Argentina to Brazil Border Crossing
14.02.2011 - 18.02.2011 37 °C
Argentina, the land of tango, football passion, huge steaks, tea drinking from metal straws and is just simply pure heaven on earth for mullet lovers like myself!! South America is for sure the continent with the world's best mullets, but here I was at Buenos Aires airport (again!) revelling in the glorious abundance of the 'business at the front party at the back' persuasion! My mulleteer fantasies were well and truly satisfied. If I wasn't so worried about leaving my bags I would have been more proactive in getting some money shots but instead had to content myself with admiring from a reasonable vantage point, sniggering into my cappuccino. I was off to see another of Argentina's natural wonders though, another one of my dreams, I was heading to the awesome Iguazu falls right on the border with Paraguay and Brazil.
'Poor Niagara' was the comment allegedly made by Eleanor Roosevelt on first sight of Iguazu falls. At over double the size of Niagara, 6.5 million litres PER SECOND roaring down through steamy tropical jungle, it is easy to believe this. From the plane, I could see that the landscape couldn't be more different from other areas of Argentina I had visited, the glacial mountains of Patagonia, the barren beauty of the Salta region and the city chaos of Buenos Aires. I was now in the jungle and it was HOT HOT HOT! Humid tropical jungle, steamy like a sauna, but full of the most beautiful butterflies, hummingbirds, and toucans. I stayed in a hostel in the tourist town of Puerto Iguazu and took a public bus to the falls. I went alone and did a few short treks through the jungle to see the humungus falls from various viewpoints. The most famous, and the first one I visited, was the Garganta del Diablo, or devil's throat. There I stood, on a little platform surrounded by power, water, spray, freedom, emotion. Indescribable feelings but pure awe, the surround sound of 272 falls of up to 82 metres drop, mother nature inspires me again.
Sadly, this part of the world had recently suffered from natural disaster, mudslides following unusually heavy rains leading to loss of life and livelihood. This year, the year I decide to see the world, seemed to be a crazy one for weird weather patterns and natural disasters. I had already narrowly avoided floods in Australia, earthquakes in NZ, volcano in Ecuador, mudslides in Peru, just to name a few. I heard that the water levels of Iguazu were up to seven times their usual level! Great time then to take a speedboat right underneath the falls oh yes!! To say I got a bit wet doesn't even come close but we went through rainbows, we accelerated into the world's biggest natural shower and I laughed like I had no care in the world. Screw health and safety and lets embrace the drowned rat look eh! At least this cooled me down, this was FUN!
Next day I crossed the border to Brazil. I have lost count of the number of land border crossings during this trip and they always make me a bit nervous. Not unusual to encounter corrupt money-making scams at borders. Always have your wits about you, ignore offer of help with your bags, unmarked taxi kidnappers, I had heard some horrific stories from other travellers. I got a taxi from my hostel to take me the couple of miles across the border. Everyone recommends to see the falls from both the Argentinian and Brazilian side so this is a very popular border for daytrippers. Hence, there seemed to be absolutely no security here, instead the custom officers shared a few jokes with my taxi driver who obviously does this every day, gave me some compliments, practised their English to ask me on a date and completely failed to even look at my luggage in the boot of the car!! Weird!
Foz do Iguazu, the town on the Brazilian side of the falls, was even hotter if that was possible! Maybe the heat was getting to me, maybe the ease of the border crossing made me feel like I hadn't switched countries, but being in Brazil confused me! I was starting to get by a bit easier with my pigeon Spanish and now here I was being challenged all over again with Portuguese! Brazil seems to have some kind of problem with international ATM and credit cards, a nightmare trying to book flights online but I also struggled to get my hands on any Reals, the Brazilian currency. Prices of everything, food, dorm, buses, seemed to be hiked up at least double over the rest of South America. All these annoyances though were more than compensated by one thing THE PEOPLE.. Just one day in Brazil and I had met friends for life, warm, genuine, party-loving, passionate people, I felt like I had come home, oh yes I had switched countries alright. I visited the falls on this side with Barbara, a Brazilian girl I had met at the hostel. We had a 'blast' excitedly posing for pictures underneath the almighty spray, sharing our amazement at the beauty of what was before us, and I learnt a little Portuguese along the way too, bonus. We ended the day with a visit to the nearby wildlife park for toucan spotting before busing it back to the town, thoroughly happy.
Barbara had to catch a flight that evening but I joined Luiza from my dorm and some other locals for my first taste of the legendary Brazilian night scene. We went to see a live band and nightclub and it was 'double D' night apparently, oh yes illegal not to have double drinks at any one time and I have a real weakness for those cocktails oh yessss ooops... Brazilian nightclubs are an experience in themselves. This one was free for the ladies to get in but you are given a smartcard on entry that you use to add your drinks tab, which is settled at the end of the night (well early hours ahem!). Completely lethal!! Also, I have never before seen such open displays of emmmm... passion!!!! Safe to say that the next day was spent trying to do as little as possible at the hostel. Lucky, we had a pool, good music, and fantastic people so wasn't a real hardship. Maybe my body had not quite recovered from the shock of Antarctica but I was really feeling the heat. Unlucky enough to end up with a top bunk bed with no air circulating, phewwweeeee pretty uncomfortable nights... I am so happy right now though and in one day here had three other travellers separately surprised at my age, saying they thought I was mid twenties! The freedom of travelling, the lack of stress, is making me younger and I am already feeling free in Brazil. After many hassles booking a flight, where I ended up having to take a trip to the airport and several awkward arguments just to book my ticket, I got my ride to Rio sorted. Oh Brazil, there is something special about you, I have come home