The wonder that is Iguaźu!

I’m a complete nutter. I got to sleep at 3.30am after packing and the obligatory social media updates and have to be up at 6.45 to go to the airport. I have to say I’m quite disappointed I wasn’t #wheressam spotted at the super Saturday athletics? I was right by Greg Rutherford, at the finish line for Mo and Jess and in front of the medal ceremony for Mo as well. Shocking! 😜 
New airline today. Avianca until this point, the never take off on time airline, now It’s Aerolinias and let’s hope they don’t leave my luggage behind. In case of that eventuality, I have packed some essentials in my hand luggage! 

Ridiculously long queue at check in and I get a telling off from the check in lady as instead of the two bags and 46kg allowance it’s now one bag and 23kg. Mine is 25 but she lets me go, just forewarning me of future issues, how very kind. So country number 4 beckons, Argentina. This is where I nearly had another day in a bloody airport. I was e mailed a revised flight schedule and in my mad July I never checked it until the day before I flew. Note to self, check itineraries when they are sent!! I had suddenly realised I’d lost a day in Iguaźu to spend flying to a random airport, staying there for 6 hours before then heading back to Buenes Aires. What a ridiculous situation. I sent a stroppy e mail to flight centre and bless them they sorted it even though it’s really my fault for not checking! So I have an extra day in Igauźu and a day less in Buenes Aires now. 

At the airport I decide to buy some souvenirs. Kind of forgot in Rio with all the TV appearances. However my credit card can’t be used as its an Olympic shop-visa only (my credit card is MasterCard so not been that useful in Rio at all) and then my debit card doesn’t bloody work. I’ve had his issue a few times, their machines don’t like my card? Well money saved maybe! After a major strip with the cashier, leaving my bloody passport behind in my rage, I then find a non official Olympic shop and I can use my credit card. Hoorah.

However, ten minutes later whilst sat waiting at the gate I get a call from Tesco. There have been a few transactions declined including one for an obscene amount of money. What on earth does that entail? They read out transactions and nope, not me as one was when I was on TV watching Jess Ennis. So my card is cancelled, no more use for this holiday! Ouch. At least I’m not out of pocket though. 

The flight is into Buenes Aires then to Iguaźu and I sleep straight away, even before take off through sheer exhaustion on both flights. 

As we go to get off at Iguaźu there’s and argument down the plane, if only I could understand Spanish as it sounds hilarious, two grown men shouting abuse. I then get to the shuttle bus and duly fall up the step and practically into the bus, play it cool, play it cool!! Then to top it off I think I’ve left my passport in the seat pocket so jump off said shuttle bus, just in time before it drives away and I have to try and explain to the security guard and flight crew. Just as I’m about to head back into the plane I find it. What a prize plonker I have been so far in Argentina! I arrive in Iguaźu fairly late, well it’s dark so feels late and from my research I don’t get a taxi but go for a mini bus. Half the price and they’ll drop me outside. Result. So off we head, I say we, there’s about 7 others in the mini bus. We pass lots of trees, shrubs, rainforest like in general. So much different to the bustling Rio. I already feel more relaxed. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Rio but I just got so drawn in by the atmosphere at the events and the thrill of being spotted on TV I just didn’t relax and was rushing from place to place by the end. Probably didn’t really experience Rio as I could or should of.

The first thing I notice in Iguaźu other than the lush greenery is their awful roads. Every intersection means a damaged road and the minibus has to slow down and weave around various potholes or in some cases huge craters.

Others are dropped off at an array of hotels and then it’s me. I am dropped off at what looks like a car port or garage forecourt. Black iron gates. Hey ho. How deceptive though. The owner greets me, carries my ridiculously heavy suitcase through various rooms and I’m at my apartment. It’s gorgeous. Kitchen, double bed, alcove for a dining table and chairs, lovely bathroom and thoughtful touches around the place. Candles to ward off the mosquitos, wifi info in a frame, tea and coffee available in a sweet little basket and toiletries already in the bathroom. And a shared courtyard with garden chairs and a table of my own. Makes both Rio apartments look dank and dingy! I’m going to like it here.

I’m knackered and in no fit state to go out for dinner so pop to a supermarket get essentials and a snack and just relax. I download an app called tunnelbear that the #superfans boys recommended as it allows you to watch English TV on the IPad. Well what a revelation that was. I’d of seen more Olympics if I’d known earlier. So I’m all set. Cup of tea, pasta cooking, and a lovely apartment. Oh yes and now with Olympics on TV on the BBC!

Tomorrow I have a day tour to Iguaźu Falls booked to see both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides and I’m being picked up at 8am. No rest for the wicked.

