23.11.2011 - 26.11.2011 32 °C
A 21 hour bus ride from Bariloche, a 5 hour wait in the fairly unpleasant Retiro bus station in Buenos Aires, and a further 18 hour bus to Puerto Iguazu. I arrived at Hostel Bambu mini in my jeans and long sleeves, greeted by a humid wall of thick, silent +30 degree heat at around 8am. The very friendly señorita at reception promptly provided me with access to the bathroom in order for me to take what was undoubtedly the most overdue shower of my life thus far. As I had booked 3 nights in Puerto Iguazu my only goal for the first day was to stay awake. I spent hours walking around trying to find an atms that would not only accept my card, but also had cash, and managed to see most of what the little town has to offer that is of any interest.
Later that evening I started chatting to a lovely Australian girl in the hostel kitchen and we ended up heading out to dinner. 2 Aussie girls, 2 German girls, an American guy and girl, one Swedish guy and one Dutch, dining together at an Argentinian parilla, just off the border of Brazil and Paraguay. Some things money can´t buy. Other things, such as an incredibly large bottle of vodka with 8 glasses and a few cans of ´speed´at a bar for less than AUD $50, money can actually buy. With hardly a dent in the vodka (a pretty poor effort from 8 people really), it was smuggled back into the hostel for future consumption by our generous Dutch compadre.
The next day was my full day at the waterfalls. It´s a very well organised operation with hundreds of people transported with ease to and from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of the border. Sadly, I would not have the opportunity to visit the Brazilian side. Being an Australian with only an Australian passport meant that I could not (legally) enter Brazil for just the day without a visa. Many South American countries have reciprocity (retaliation) policies which, because of Australia´s ´thorough´immigration and tourism laws and regulations, result in ´thorough´requirements for Australian´s who visit their countries in return.
In my first few minutes at the park I heard the unmistakeable Australian twang across from me and ended up having a quick chat to a very cute Australian couple who would have to be about 80 years of age. Older than my grandparents, it´s never too late for a South American adventure! As for the waterfalls themselves, the pictures can only describe them. The wildlife, the flora, the amount of water, it´s all absolutely stunning. My jaw literally dropped involuntarily many times during the day. You can see waterfall after waterfall for km after km in both countries. Plants are growing underneath the waterfalls, the noise and volume is astounding and butterflies of every colour imaginable come and say hello.
Once I had seen all that I could and had walked every path that could be walked on, I decided to head back to the entrance and find a bus. Alas, I was looking at the wrong place on the map and after 20 minutes of trying to figure out how to get back to the entrance, I was ever so slightly frustrated. And it was obviously evident on my face..... cue friendly Brazilian tour guide ´Marcelo´
M Hello, are you lost?
R Yes, I just want to go back to the entrance and.... well... I can´t find it
M Oh, no worries, look we are here and you need to walk down there for 10 minutes, follow the path to the right and then a few hundred metres to the left.
R Muchas gracias! I thought we were here (laughing, pointing at completely different place on the map)
M De nada. Where are you from?
M Oh great! I have some frenz from Malbourne. I really want to go but I waz jus in Europe for six mons so I can´go yet.
R Where are you from?
M I am Brazilian. I live in Brazil an I waz working in de tours in Europe but now I come home in the past seven days and I start working again zis week. What is your name?
R Reagan, como el presidente.
M Muy bien! My name is Marcelo. How long are you here for?
R Solo tres noches en Puerto Iguazu.
M An you are staying en an hostel no?
R Yes a nice little hostel called Bambu mini.
(Dumb Reagan, very dumb)
M Oh great! A guy I know, Christian owns Bambu. It´s a great hostel right? An who are you travelling with?
R Just me.
(Ummm, what are the rules of female solo travelling Reagan???? You just told a complete stranger, a local male, where you are staying, how long for and that you´re travelling alone. FFS).
I chatted with Marcelo for another 5 minutes or so, until it was at that point where obviously there is nothing left to say but he wants to keep talking. I politely made my exit ¨Really I must get off to that bus. Lovely meeting you and thanks for the help, chau chau!¨
Later that evening, sitting quietly reading my Amartyr Sen ¨Development as Freedom¨novel in the kitchen I heard a familiar voice. I peeped my head around to the hostel bar only to see, you guessed it, Marcelo, sitting there having a drink. Sh!t!
Conversation in Reagan´s head: Just go and say hi, he´s really nice. Ummm Reagan, it´s not a coincidence that he is sitting at a tiny hostel bar where you happen to be staying and I hasten to add that NOBODY comes here, especially from Brazil, just for an afternoon drink because it´s not even a real bar.Oh come on stop being paranoid. You like meeting new people! You are so naive! What would Tabatha say right now? ¨Reagan you are your own worst enemy. Trust your gut.¨Gut says that you should take the non-confrontational option of sneaking out through reception and not come back for hours. I had an extended solo dinner after successfully sneaking out of the reception area.
On my final full day in Puerto Iguazu I finally got in a nice run. A couple of laps of the circuit that takes you to the point where the borders of three countries meet on the river. Europeans, South Americans, Asians might not appreciate the novelty of this as much as the relatively un-travelled Reagan I also managed to get lost in a town that most people would have great difficulty getting lost in, no one could change my 100 peso note so I couldn´t pay for my lunch. I went to the atm to get some 50 peso notes and then left my card in the atm.... the heat was starting to get to me and this was one of those many days where my brain just doesn´t make the right connections.
That evening I attended a traditional Argentinian Asado with another huge steak along with other types of meat that is cooked for about 2.5 hours. Muy rico! Another forced conversation (for about 3 hours) with an incredibly nerdy, awkward, but very friendly Austrian engineer and it was off to bed at around midnight in preparation for the mammoth bus ride back to Buenos Aires in the morning.