Day 3: TO THE EXTREME!
Julie and I awoke at 6am since our included breakfast was at 7am. And when we first looked out the window, it was still dark, but as it started to get brighter, we were discouraged by the foggy view. It took a while to sink in but we had to struggle with the reality that the view of the falls might be completely fogged over on the day we were to see Iguazú Falls from the Brazilian side.
So we sighed as we looked back on all the trouble it took to get that Brazilian Visa from the $110 application fees to the $90 expediting fees to booking a tour in advance so the Visa application wouldn’t be rejected, etc.
That kind of cast a bit of a somber mood when we went to the buffet breakfast. But at least the food was reasonably good. It was the standard fare of eggs, sausages, toast, etc. There were also lots of guilty pleasures of pastries as well as healthier alternatives of fruits and yogurts.
In any case, when we were done with brekkie, Julie and I got ready, sprayed on sunscreen and deet, and then got back down to the lobby in time to meet up with Felipe. And with that, our Brazilian half-day tour was about to begin.
Julie and I were a bit surprised how long it took just to get to Puerto Iguazu let alone the National Park Visitor Center on the Brazilian side (I swore the drive to the border took nearly half an hour). The whole time, Felipe was telling us what we were seeing along the way. He also didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned about the fog. I guess after seeing the falls for over 25 years, he certainly has a feel for how the weather behaves down here.
Along the way across the border, there were border patrol areas for both the Argentina side and the Brazil side. It wasn’t unlike that of the USA and Canada for Niagara Falls over the Rainbow Bridge. The Argentina Visa went without a hitch as Felipe showed them our passports and another guy searched the vehicle.
On the Brazilian side, we had to get out of the car and show the passport to the worker at the Brazilian office. After stamping our passports, we were on our way. Unfortunately, the guy haphazardly stamped our passport pages and we were running out of blank pages which would pose problems for future trips, especially since there was such a big passport backlog back at home. Argh!
It was around 8:45am when we made it to the visitor center on the Brazilian side. The window was supposed to open by 9am but they actually opened at around 9:15am. So there was a pretty big queue but we’d eventually have our entrance tickets paying in peso but getting change in Brazilian Reals. The security guards surrounding the area I guess was reassuring, but it made Julie and I wonder about crime in the area (especially at the nearby Foz do Iguaçu). Now that I think about it, there were security guards at the airport and sheraton on the Argentina side as well…
Anyhow, Felipe, Julie, and I rode this double-decker bus as it headed to a place where the Brazilian walk began. The sun was definitely coming out at this time and this was encouraging. I certainly hoped it wasn’t one of those things where fog only obscured the falls but everything else was blue skies…
By around 9:30am, we were right in front of this sleek but charming-looking Brazilian Hotel. That was where the walk began and we all went right to it (as well as the rest of the bus).
The first overlook that greeted us was already impressive. There was a big sign on the grass before the view of the Argentinean side of the falls. It was a bit distant, but it provided a great context of the scene we had seen yesterday.
Julie and I took a few photos here, but I could tell that Felipe wanted us to keep going because there were better views up ahead. Still, he was quite patient with us and even helped us snap a few couple shots. I had forgotten to bring my tripod anyways so I assistance was needed for both couple shots and long exposure shots anyways.
And as Felipe had indicated, the views did indeed become more expansive as we went along. It was hard to quantify what’s the best view of the lot so Julie and I just kept snapping away knowing some of these overlooks wouldn’t be available later on (as we wouldn’t be coming back). Adding to the scene were faint rainbows starting to appear thanks to the morning sun.
The next major lookout was crowds of mandarin-speaking Chinese tourists. They took up most of the overlook for quite a while taking their group photos. Once again, Felipe was being patient as we patiently awaited our turn to get our views and photos from here.
Continuing on, the views started to shift towards focusing on waterfalls going through La Isla San Martín. Now these were waterfalls we didn’t see yesterday. But these were just as impressive as some of the other Argentinean-sided waterfalls. One section in particular I had heard was called the Three Musketeer Falls was particularly striking.
The next overlook already had a crowd of people in a very small overhanging dead-end. Down here, we could see further upstream the turbulent misty mess of the Devil’s Throat. Even though we were well downstream from La Garganta del Diablo, there was still enough mist to put waterspots on the camera.