After an amazing nights sleep in the peace and tranquility of Iguaźu the excitement I have for breakfast cereal is unreal. My breakfast in Rio consisted of a banana if I was lucky. Not sure if it was because I was with others or the haphazard apartment but we didn’t buy any essentials. Very unlike me as I usually head out and get drinks, snacks and breakfast, as I do like to start the day with a breakfast so it’s absolute heaven to have one available today and with milk. None of that yoghurt from earlier in the holiday. I’m picked up by a car and taken to a coach. There’s an Aussie guy as well and we are sat together so the guide can speak to us in English after she has told everyone else in Spanish. Nice guy, Panfilo (such a fascinating name but only remember it because we are Facebook friends now, couldn’t remember it for most of the day). We get chatting to a Spanish lady as well, Carmen and an American family who are originally from Spain so fluent in both languages. I absolutely love that, what a gift. It’s bloody raining so out comes the poncho again. Lucky I packed that as a last ditch item as its been used more than expected.

The falls are just amazing, even if you are soaking wet already. You take a train up, then walk these long raised metal walkways, meandering through the trees and rock formations. You cross slow moving rivers, along bridges, there’s evidence of old walkways washed away across the water, and when you head out to see Devils Throat, it is just awe inspiring. It’s the most famous waterfall of them all, a U shaped waterfall which is 82 metres high, 150 metres wide and 610 metres in length. (Researched on Wikipedia!)

The force is just amazing. Not that it matters because we are soaking already but the spray from the falls would drench you. The sound from the water falling and hitting the rock pools below is deafening. In fact hard to explain at all. Look for yourself.

You can see a pink building across the falls which is Brazil. The pink building is a hotel, and apparently colonial in style. The Argentinian hotel down the bank a bit is very 60’s in style, boxed sections jutting out with large windows and all very angular and quite ugly really.

Everyone is vying for the selfie shots, lots of selfie sticks around. Panoramic pictures being taken. Official photographers try to get you to buy their photos. Very busy but calm, as it should be. Our guide rushes us along and we continue along more walk ways. See falls called The Two Sisters and Adam and Eve. We learn about the falls themselves. The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guarani or Tupi words meaning “water”, and “ûasú meaning big. Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Nailí, who fled with her lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. Very Romeo and Juliette hey!

We see various animals, Coati (or Quati, in Portuguese) is the symbol of the Iguazu Falls and can be found in some countries in South America, Central America and North America.

They are easily mistaken for a raccoon with its black circles on its tails. They are everywhere, in bins, circling your feet. Vultures flying around above us and what looks like a magpie, a Blue haired Jay. Fascinating. I’d been recommended the boat ride by the #superfans the Hardmans and so when I ask the guide I now have a choice of doing my Brazil side tomorrow and the boat ride this afternoon or sticking to be original plan. As I have that extra day in Iguaźu I may as well plan for it so boat trip it is. 

Four of the others are doing it, Panfilo, Carmen and Alex one of the American boys, so it’s a fab bunch to be on they trip with. We head down to the boat docking, you get soaked (the Hardmans had forewarned me, so I have spare clothes) so you get given a waterproof bag to put all your belongings in. We put our shoes in too but then get told you have to have footwear on to get on the boat so we have to get them back out. Flip flops are the key here! We are drenched from the crap weather anyway so it’s not the biggest deal.

Well it’s hilarious. You literally go into the waterfall and the water just gets everywhere. It goes down the head hole of my poncho and straight into my bra and knickers. Lovely! Then we get a speed boat ride down some small Rapids, which would ordinarily dry you but just makes us freezing cold. Still loved the thrill though. But all in all despite the weather it’s fabulous fun. 

There are no changing rooms, a mere box of a toilet with a door the height of a 9 year old child, but I am shivering so change quickly into my dry clothes, well all bar the shoes which I can do nothing about. 

Now for a ‘jungle tour’. Well in the loosest term. We sit in a huge monster truck style jeep to go through the jungle and listen to a guide telling us what can be found in the various trees and shrubs. We see nothing, well lovely fawner and flora but no animals to speak of. So rather underwhelming if you had booked it expecting more, as it’s an extra for me I’m not so fussed. Interesting enough.

