Best until last!!!
20.09.2011 - 27.09.2011 24 °C
The plan for the following day had been to cross the border into Brazil on a local bus to the town of Foz de Iguazu, attempt to establish which bus terminal I had been dropped at, find a hostel room for a couple of nights, make my way to the long distance bus terminal to purchase a ticket to Rio de Janeiro, and then organise a trip to the Brazilian side of the falls for the following day (all in a country where I don´t speak the language). As it turned out there was a far simpler option, booking both a direct bus to Rio de Janeiro from Argentina and organising travel to the Brazilian falls all from Puerto Iguazu, saving both money and time, and allowing me to simply pay for one more night in the comfortable hostel I was already booked into. Therefore the following morning I made my way to the bus terminal in Puerto Iguazu and was soon on a bus across the border (where they told me we would only be stopping at the Argentinian immigration, however lied as we stopped at both, thus earning me 4 more unnecessary stamps in the passport for the day) and within a few minutes arrived at the National Park entrance. It is certainly true that the Brazilian side of the falls offer far less to do than the Argentinian side, with only 1.5km of walking trails (while everything else is at an additional cost), however the views are just as spectacular.
Often described as the grand overview of the falls (while Argentina offers the closer look), the Brazilian side was certainly worth visiting, despite such a short amount of walking trails and activities included in the price.
Three major highlights of the Brazilian side were:
One, a long section of walkway which stretches out over the river, covered in spray from a large nearby fall, with a viewpoint overhanging the deep gorge created by the nearby Garganta del Diablo.
Two, a platform so close to one of the largest of the falls that it almost feels as though you may get swallowed up by them, the deep thunderous rumble travelling through your entire body.
And three, an elevator up to a high viewing platform overlooking the park, giving spectacular views from above, looking down on the entire scene.
A few more photos from the Brazilian side
And so we come to the end, with just one more, of far too many, overnight bus journeys to Rio de Janeiro, where the three month trip would finally reach its final scene. Followed by yet more cloud, wind and rain (making the two days of perfect weather at Iguazu Falls all the more spectacular), it was a fairly depressing arrival into town. What´s more, unknowingly I had arrived right in the middle of the massive Rock in Rio festival (being held in its home city for the first time in 10 years), expecting an overall turn out of nearly three quarters of a million people all flooding into town at the same time me. It was only after wandering through the city streets for over half an hour, only to be told by every hostal that there was no availability, that I began to suspect that something may be taking place. In addition to this, when I did find hostals with rooms available, the prices were over four times the usual, meaning that I would be paying 75 pounds a night for a shared dorm room. Eventually, after hours of walking, growing more and more fed up, I finally found a bed in a 12 person shared room for 37 pounds a night. The most frustrating thing about the inflated prices was that I would end up paying an additional 50 pounds due to an event that I wouldn´t even be able to attend (having not bought a ticket, due to not knowing anything about it!). Had I casually bumped into Snow Patrol or Coldplay wandering through town, or found that Shakira or Rihanna just happened to be bunking up in my 12 person dorm (if the prices weren´t too steep even for them), I would have been satisfied. As it was, it just meant a million (literally) more tourists in town, and we all know how I love crowds of tourists!
Despite this shaky start to my time in Brazil, it wasn´t long before the charms of Rio began to have an effect and I settled down into the relaxed beach-bum days and lively Rio nights. With improving weather also came the opportunity to visit one of the most famous landmarks on the planet, Christ the Redeemer, arms outstretched, overlooking the entire city. If you have ever seen photos of the view from this vantage point, you will know what I mean when I say they are truly staggering. Once again ignoring the mass hoards of crowding camera-wielding tourists, it is certainly one of the most impressive views I have ever seen. When walking the city streets I had originally thought "what a stunning location, just a shame about the city being built around it", although from this vantage point it is the city around the stunning location which makes it all the more impressive.
In addition to Christ the Redeemer, another vantage point not to be missed is Sugar Loaf mountain, where on a clear afternoon, promising a spectacular sunset, I headed up with the hoards of other camera-weilding tourists. Unfortunately my time camera-weilding was to be short lived as my regular camera ran out of battery at the halfway point going up the mountain, while my back up video camera ran out of battery shortly afterwards, just as the sun was dipping behind the distant statue of Chirst perched upon his hill. This did however mean that for once I could simply enjoy the stunning setting without the constant need to find better photo vantage points and without trying to fight the mass crowds now pushed up against the railings, cameras high in the air, desperate to get the last photo of the disappearing sun. I was slightly cheered by the familiar sound of "battery depleted" beeping coming from another tourist behind me. Why someone else´s misfortune should lessen the frustration of mine is a mistery, however it certainly made me feel better.
And so, as with my South East Asia blog a year ago, I once again sit for one last time in a foreign internet cafe and look back upon the many photos and stories of my journey so far. It´s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to South America, however know that it is not the end of the book, simply the end of one more chapter. As for the journey itself, I feel certain that there are plenty more roads to take and stories to be had...and so the journey continues!
So, once again I bid you farewell, and, once again, as with my previous blog, end by saying "until next time!"