Thursday, October 18, 2007

Iguazu Falls - the edge of the earth! Best day so far!!

Well, the second night´s mattress on the floor situation was like a five star hotel after sleeping on that uncomfortable roof! We shared our hallway with a French girl, who told us that some French guys were supposed to sleep on that mattress. We begged to differ! If we had have arrived back another half hour later, though, it would have been gone!! And it was past midnight when we got in! Anyway, next morning we went to the supermarket and got brekkie and stuff to make lunch with, coz our bus wasn´t until 7.30pm. Relaxed with Vicktor in the hostel all day, watching movies and eating, then made sambos for the bus journey and went to the station. The bus was good fun. Sleeper service meant the seats reclined all the way back. Except mine, which was broken, and meant that every hour I would wake up with the seat having returned to it´s fully upright position! But I got some sleep, and that´s all that matters......!

Arrived in Puerto Iguazu at about 4.30 the next day. Good weather, so we were chuffed! Malarial area, so the pills are on board and the deet is out! Our hostel, El Guembe, is bloody beautiful - though frankly, after the night on the roof, a bed is an improvement! But it´s lovely, and the staff are great. Clean, airy, and wonderfully cool - and it has a ping-pong table (it´s becoming a requirement for our trip!). We took it easy, as we were all pretty wrecked after the long journey - just a few cerveza´s (beer) and some ping-pong bed before 1. We got up at 8.00 the next morning and went to the bus station to begin our day in Iguazu National Park. The bus is four pesos each way - just less than a euro - and it takes twenty minutes to get up to the park entrance. There, you see a list of special pricing. Locals are free, as are children under 12, elderly and disabled people. Then there´s a special low price for people from Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. Next on the ladder are foreigners - we pay 40 pesos! Less than a tenner! This gets you into the WHOLE park - all the waterfalls, free train to take you all over the place, and free boat service to the island caught between the two sections of falls. Unbelievable! And your second day is half price with your ticket! Great!

So, we talked with a wonderfully instructive park guide, who also gave us a voucher for a restaurant - more on that later! - and he advised us that the main baby, Gargantua de Diablo (the Devil´s Throat), is best viewed after 4pm, as the sun is behind you then. So, we took his advice, and strolled down the Lower areas. First up, the Upper Trail, which takes you across about ten waterfalls - some mere feet wide, and some the width of a bus, and all of them uniformly amazing and powerful and awe-inspiring! Check my photos on Bebo for a good view of what we saw first! And these weren´t even the most powerful and biggest part of the trek!! Anyway, from the upper platforms you were above the falls, with water rushing underneath you and huge drops beneath down to the pounded rocks below. Spray billowed in your face at every turn, reminding you that this water was rushing past you at breakneck speed. I´m a fan of waterfalls anyway, but this would have made the most hardened trekker pause for breath!

On the lower trek you go low enough to look upwards at the falls above you, and then take cliff-steps down to the river below, where a free boat takes you to Isla San Martin - an island nestled between the Falls on one side, and the Gargantua de Diablo on the other side. The boat drops you to the sandy beach, and the ever-present roaring of the waterfalls on either side is the only thing that reminds you NOT to take a swim in the blistering sunshine!! Climb more steps to the top of Isla San Martin, and climb across the top to the other side, and you are treated to a sideways view of the biggest of the ´small´falls - here you are REALLY sprayed with vapour as the water rushes by you! Gazing down into the torrents below, it was hard to keep the smile from your face!

After a trip to an all-you-can-eat buffet down at the restaurant recommended by our happy guide (where we made absolute pigs of ourselves - they had a salad counter, a pasta and veg and spuds counter, a veggie counter, a barbeque area (parillo), and a huge dessert counter, with slices of fresh pineapple, melon, papaya, banana, apple, etc. plus cakes and puddings, and EVERYTHING!........and all for 30 pesos (about 8euro)) Wow!

