After 10 days in Salvador doing little besides drinking, dancing, and eating aipim drowned in pimenta, it was time to do something outdoorsy and mellow. We'd originally planned on heading north along the Brazilian coast to the town of Olinda, but Carnaval had wiped us out financially and we couldn't find any halfway decent accommodation under $50/night on such short notice. Take note: Brazil is expensive. Granted, we came from India. After India, every price tag seems magnified and laughable. But we had assumed the largest country in South America would be a little easier on a backpacker budget, and it just isn't so. Unless you're camping. Which a lot of travelers do here. But not this traveler. I have my limits, you know.
Anyway, Brazil was killing us (quite literally, if Brendan's swollen belly of beef was any indication), so we made the difficult decision to forgo our dream of lazing on a northern Brazilian beach for the country of Argentina, where our dollar goes a little further. But not before we took a little side trip to the world's biggest waterfall.
The Iguazu Falls reside right on the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, so they're both a tourist destination and an obvious place to rest for a few days on your way to somewhere else. Even though all three countries can claim a town chock full of accommodation choices conveniently located to the waterfalls themselves, we chose to stay in Brazil's Foz Do Igaucu, the largest of the three.
Our hostel was our first real "hostel" on our entire trip so far, full of backpackers bunking in dorm rooms, a communal kitchen and living room (where at any time of day at least three guys would be passed out on the couches during an encore presentation of "Gladiator"), a dinky swimming pool most often used as a base for flirting, and a little bar that blasted techno music after 9 p.m. while hoards of kids sat at tables smoking cigarettes and browsing their Lonely Planets. Kind of like college. A little too much like college, actually. We paid for our own a/c double room and felt old.
You have some choices when you visit Iguazu Falls, which is inconveniently two separate national parks, one in Brazil and one in Argentina. The problem is that never having seen the falls you have no idea which one is better (guidebooks will say that the view is better from the Brazil side, while the Argentine side is better for getting up-close), and so everyone inevitably visits both.
Our first stop was the Brazil side, which is basically just a mile-or-so walk through the jungle with various views of the countless falls along the way, edging closer and closer to Devil's Throat, the biggest of them all. Pretty cool. I don't know what it is about waterfalls, but they're always a crowd pleaser, aren't they? I doubt anyone in the history of the world has ever said, "I hate waterfalls." I was actually even more impressed with the abundance of butterflies in the park and was able to give my macro setting a nice workout.
After a few hours spent watching water lose to gravity, we headed across the street to the neighboring bird sanctuary and spent the next few hours chilling with an amazing number of different South American bird species, many of them rescued. I love birds . Brendan doesn't love birds at all, but even he agreed the park was well worth the $10 entry fee.
Going to the Argentine side of the falls is kind of a hassle if you're staying in Brazil because you have to cross the border and do the whole passport thing, which took us an hour and a half on the way in. But the park itself is much nicer than Brazil's. There, I said it. If you are ever in a town near Iguazu Falls and only have time to visit one park, go to Argentina's. What's great is that you're right up alongside everything. Waterfalls of this volume are pretty from afar, but they're spectacular up close- and you're so close on the pathways here that it's impossible to stay dry. You can also do stupid stuff like ride a boat into the falls themselves, which is tons of fun. Save Devil's Throat for the late afternoon on a sunny day if you can. The rainbow's a nice bonus.
After four days, we said goodbye to the hostel crew, crossed the border again, and boarded a plane from Argentina's Puerto Iguazu airport into Buenos Aires, where we'd rented a studio apartment for the month of March (the same studio from which I'm writing this very blog, coincidentally!!!).
It's good to hear Spanish again, even if they sort of lisp it like those crazy Europeans. More on this fantastic city in a few days...