Time to shop, eat, peruse at your leisure before we head back so I get a hot chocolate. I know, you’d think a beer or something exotic whilst travelling South America, but I’m bloody freezing, my feet are numb. Panfilo loves empanadas (a South American small pastie) and has four? I’ll definitely have to try one later. So we head back and tomorrow my plan is to go to Paraguay (another stamp!!) then back for Brazil waterfalls. I have to pay for the additions so we are dropped at their office first (in the middle of nowhere) before heading back to our accommodation. The Americans are in a posh hotel, I again am in the poorest looking one but I know it’s like a secret garden back there. I’m so tired from being cold all day I can’t face going out for a proper meal so I head to a snack bar and try some chicken and beef empanadas to take away. So back at the apartment it’s fizzy pop, pasties and Olympics on TV. I mean, what a luxurious life I’m leading. Love it though.
7.30am and after another still exciting breakfast, I’m in a minibus with a non English speaking driver who hands me his mobile to speak to the guide from yesterday. She says as I don’t speak Spanish and the driver doesn’t speak English it would be unsafe for me to go to Paraguay. It is only for shopping, it’s where Argentinians go to save cash on electrical items as they pay such a high tax. I just want a stamp. So my plans have changed again and I’m off to the Brazil side this morning and an animal park in the afternoon. 

Turned out to be a great decision as the others (minus Panfilo who is on his way to Peru now) are all on the same trip. I also got more stamps as when travelling from Argentina to Brazil they stamp you out and then in, then out then in again. Silly but I do love a stamp! And I found out that you have to stay overnight in Paraguay to get a stamp there anyway!

We stop at a huge shopping mall that sells all kinds of souvenirs. I get some more Olympic items, memorable little items for my collection and have a look at some of the stonework on show. There’s an amazing rock table that’s a mere £7000. Jewellery that is amazing to look at, a rainbow of jewels that I would love as a bracelet also a mere £3500. How the other half live! 

So at the start of the Brazil side and the walk starts at the pink hotel we saw from the other side and it is pretty amazing. The view from that hotel is second to none. It must cost a fortune. No guide hurrying us along today, she sets us off and wanders off but with a meet time in one and a half hours. Is that long enough??

The falls from Brazil in my opinion are the best. It’s sunny so that helps, but the view is spectacular. The Two Sisters  are in full view, Adam and Eve (we saw them all from the top yesterday). There is only one walkway, a long one to be fair, but unlike the Argentinian side where there are walkways on different levels. You encounter those rodents again along the way, they are heading in and out of bins trying to grab some food, there are various view points for a nice photo along the way and we can see (and hear) the boat ride we went on yesterday down below, looks as fun as it was , and that  final view is the money shot. There are 275 falls and from Brazil you see them much better as you are opposite them not above the most. It’s definitely a cattle market to get to the best viewpoint at the end of a narrow walkway, but worth every second of the wait. We spend our time admiring the views, group photos, single photos or literally just watching the waterfall rainbow created by its spray and then back to reality when the guide shouts at us that if we don’t leave now we have to get a taxi. Oops! Only 15 mins late. 

She is in a real strop, marching up the steps and ahead. We on the other hand are like naughty school children chuckling behind her. 

On the bus back she is just pan faced staring out the front. We just giggle away. 

Carmen has brought some wrist bands from Brazil and gives each of us one. The theory behind it is, the person who gives it to you ties three knots. After each knot you make a wish. When the band breaks naturally the wishes comes true. I have one from Karen in Rio for team GB and I made three wishes then as well, it’s the Aldi special bands they were selling, I also have one from Nepal two years ago, two I brought on these travels Rio and Cusco and now this extra one. Love it!! Three wishes made once more. Bracelet buddies (friends analogy for my fellow friends fans). 

Carmen and me are off to the animal park whilst the others go to their hotel. We say our farewells but hope to meet for sunset over the tres frontiers later.

The animal park had some amazing animals, but I’m not that keen on them being caged having been lucky enough to see so many wild animals on my travels. I mean what’s the joy in seeing an Eagle caged? However it was informative and some animals have been rescued and can’t be released.

So back on the bus and we head home.

As Carmens apartment is round the corner from mine we agree to meet later to walk to the tres frontiers to watch sunset. Lucky she was with me as I would have got lost. I have some postcards to post on the way, and you’d think it would be easy, but no. A dying art postage is. Carmen asks police officers where the nearest one is and it’s a bit of a maze to get there but we find the post office. No actual post boxes apparently. Then along the road that follows the waters edge, so Brazil is opposite us, gleaming with its tree lined banks of the river. It’s bloody hot and I’m regretting my jeans right now. Although it gets cold at sunset, so patience?? 

I spot a make shift campervan, woman and dog sat chilling, the man with his beer. Very envious, that’s the life. They have loads of cactus in their front window, a bike tied on the back and water tanks, ropes and tarpaulin covering what I’m sure are essentials on the roof. 

We pass two little kids with their scruffy clothes and dirty faces, happy as anything. Running down the street, sliding down the dirt hills and off down the street. If only our British youth were all so easily pleased and not vain at all.