So, happy out, we decided to take the train up the mountain to the Gargantua! After a long ride, squished in with some chubby Americans, we got to the platforms. You have to walk across a series of platforms across the rivers which make up the waterfalls - it was so wide it looked like a huge lake! Bit unnerving looking down and seeing nothing but water below you. Especially when you saw some sunken platforms destroyed by floods in previous times! Eek! And then you got closer, and the water became faster below you! You were sometimes engulfed in the odd foliage break - where islands of forest stood - and were constantly reminded of how wild things were by the signs for snakes, etc. Then you heard it.....a distant roar. At first, it sounds like the other falls, but soon it becomes louder, and you start to get a little nervous. Then you look up ahead, and it was if a hole has opened up in the ´lake´of water around you. If I had to describe it as anything, I would say that it looked like the edge of the earth! The platforms allowed you to look directly down into the abtly named ´Devils Throat´, at the churning waters, the mist, the pounding rapids. My God! What a sight! It was terrifying, mesmerising, and utterly beautiful! My legs were shaking - it was like looking into the abyss! We stayed there for a while, gazing into the falls - feeling happy and excited!

Today, we headed back up again (after buying our tickets for Florinopolis for tomorrow), and paid our half-price in. This time, we headed straight for the boat centre, as we were taking a speed boat into the waterfalls mist. It wasn´t as warm today - but I got burnt yesterday (sorry Mam!), so I was kinda glad of a break from the sun! I wore my bikini under my skirt and top, and wore my crocs, as we thought we might get a bit wet on the boat ride. The lads all wore board-shorts (quick drying swimming shorts), so we felt prepared! Got down there, paid our 50 pesos (about 11 euro), and they gave us each a waterproof bag for our gear. I took off my top, and sat in my bikini top and denim skirt - my crocs are waterproof anyway. The lads all got out of their t-shirts, and put their shoes in the waterproof bag. We set off on the speedboat. First, they asked us who wanted the DVD of the trip - we said yes, so the guy took some shots of us all. Then, the boat went off to the left of Isla San Martin. Cool, we thought. We knew that the boats didn´t got into the Gargantua de Diablo, of course, but we thought we´d get a pretty good view of it! As we rounded the island, the waters became choppy, and there were pretty big heaves in the water - very exciting. We noticed lots of lovely waterfalls along the side of the island as well. And we appeared to be getting closer to one of the bigger looking ones. Then the boat when in practically underneath it!! Water PUMMELLED us!!! Couldn´t get a breath, there was so much water pumping on top of us! Then the boat came out the other side. We were all laughing hysterically!! It sped around the island, and brought us up to the biggest of the other falls. Again, we looked at the pounding water, and mist spraying everywhere, and the boat suddenly plunged into what looked like a washing machine, there was so much turmoil!! Unbelievable! We were just screaming in excitment, and we couldn´t stop laughing. Then he pulled out again, and sped back under the water a second time! We were just pounded with water!! We couldn´t stop laughing, and we were all completely dripping wet! But happy!!

We headed up to the all-you-can-eat again, and sat in wet clothes for a while! There´s a different part of the trail, which goes into the jungle, and it´s a bit dodgy, because of pumas and cougars around there, but it ends in a waterfall that you can swim in the bottom of, so we decided to hike it. It took about an hour of trekking to get there, but it was exciting! Didn´t see a big cat, but saw plenty of tapirs and possums and all sorts - and even some monkeys!!! Brilliant!

Got to the end of it, and trekked down through the trees to the bottom of a 70 foot waterfall. The pool wasn´t great looking, and the day was colder, so the lads decided that they didn´t really want to swim. But I wasn´t letting the opportunity pass me by! I got into my bikini (left my crocs on - could be rocks), and tested the water depth with a stick, then jumped in. Pretty cold! Then I climbed up the rocks under the waterfalls, and stood under it. Like being pelted with stones! But in a good way......!! Most refreshing thing I´ve ever done! Then the lads decided that, actually, they WOULD rather like it! So we swam, miles from anyone, with no disturbance from people - except for a few other hikers, who laughed at as, but didn´t get in. Brilliant! Then we hiked back and returned to the hostel!

The DVD is being dropped in soon, so I´m gonna head back to collect that, and we can watch it on Welly´s laptop! I´d say we all look pretty ´uncool´in it - screaming and laughing as we probably were!! But it´ll be brilliant to see it!

Heading over to Foz Iguazu tomorrow, on the Brazilian side, and do our immigration stuff, then getting the 18 hour bus to Florinopolis overnight, then getting out of the city to Isla de Santa Catarina on the coast, where we´ve a hostel booked for the first three nights, after which we´re finding a hut on the beach to spend a few weeks soaking up the sun.

Bring on Brazil!!

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