Apologies for the delays in posting but I just spent the weekend in Iguazú and can’t wait to tell you about it. I last posted on tuesday, I believe, so a quick update of what happened since then is in order. Wednesday was the busiest day: I went to three classes at three universities, arriving home an hour before the entire family came over. I left one of the classes early because I really didn’t like it (which was a really scary moment) and headed home after 12 hours and so much time commuting! Wednesdays will be my only day with two classes but that’s way more doable than three. Thursday was a mellow day of aerobics, some homework at the bookstore/café that I’m becoming obsessed with and class at UBA. We read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal and none of the Argentine’s had read it! It was so interesting to see their reactions. Friday, I woke up and went to the omnibus terminal.
tl;dr version: Iguazu, so worth going! Omnibuses: very long. Garden Stone Hostel: lovely. The park: you need two days for comfort, do the boat tour, bring a change of clothes, prepare to be awed, food is expensive/not always the best.
Getting there: Nora and I took an omnibus leaving on Friday afternoon to Puerto Iguazu, the town about 15 minutes from the national park which contains the falls. We had booked the tickets online which was a whole ordeal (if anyone wants to teach the Argentines how to do ecommerce, please come on down!) and we didn’t have printed tickets when we got to the terminal. They saw us in the system and gave us basically a piece of paper with a check mark on it and we were allowed to travel. Totally casual. We had “cama economica” seats which are large seats that recline almost all the way back. You get a blanket too and snacks, “dinner” and “breakfast.” You’re also treated to a horrendous selection of movies including the Terminator, Die Hard, Paulie (a movie about a talking Parrot) and so many more over the course of your 19 hour journey. The bus stopped around 10 times including in the middle of the night so I have no idea how long those people waited since we arrived in Iguazu over 3 hours after we were meant to. We did leave an hour late so it wasn’t totally surprising. The food on the omnibus was just a joke: all carbs and packaged in the weirdest way that all the Argentines knew how to handle. First there was a tray of cold stuff and apparently you were supposed to move something out of one slot because the hot tray was to go there. Then the cutlet inside the hot tray was supposed to go on that bun with cheese on it, followed by a squeeze of mayo sauce. Eeeek. I brought some snacks and ate lots of the crackers they gave us but we definitely prepared better for the trip back. I did sleep most of the night (they turn the lights off after dinner) and it was really interesting to see the people on the bus and how little choice there was in the entire process compared to American mass transit. We also got a sense of how big Argentina is. People outside of Buenos Aires are much darker and the landscape reminded me much more of Nicaragua and other more tropical areas (Iguazu is subtropical). All of the roads were paved which is seriously impressive, though very sparsely populated. We saw lots of cows and horses. When we got to Iguazu, we visited the ticket office, hoping to print our tickets for the return trip. The agent almost laughed at us for doing something so far ahead of time and told us to come 10 minutes before the bus left and everything would be fix. Cool, Argentina.
Once in Iguazu, we walked four blocks to our hostel, Garden Stone. It was after 10 so we were shown to our huge, clean, sunny room. This was my first time staying in a hostel and I had visions of bunkbeds and scary guests but we booked a private room and (don’t tell Rita) the bed was the most comfortable I’ve slept in in weeks. There was garden and pool and hammocks and breakfast outsides and it was just lovely. There was also a kitchen and if we had stayed longer/been less tired, cooking would have been a lot of fun. All the hostels are on one street and I was so happy with ours. (Confusing Argentine quirk: all the streets in all the towns have the same names. And many street names are also the names of cities around the country). We got the lay of the land from the man at the front desk and headed back to the bus station to take the bus to the park. They come every 15 minutes so by noon we were there! We ate lunch at a super overpriced buffet (don’t do this) and then took the train up to La Garganta de Diablo (the throat of the devil!). It’s where 14 waterfalls converge and it’s the fastest waterfall in the world. The weather was perfect (not a cloud in the sky) and as we walked closer and closer to the Garganta, the water still seemed relatively calm. Seeing the Garganta was amazing.