We continue our walk and when you arrive it’s a chilled but excitable atmosphere awaiting the sunset. There is a pillar painted white and blue (Argentinian flag), many little shops in the wooden shacks that house them. Restaurants overlooking the water, three tiers of viewing platforms with shiny metal barriers to lean on. Over the water you can see the Brazil pillar in green and yellow, there is what looks like a seated auditorium on the waters edge, seems odd as I’m not sure how many people would need to sit there. The Paraguay side has a pillar in its red, white and blue and a boat dock. The least aesthetic of the three it seems. 

There are some local fishermen in their wooden boats out on the river, lots of people milling around, and on the bottom tier locals with their handy crafts out on tables or cloths to sell to the tourists.

The Americans find us just in time and we all take some photos, then watch that beautiful sunset. A Busker plays stand by me and it’s just so relaxing. And great to be with new friends. 

We head down to the traders and the two little boys are on a stall with their mum. Bless. I buy another wrist band, Argentinian colours, and get Alex to tie it on for me and he buys a similar one which I tie on, if only he was 10 years older!! (He’s 23!!) and I buy a key ring for my mum so souvenir buying is sorted.

We say our goodbyes again but then decide to get on the bus with them and head to the centre of town for food. I am so pleased I am with Spanish/English speakers as I’d be lost getting on the bus. It goes to town but not where we want exactly so need directions where to get off and where to go. 

Third and final goodbyes to my American friends and I have been offered a place to stay if I head to the USA and Ohio I think! Then off for what was an amazing meal. A restaurant called Color, sat outside in the warm evening air, live music being played (stand by me again at one point), the restaurant starts empty but fills by the time we are eating, and I have a lovely steak meal (I have been told the Argentinians are renowned for their steaks) and it was spot on. What a day, what an adventure here so far.

Carmen is flying to Buenes Aires tomorrow and I have my extra day. Not sure what to do yet but will decide in the morning.

So last day, well half day. Minibus picking me up at 2.30pm for my evening flight. I decide to walk down to the tres frontiers myself and see if I can get a boat trip sorted. I’m very impressed with myself as I find it in one go, although different route than I had expected. I’ve noticed they also have stray dogs like Peru and Bolivia, just not so many. But to ease the issues of them going through the trash they have bins up high out of their reach. I’ve since been told they poisoned about 400 not so long ago as a new president or whatever the top man is called didn’t like the way they make the country look to tourists. How awful! 

As I arrive at the tres frontiers a tour seller is there waiting as if by fate, and offers me a boat ride for about £3. I’m with three excitable older Argentinian ladies but they are very friendly in their Spanish conversations. The boat trip starts a good 30 min walk away and I’m in my bloody jeans again as had to check out! Hooray for some cloud as we walk. When I get there a large boats greets us, very posh, upper and lower deck. Nope, not ours. Ours is the smallest one hidden around the corner. Ha ha, never mind. Just the four of us, life jackets on the boat but no need to put them on? It’s a very relaxing boat trip down the Iguazu river. We pass some local kids and adults fishing on the river banks. 

We head under the bridge connecting Brazil to Argentina, then turn around and head to the tres frontiers. We literally stop in the middle of three countries, no idea which one we would be in, I would like to say I’ve been to Paraguay as I’ve been in its waters! Making that country number 5, but not sure that counts. 

Then we head back down the Iguazu and back onto land. Lovely way to finish the trip, relaxing, beautiful and unique. I walk back, get lost a bit but manage to find a map and get back on track. I wanted to find a nice cafe to have a snack in but the first one I try firstly has no snacks then none of the juices I want. Next stop…I try the cafe Carmen frequented, I order what I thought was a crepe and a juice but apparently only the juice. And it was a real pain. You order, get a receipt, queue to pay for the item, get the receipt stamped, take it back to the counter and they then bring your order. Can’t be doing that all again so I finish my juice, use the facilities and go and sit in the gardens of the apartment to relax before my pick up. 

So I’m off to Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina and have no idea what to do there. Just one day, and I’m starting to get a cold. Well let’s hope that’s all it is. I did get bitten loads a month ago in Bolivia so let’s hope it’s not Zika!

I had intended to watch the GB ladies hockey semi final at the airport. Had my iPad and headphones ready but the damn wifi is crap. And on TV there is bloody weightlifting. So my hockey buddies from home have been instructed to what’s app me the progress. Looking good as they are winning when I get on the plan. #teamGB. The view from the plane is awesome, sunset followed by the nighttime view of Buenos Aires. And so on to the next chapter.