Then, we continued the walk and went towards a junction where the walk provided access to a metal catwalk edging out closer to the lower part of the Devil’s Throat. Certainly the closer we got, the more mist was spraying around us and I knew taking photos would be more difficult.
“¡La catarata es loca!” I told Felipe. He nodded and smiled.
Felipe next told us that he’d wait for us at the junction while letting us check out the catwalk leading us tantalizing close to the turbulent misty mess of La Garganta del Diablo. Once again, I thought about how this catwalk was built where it shouldn’t be as it was right on the rushing waters of the waterfall.
As we walked onto the catwalk, the upper falls to our left was already blowing wind and mist keeping things wet and cool as well as a bit foggy. I did my best trying to take photos with Julie while keeping the lens cloth handy to try to wipe off waterspots.
Poor Julie was preoccupied with this guy who kept getting her to take photos of him from every possible pose. In any case, we eventually got all the shots we wanted and then went back to the junction with the patiently awaiting Felipe.
The walk then progressed towards the tower which sat noticeably next to the wall of water of Iguassu Falls. It was pretty much a spot to take profile views of the wall of water as well as foggy views back towards the catwalk we were just on.
Next, we went up an elevator to a pretty scary platform on the top floor with a grated floor that you can see through to the bottom. The elevator ride up also had quite a view as it was surrounded by glass and you could see the angle change as we ascended.
While up here, we took more photos and I tried to capitalize on the presence of the railings for long exposure photographs. It was times like these that I wish I hadn’t forgotten the tripod at the hotel. Anyways, after snapping photos up here, that was pretty much the end of the 1.2km one-way walk and our Brazilian-side tour.
After an uneventful drive back to Argentina (with another round of border patrol and yet another stamping of our passports – boy we really fretted about running out of blank pages and even blank spots), we returned to the Sheraton Iguazú at around 12:30pm. That left us about a half hour to get ready and to catch our 1pm boat tour.
When 1pm rolled around, we were directed to walk back into the park and towards a meeting area right next to the visitor parking lot. That was when we had time to have some empanadas for lunch while checking out a sign comparing Las Cataratas de Iguazú with other big waterfalls around the world. The kicker was that we knew just about all the other waterfalls were either gone due to damming (such as Sete Quedas) or didn’t count (like that 2m waterfall on the bottom of the list). However, the first waterfall on that list was interesting. It was called Kaieteur and it was certainly one we should check out if given the opportunity in the future.
The boat tour actually included a little bit of a jungle drive in addition to the boat tour. In fact, the whole tour was actually the Gran Adventura Safari as opposed to the Macuco Safari (on the Brazil side). Felipe convinced us that the Argentina tour was better because it took us both to the main river as well as the Salto San Martín side while the Brazilian tour couldn’t get to the Salto San Martín side since they can’t cross into Argentina. In any case, the drive went through the dense subtropical forest with trees growing as tall as 30m. In a way, it was actually pretty relaxing as we listened to the presenter talk about the ecosystem and some of the flora and fauna present here.
When this part of the tour ended, we walked down some steps right down to the bank of the Río de Iguazú at Point Macuco. There were heaps of butterflies chilling out by the boat dock, which got quite a bit of attention from tourists on this tour. But we didn’t tarry much longer and got right into the boat complete with life jackets and a dry bag.
And with that, we headed off. The boat raced upstream through the turbulent rapids – certainly waters you wouldn’t want to be swimming in. Though the driver was fully in control, there was always that fear of capsizing because there was something maniacal about the way he drove. Screams were heard all around us as if we were in some rollercoaster ride. The Kiwi guy sitting behind me kept yelling to no one in particular, “To the extreme!”
It wasn’t long before we hit the confluence at the base of Isla San Martín. At that point, the boat turned to the right where we were greeted by an impressive wall of water facing us with Salto Bossetti on the right and the gushing and menacing Salto San Martín to our left.
The boat then proceeded to zip back towards the main part of Río de Iguazú where we managed to get a few more blurry photos looking towards the misty mess of Devil’s Throat further upstream. Certainly there was no way we were going to go that much further upstream into the torrent as the water was already choppy down here.