NOTE: writing about Iguazu feels a little bit pointless, as does posting these photos. It was so beautiful and breathtaking and moving (all these words are clichés) because of the motion and the scale and the sounds. I really felt like I understood how people could construct these ideas of paradise or heaven on earth or something magic because even if you understand how a waterfall is formed when a river meets a mountain, that doesn’t explain how there was a rainbow for the entire time I was there, or how some days you can see the little island and somedays (like when we were there) there’s so much water you look down into mist. Some of the areas are dry and there’s plants growing while others have been wet for centuries. The water keeps falling whether the park is empty or full and it’s mesmerizing to us now, even after we allegedly have the tools to comprehend it, scientifically. I can only imagine what the first visitors thought. I didn’t even buy any postcards. They wouldn’t be enough.
Okay, all that aside, Iguazu is so so beautiful and such a good example of well designed tourism. None of the trails are particularly difficult and you walk with babies and older people and people speaking so many languages. Your ticket is half priced if you return for a second day, so there’s not a huge rush. On the first day, we saw the Garganta and walked along the upper and lower trails. The other crazy thing was running into three people we knew. First Nora spotted a girl from one of her classes, then I walked up to someone wearing a Penn football shirt who I have lots of mutual friends with (he’s on a Wharton program with classes outside of the city but living in BA), and then Nora found a friend from Brown on another abroad program. It makes sense being a holiday weekend and all but it’s still so crazy that I spent the weekend in Iguazu and ran into people in paradise. I loved it so much.
We headed back from the park (after a Freddo stop because ice cream is always great) and stopped at the grocery store to get supplies for the next day, including wine to numb the pain of a 19 hour bus ride. Viva la screwcap. They warned us at our hostel that lots of things would be closed on sundays, which is true in BA but more so outside of the capitol. Then we read in our room, journaled and headed to dinner. There are a ton of restaurants in Puerto Igauzu and none are supposed to be amazing. We got well priced pizza and wine but nothing to write home about. Apparently there is some good steak and the requisite way overpriced places. We passed out pretty quickly in our beautiful room and woke up to sun and palm trees. Breakfast outside was so nice and we booked a boat trip into the falls for the morning. We headed back to the park and headed to the boat area. We had to climb down to the water’s edge over these rocks that reminded me of California tide pools. Everyone had told us to bring a change of clothes for after the boat ride and the company gives you a waterproof bag to store things in. We first did a loop around two of the waterfalls with options for pictures. Then the captain got serious, put up the hood to his raincoat, told us to put our cameras away and headed into the falls. The water was so overwhelming, it was hard to keep your eyes open, let alone comprehend the wonder of being inside this waterfall. The whole ride was around 20 minutes and I’m really glad we did it. Having two days really serves to make the whole experience more calm and fun. We ate apples next to one of the smaller falls, marveled at the still there rainbow (an arcoiris) and lack of clouds in the sky and then said hasta luego to this beautiful place. We picked up lunch at a fresh pasta company (it was actually pretty good and not much was open) and ate in the hostel backyard followed by a hammock snooze. I love hammocks. The world needs more of them. Then we headed back to the omnibus, which we again boarded sans official tickets. This time, we had the cheaper tickets (semi cama) which were not that different except you don’t get a blanket. I was a little chilly but so glad I had an eye mask (If you are ever traveling, bring an eyemask. Always). Leaving later in the day (a little before 6) was also nicer because you can sleep more. We had dinner, wine, and listening to this american life on Nora’s iphone before they turned the lights off. We got to Buenos Aires around 2 and I was home before three via public transportation.
I got home, briefly caught up on internet and headed to my favorite/bookstore cafe to do some reading for class tomorrow. I also found a froyo shop on my way over and had to try some! It isn’t as tangy as american froyo but it was well priced and they have dulce de leche sauce! I took a punch card mostly because I needed at least one punch card from this city and also because, I’ll be back, let’s be real. (It’s my one month anniversary with BA today. OMG)
I’m so lucky I was able to see Iguazu. It’s really extraordinary. I also feel so grateful that our trip was full of kind and helpful people and that seeing this wonder was such a fun/non stressful process. I walked out of our hostel into the sunny street saying, “people are lovely” and I hope each one of my trips prove that more and more.