Thursday, March 12, 2009

Foz do Iguacu, Brazil & Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

We were reluctant to move on from the Parque Natural do Caraca because we had such a relaxing time there. Plus, we knew there would be a series of long bus rides coming up. From the village closest to the Parque we took a 2.5 hour bus ride west to Belo Horizonte where we almost immediately hopped another bus heading to Curitiba. This bus was a 11 hour over-nighter. Surprisingly, it wasn't as torturous as we had expected. When we get on a bus for that long we seem to slip into a time warp and the trip passes relatively quickly. This bus stopped every 3 hours so we could stretch our legs and grab a snack and we usually took the chance to get out and move around a bit.

Curitiba is a pretty big city (1.2 million), and it mostly served as a stop over for us to do laundry and find some new books. We spent the afternoons strolling the pedestrian walkways...the mosrnings perusing outdoor markets....and the evenings eating good food and drinking cold delicious beer on outdoor patios, listening to live music.

From Curitiba we boarded another overnight bus ride. This one was 14 hours and only stopped once! Our destination was the small city of Foz do Iguacu. The city serves as a point from which to explore the nearby Iguacu Falls. This series of waterfalls is higher than Niagara and wider than Victoria. It is absolutely stunning. The falls border Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and we were able to explore from both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides.

The Brazilian side offered a shorter walkway leading up to the biggest falls, the Devils Mouth. All the way along the trail we caught great panoramic views of the entire falls. We had lunch nearby and then headed back to our hostel for some reading and swiming in the sun.

According to Guarani tradition the falls originated when a warrior named Caroba incurred the wrath of a forest god by escaping downriver in a canoe with a young girl, Naipur, with whom the god was infatuated. Enraged, the god caused the riverbed to collapse in front of the lovers, producing a line of precipitous falls over which Naipur fell and, at their base, turned into a rock. Caroba survived as a tree overlooking it.

The next day (March 10), we took the bus over to Argentina, went through a very lax immigration process. The border town of Puerto Iguacu is a much smaller and walkable town. We put away our Reals and got out our Pesos and tried to switch our minds from the little Portugese we had picked up to the little-to-no Spanish we know. To explore the Argentinian side of the falls we were told we needed a bit more time so we relaxed the rest of the day and decided to get an early start the following day. That was a good idea in theory but somehow our watches ended up an hour behind again! We are somehow out of the loop this way...maybe it was daylight savings time??

The Argentine side of the Falls has many different paths we could walk to get an up close look at the individual falls. We started with the lower loop and circled around to some smaller but still very impressive waterfalls. From certain points on our walk we could see the ridge where all the falls met up and poured over the edge.

Our panoramic views from Brazil were a great introduction but being so upclose offered us the chance to realize how powerful these falls are. The walkways are not just a trail in the forest along the falls, they are a series of boardwalks that cross the calmer headwaters and took us right to the edge of each waterfall.

The most impressive and powerful (and wet!) of these was the 1200 metre walk out to the edge of the Devils Throat! We had no choice but the get wet as we stood by the edge of the falls. When we looked down into them all we cold see was white mist rising from the middle. We took pictures, but we really feel like they do not do justice to what we saw.

We chose to walk back down to the park entrace (as oppose to taking the passenger train like on the way up) so we could stretch our legs. We had another long bus ride that evening. Once we were back in town, we jumped in the pool for a quick dip and went to board our bus for the 17 hour journey to Buenos Aires.

Brazil Fun Fact #4

During the past five weeks we have been exploring the south-eastern part of Brazil. When we look at a map of the country we are amazed at just how little ground we have actually covered when taking into account the country´s massive size. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and has a coastline of over 7,491km. We have left Brazil for now, but it is stil in the back of our minds as a place to return to at the end of our trip, perhaps this time to some of the diverse regions in the northern part.

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