We were then instructed to put our cameras and other things we didn’t want to get wet into the dry bags. I obviously wasn’t going to risk it with my camera. Everyone else also obliged.
Once we were all braced for what was to come, the boat proceeded to zoom a short distance upstream before turning right and going right under one of those Three Musketeers waterfalls off San Martín Island. It didn’t take long before we were engulfed in mist and then it felt as if we were right underneath the brunt of the waterfall.
Water was spilling right into the boat and we could even feel the cold water pouring onto our thighs as we sat.
“Yeah! Woo! To the extreme!” yelled the Kiwi guy behind once again.
I think the boat driver went in and out of the Three Musketeers Waterfalls at least three times before zooming back downstream and then heading right into the turbulent waters at the base of Salto San Martín.
“To the extreme!” yelled the Kiwi guy behind me yet again.
The boat driver took us under this turbulent waterfall another three times each time seemingly deeper than the last.
“To the extreme!” we heard once again. This time he struggled to keep up the volume of his voice as he, too, must’ve felt the shivering effects of the cold water.
By now, the boat went back towards the nearby dock as if it was about to be the end of our tour. But then the guy sitting at the front of the boat (undoubtedly one of the employees) asked all of us, “¿Uno mas?”
The whole tour yelled out, “¡Uno mas!”
This got the Kiwi guy behind us to change his scream from “To the extreme!” to “¡Uno mas!” in his Kiwi accent.
And so the boat zoomed back towards the main part of the Río de Iguazú right back to the Three Musketeers waterfall. And once again, we went under and got even more drenched. I started to shiver with this shower of cold water as we zoomed back over to Salto San Martín.
“¡Uno mas, Uno mas, Uno mas!” yelled the Kiwi guy.
After the triple drenching beneath Salto San Martín, there was no doubt all of us were drenched. Julie was wishing she hadn’t forgotten her waterproof pants. Meanwhile I got to test out how quick-drying our hiking pants and shirt were.
Mercifully, the boat tour ended and we got to the dock where we disembarked and walked towards the lowest overlook of Salto Bossetti. In the mean time, we got to see other boat tours get the drenching that we had just received except from the relatively safety of land.
After these photos, Julie and I walked up several tiers of stairs eventually getting back to the kiosk near the middle Salto Bossetti overlook. We took a few more photos given the slightly improved weather from yesterday. We also noticed that the big kid groups were gone as well so the park felt considerably quieter. Perhaps it was because today was Saturday. Who knew?
From there, we didn’t tarry much longer and walked back up to our room at the Sheraton Iguazú to recover from our severe drenching. We seized this opportunity to recover a bit by changing into drier clothes before walking back down to the driveway of the Sheraton where there was a bus stop.
On the way down to the bus stop, Julie and I were a little disturbed at how easy it was for coaties to dig through rubbish and get their human food. No wonder why we saw so many of them fearless of people at the catwalks. Certainly this can’t be good for them…
We were determined to take a bus into town and take Felipe’s recommendation on this restaurant called La Rueda (“The Wheel”).
At around 6pm, we caught the last bus going into town. At first, the bus was pretty sparsely populated, but then the bus stopped at the visitor center and that was when the bus was packed like sardines.
Lots of Americans were on this bus as I had the feeling there must’ve been cheap accommodations at Puerto Iguazú, the town we were headed to.
It was about 6:30pm when we got off the bus. Dinner didn’t start until 7pm so we walked around town for a bit. There wasn’t a whole lot going on in town and before we knew it, we were back at La Rueda for dinner.
Dinner was pretty good. Julie once again enjoyed her dish of Surubí with some Palmitos. I had some standard fare of bif de lomo. It was a good thing we hadn’t forgotten our spanish because it came in handy here as our waiter didn’t speak english.
After dinner was over (which costed around 100 peso total), they called us a remise to take us back to the hotel at 5 peso less than that place next door who offered to take us back. Bus service ended already so we had to take the 40 peso expense on the way back. Actually, when we add up all the expenses of this dinner trip, it costed about the same as our pretty nice dinner last night so I guess there wasn’t any real advantage to eating in tour or in the hotel.
And so ended Day 2 of our Iguazu Falls stay. It would be our last night here and we were already lamenting the fact that our Labor Day weekend was already coming to an end tomorrow…