foz do Iguaçu is actually a big city and getting from the bus station to my hostel to drop my backpack off was not a two minute walk like in Argentina. It was a $10 taxi ride.
Then there was the couple of hours where I was an international fugitive.
Of course I exaggerate.
But it goes like this.
I took a bus full of locals (no other gringos in sight...) from Puerto Iguazu to the Argentinian border and got my exit stamp. I then got back on the same bus and waited for the bus driver to stop at Brazillian immigration. Simple I thought. Just like I had been instructed. Except we didnt stop at the buildings that looked pretty official and instead the bus continued another 15 minutes into the giant town of Foz do Iguaçu.
So here I was, passport in hand, sitting at the bus stop in Brazil without having gone through immigration. To make matters worse, even with my Lonely Planet phrasebook in hand I didnt know a thing in Portuguese. Turns out it isnt as similar to Spanish as I expected.
Had I been leaving Brazil the same way I entered it wouldnt really have mattered much but since I was flying to Rio the next day and then on to Colombia ten days later I needed my passport, and my immigration status, to be legit. So after a few hand gestures and finding a guy who could speak English I jumped on another bus back to the border. Thankfully I had exchanged the last pesos I had for reals so had some money for a bus ticket.
It was quite hard explaining to the bus driver who was on his way to Argentina that I didnt actually want to go to Argentina so there was a bit of confusion and I ended up back at Argentina immigration without seeing the inside of the Brazilian immigration office once again. It would be another half an hour before I caught my third bus of the day and was dropped outside Brazilian immigration. Then, after legally entering the country, another hour waiting there for a bus to take me back to Foz do Iguaçu.
At this stage I didnt know about the time difference.
By the time I got to my hostel and checked in then took two buses to the National Park it was 4:45pm. They stop letting tourists into the falls at 5 oclock.
For the second day in a row, I was lucky.