24th Dec 2011 - 26th Dec 2011
Puerto Iguazu, Foz do Iguacu and the marathon journey to Paraty
We returned to Retiro for our onward journey to Puerto Iguazu on the border with Brazil and sadly it was not as smooth as our arrival. To begin with we had to contend with the traffic. Our hostel receptionist tried to order one but the company said it would take too long, so we bailed out onto the main road with our luggage to flag one down. Not as easy as you might think, after 5 minutes of sweating under the weight of our backpacks and unsuccessfully trying to flag down the ‘safe’ taxis labelled ‘radio’. I threw a hissy fit and went back to the hostel and demanded they find us one – it turned up 10 minutes later, much earlier than scheduled. IN the meantime we’d been accosted by a Brazilian bloke wanting to practice his English. Normally this would inspire sympathy but in my frazzled Larium induced frame of mind he was the most irritating man on the planet. He then asked us where in Brazilo we were going and for every place I said he would say ‘where?’ a few times, making me repeat it and finally saying ‘oh, Rio’, with the correct accent – he’s lucky to be alive. When we got to Retiro the trial continued – the station is vast and divided into different sectors with platforms within those. We’d been warned of pickpockets etc so when B thought he’d lost the tickets and proceeded to unpack the camera and laptop in the middle of the crowd I was a wee bit nervous. Tickets found and with B realising I was nearing the Larium breaking point, I was charged with standing guard with the bags while B frantically ran up and down the station checking the different boards. When we finally boarded the coach without being robbed a huge sense of relief swept over me. The cherry on top was the on board attendant asked us if we’d like a whisky or a martini. Naturally I asked if it was with gin or vodka, unfortunately he’d been trying out his English with us and this threw him completely, so off he went to check with the ‘chef’. The word came back that it was ‘in a glass with 7Up’ so I opted for the whisky. I was enjoying the in flight entertainment when B pointed out I wasn’t actually listening to anything and I’d become unplugged from the sound system. Takers of Larium beware.
We arrived dazed and confused in the morning and immediately set about booking our onward trip across the border, which we’d neglected to do earlier because the website was confusing and a bit useless. Now we found almost all the coaches booked up and in our vulnerable state were conned into buying tickets to a suburban station near, rather than in Sao Paolo. The travel agent was all smiles and reassurance about getting a connection to Paraty from there but when we searched online later everything was sold out. Here began the longest journey of our trip so far but more of that later. Our hostel left something to be desired situated as it was not in a tranquil setting as promised but in a buildings site. Our room was literally the only room semi-complete in a new block of rooms, which meant the drilling and angle grinding above our heads went on for most of the afternoon. We were promised it would be finished by the end of the day for the Christmas break but surprise, at 7am the next morning the work started again. In furious, ‘sour pomme’ mode I stormed to the front desk and demanded we be moved. Although seemingly helpful at first the replacement room looked even more dank so opted to stay where we were but grudgingly, especially as the shower was cold for the whole stay.
The furious haze was lifted by our trip out to the Argentine side of the Iguazu Falls. We opted to take a walk out to the Garganta del Diabolo, the devil’s throat, which is right above the falls. Then we took a boat trip down the river to the take a look at the nature, which did include a caymen, some birds and orchids but not the toucan B wanted to see. Then we took the lower trail down to the San Martin island and our boat trip under the falls. For some reason in a moment of madness we decided not to use the ponchos we’d brought and so got totally soaked. B insists this would not have helped by I disagree, as usual. The result was an unintentional wet t-shirt competition on my part and not a particularly glamorous one at that. It was back on the train that chugs across the park to get back to the hostel and what we hoped was a Christmas feast that evening. They celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve in South America with a big meal or asado and fireworks. Hopes were high on our part for a follow up to the Mendoza BBQ but although it showed early promise, in the form of a whole pig kept warm or away from flies/mosquitoes under cardboard boxes, the reality failed to live up to it. The ‘sour pomme’ face came out again when some late comers arrived and so the portions became that much smaller, a major sticking point for B in his evaluation of what went wrong. The evening wasn’t a total disaster as it ended with a cider toast at midnight in place of the champers.
Christmas day was a little unusual with no carols or Christmas decorations, and no Father Christmas either (B’s beard did not fill that gap) but Skype’s with the people we could reach cheered us up and we spent the day lazing by the pool until it was time for our all you can eat buffet in town. B made sure he got the full value having at least three trips to the grill and finishing the table’s leftovers. We topped off that cardiac arrest with a devil’s throat themed chocolate concoction for dessert.
The next day we were up with the lark for our trip across the border
to Brazil and the other side of the falls. Note to all smugglers, this is an excellent place choice of border crossing. Our driver did everything for us, we didn’t even have to go to the immigration desk and our luggage wasn’t searched so we could have been anyone with anything really. The Brazilian side to me seemed more organised and professional with excellent panoramic views of the falls. B thinks the Argentine side is better because it’s more up close and personal but I liked the spectacle.
Then it was off to catch the infamous bus to NOT Sao Paolo. When we arrived some 18 hours later and realised there were no buses to Paraty and that actually Brazilian Portuguese is nothing like Spanish there was nearly another mini meltdown. In spite of the shrugs and the lack of comprehension between all parties we managed to figure out that if we took three public buses we could get to Paraty in time to make our hostel reservation. So that’s what we did, a bus to Caraguatuba, then one to Ubatuba and then another to Paraty. Finally we arrived at 8pm after about 36 hours on the road – to an 8 bed dorm I’d uncharacteristically booked in moment of frugality. Luckily the people were lovely and the hostel more like staying in someone’s house rather than the hustle and bustle of a normal hostel.
Was Paraty worth it? Find out in the next instalment!