The Newest Wonder of the World
Trip Start Apr 08, 2012
28Trip End Sep 25, 2012
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Ciudad del Este is a crumbling city that survives because of the black market. It is a place known for the ability to provide almost anything for a hell of a lot cheaper than you could ever get in the legal world.
And right across the imaginary line that is the country's border is Iguazu Falls, one of the top tourist destinations in South America. Both the Brazilian and Argentine side thrive on the amount of tourists that come through here. Of course this includes inflated prices, but at least
it's not because of corruption.
The journey to get here was not one I want to repeat and my internal clock is really confused - I feel like I've missed a day.
After spending 9 hours wandering around Santa Rosa (which takes 20 minutes to walk the length of), we boarded the bus to Ciudad del Este. Our bus left Santa Rosa at midnight and took about 5 hours so when we arrived there, one cafe in the bus station was open and we had about 2,5 hours to wait for the bus to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.
At least three buses came by saying Foz de Iguacu but that is the Brazilian town for the falls.
Argentina not only has a better view of the falls and is cheaper, but there are two Americans with us and apparently getting a visa for Brazil is near impossible.
The bus from Ciudad del Este to Puerto Iguazu took less than an hour and we saw three countries in that time.
We reached the border with Brazil and I was a little surprised when we drove past customs and border control without stopping.
We drove through the town of Foz de Iguacu, so we were technically in Brazil but not legally. I can only assume that the bus driver is not allowed to stop between the borders. We arrived at the Brazil/Argentina border and I was waiting for them to question the fact that we never got an exit stamp from Paraguay - not to mention that we never entered or left Brazil - but they never said anything.
I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to go back to Paraguay though as the visa is valid for 90 days and I think I’m still legally in the country.
We visited Iguazu National Park yesterday and today. There is too much to do and see in one day and even two felt a little rushed.
We had decided beforehand to do Garganta del Diablo or Devil's Throat first because it is the biggest. We didn't want to build up to it, but rather have it amaze us right when we arrive.
And that it really did...
Iguazu Falls is the widest waterfall in the world with a length of almost two miles. In the rainy season the place is covered with water, several separate waterfalls join and almost make one giant sheet of water.
It's the dry season now but this place is still incredibly impressive with countless waterfalls spread out along the basalt cliffs and the river is plenty high.
Iguazu National Park is quite good for wildlife too. Almost 70 species of mammals and tons of birds.
The most common animal is the Coati, a member of the racoon family with a lemur tail. Their behaviour reminded me of the baboons at Cape Point; almost as cheeky and aggressive but far cuter.
They are so habituated they will steal food out of your hand and they don't even flinch when you try to swat them away.
It was fun to have them come right up to us, we were even able to pet them. But after dozens of them came up to us, begging for food, it became a little depressing. It’s not okay to me for wild animals to be that used to humans, especially in a National Park.
They have nasty claws like a little bear and they latch on very tightly as we found for ourselves.
(Note: when I say “we” I mean my group from Para la Tierra, Paraguay)
One girl had a plastic bag with a sandwich in it on her arm while she was taking a photo of a coati that crept very close to her.
I was watching this and when it was about three feet from her I realised its intentions. I shouted out a warning right as it launched itself at the bag and held on tight.
My friend froze before trying to shake the coati off with no luck. Eventually it ripped the bag open, stole the sandwich and dropped, running away with its prize.
We were all killing ourselves laughing but we were a little more wary of them after that.
After Devil’s Throat we did a couple more trails, including taking a boat to an island between the river and the waterfalls, where we saw an armadillo.
On our way out of the Park we saw several Toco Toucans (which I never managed to find in Paraguay) as well as Brown Capuchin Monkeys (different subspecies to that in Paraguay), and another armadillo.
The Falls were absolutely amazing. There was always another one around every corner and the spray from each one was very refreshing after walking in the constant humid heat.
Every ten minutes we would hear a helicopter flying overhead, so often it eventually became background noise. Helicopter tours over the falls are very popular, even in the low season apparently, so I didn’t dare ask the cost. I saw photos taken from that that high though and if I ever make it back here with a higher budget I’m definitely doing that.
Sadly, our group is splitting tomorrow. Everyone except for two is going back to Paraguay while I am continuing to Rio de Janeiro with another girl whose is flying home from there.
It is going to be strange travelling on my own again, but it was getting exhausting with 10 people. As a friend said, it’s like being a mother, trying to usher everyone along.
I am spending three nights in Rio then I’m off to Campo Grande in the Pantanal where I will try to find a cheap tour because the cheapest I found online was more than a thousand dollars. And while the Pantanal is supposed to be one of the best places to find wildlife in South America, I'm not paying that much.