I waited far too long before coming to this country: 5 months in South America, sin Argentina. But now that I've finally made it, I'm lovin' it! Best steaks known to mankind. Beautiful women everywhere. A party scene that goes all night (at least), every night. Natural spectacles to boggle the eye. And a very special, utterly incomprehensible flavour of Spanish. Oh yeah, and the whole place is real cheap, too (thank you, inept governments and economic meltdowns — backpackers love you!). That's Argentina for you.
It's a whole different ball game from virtually everywhere else on this continent, is Argentina. So European in many ways, so Latin in others. Such proud, life-loving, first-world people — and such a pitifully crap economy and government. So many luxuries that the rest of the continent can only dream of, and at prices that Westerners can only drool at. Where else can you find a steak bigger than some African countries, juicier than a fresh tropical mango, and ready-to-eat at a time when most of the world is asleep? Or a bottle of red wine tastier than champagne, and as cheap as a chocolate bar back home? Or an endless supply of really beautiful people, able to dance like nothing you've ever seen, and frequenting night venues where "night" means "late night early morning"? I really do love this country. Even the Spanish here, incomprehensible as it is, still sounds beautiful. My only regret, really, is that I have to leave.
It was a pretty big day today — visiting Iguazu Falls (Argentina side) and all — but I couldn't rest quite yet. First, I had to leave Argentina, and cross into Brazil for the evening. This turned out to be a lot easier than I'd feared, mainly because I chose to take an easy mode of transport: taxi! After a bit of bargaining, I managed to negotiate a ride straight from the Hostel Inn, on the Argentina side, to Hostel Paudimar, on the Brazil side. And all for just 40 pesos (US$13 or so) — not too much more expensive than navigating numerous bus lines, and certainly a lot less hassle.
The last and the most spectacular thing that we saw today, on the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls, was the Garganta del Diablo (lit: "Devil's Throat"), the biggest waterfall in the national park, and an absolutely, unbelievably, mind-blowingly massive stream of water. Do yourself a favour, and save this baby for the end of the day: it doesn't get much better than this. You could stand and stare at it for hours. We did. And the catwalk takes you right to the edge of it, where you have a simply phenomenal view of the thing cascading down all around and below you. Enjoy the photos below.
Following the awesome speedboat ride, most of the day today at Iguazu Falls was spent wandering around the catwalks, and taking in the up-close views of the many minor falls that make up the national park. The six of us saw falls big and small, fat and thin, long and short. Plus, plenty of cool animals, and a great little train ride across the park. The catwalk system is very extensive, and quite impressive: you can walk right up to the edge of many of the falls, over numerous bits of water. Photos and video below.
The sweetest thing that we did today, at the spectacular Iguazu Falls, was go on a speedboat ride up the river. We started a few k's downstream, and then powered up the water at ridiculous speeds, before we came close to some of the waterfalls. Then, it was time to get very wet, because the boat drove almost diretly beneath some of the falls! I tell you what: that certainly woke me up for the day :P. Great little adventure, and the drivers are utterly nuts. Fortunately, they also give you dry-bags to put your camera and other personal items in, so nothing gets damaged (but your clothes still get soaked). Photos and videos below.
This morning I woke up at 8am, in order to make my 9am tour to the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls, one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. After last night's adventure, however, this early start was not very fun. I really should have gone to bed early last night — it was so stupid of me to have gone out pubbing all night! Anyway, I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed, to check out of the Hostel Inn (since I'm going to Brazil tonight), and to wolf down some breakfast, before falling into my seat on the bus. And it was lucky that I did manage all that: because I definitely wouldn't have wanted to miss the breathtaking sights that I saw today. Iguazu Falls are bloody amazing.
This evening at the Hostel Inn, I stuffed myself silly on the delicious all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner, I slurped away on the giant bucket of serve-yourself capirinha (after all, this is almost Brazil here), plus I enjoyed the great Tango show that they put on after the meal. Since I booked a tour to the falls for 9am tomorrow, that should have been all I did for the night. But I was silly enough to convince myself that I was being told the truth, when an Irish guy suggested that we go into town for "a few quick drinks". Hah: Irish — drinks — "a few" — "quick" — who was I kidding?! Anyway, I can't say it wasn't fun, staying out at the pubs of Puerto Iguazú until 4am; but as for tomorrow morning — that was Not Very Fun At All™.
This place is famous as the best place to stay, on either side of Iguazu Falls (Brazilian or Argentinean). It was recommended to me by several people in Buenos Aires — and it's so big and so full of tourists, it seems that I'm not the only one that got a recommendation about it. Everyone in town comes here! And with a BBQ dinner every night, live entertainment in the evenings, free Internet and Wi-Fi, a big well-stocked bar, daily tours to the falls, and a huge swimming pool, why would you go anywhere else? The place is more like a resort than a hostel, really. Considering that it only costs about US$10 a night, it's a ridiculously nice place for a travel-weary backpacker to crash at. Hostel Inn: a part of the Hostelling International network.
When I got in to Puerto Iguazú today, my first order of business was getting myself a Brazilian visa. Everyone from Australia, USA, Canada, and a few other countries needs a visa in order to enter Brazil, even as a tourist (unlike with most countries in South America). I'd head that it's much easier to apply for a visa here in Puerto Iguazú, than it is in Buenos Aires. Well, I can certainly believe that, because it couldn't be much easier up here: the consulate gave me a visa virtually on-the-spot, within just one hour! Plus, they didn't bother to check all those annoying things such as an onward ticket, an address of residence in Brazil, evidence of sufficient funds, etc. So good on ya, guys: in Puerto Iguazú, they make your life easier.
Seeing that my last big bus ride here in Argentina was so nice, I decided that I couldn't help myself: for last night's ride from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú, I went super-cama with Via Bariloche once again. I tell you, they really know how to live here in Argentina: these buses are absolute, first-class luxury! As with the last trip, last night was about as pleasant as 16 hours on a bus could possibly be: more hot roast dinner; more medialunas for breakfast; and more wine and champagne to boot. And all on those excellent, well-paved Argentinean roads. It's almost unbelievable that Argentina and Bolivia are right next to each other, because the standard of transport in these two countries is about as different as you can get.