The Incredible Iguaçu Falls

Iguassu, Iguaçu, Iguazu and Yguazú Falls

I first learned of Iguazu Falls during my childhood obsession with the computer game Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? A game that fed into my sense of adventure and planted the seed in my quest of geographical knowledge, further propelling me into the world of travel. I was again reminded of it in high school when I saw the movie The Mission with Jeremy Irons. The Mission so intrigued me; the history of Spanish Jesuits in Brazil, that my father had studied to be a Jesuit in the US and the soundtrack gripped me, it’s serenity and its depth. But, the movie’s cinematography was what really got to me – the majesty of Iguaçu Falls and its raw power.

“The original name of the falls was given by the Guaraní natives who lived in the region long before the Europeans arrived and the spelling is Y’guazú meaning Y = water and guazú = big. Iguazu Falls are arranged in a way that seems a reverse J. The border between Brazil and Argentina runs through the Devil’s Throat. On the right bank is the Brazilian territory, which has just over 20% of the jumps of these falls, and the left side jumps are Argentines, which make up almost 80% of the falls. To completely and fully appreciate the falls, the recommendation is to visit both the Argentine and Brazilian side, as one side is a panorama of the other, and vice versa. Those who know have said, more or less that “from the Brazilian side you see the falls, from the Argentinean side you live them.”

Do me a favour and Google for more photos of the Falls; mine do not do it justice. This photo is maybe half of the Falls, goes on to the left.

What’s the difference between Iguaçu/Iguassu/Iguazu and Yguazú? The first two are the Portuguese spellings, Iguazu is the Spanish spelling and Yguazú is the Paraguayan spelling. And most interesting regarding languages in the area is that Argentineans (from that area) speak four languages due to the proximity of the Brazilian border. Portuguese, Spanish, Guaraní, the native language and Portunol (a mix of Portuguese and Espanol/Spanish) like our Franglais (mixture of French and Anglais/English) in the Northern Ontario/Ottawa/Montreal area.

Many visit Foz do Iguaçu Falls in Brazil if heading from Brazil to Argentina and do the reverse, beginning in Puerto Iguazu if heading to Brazil from Argentina. If in Brazil many arrive from Sao Paulo or Florianópolis by either plane or bus into Foz do Iguaçu, then visit the Cataratas del Iguazu on the Brazilian side, stay overnight and then head to Argentina the next day via public bus, cross the border and arrive in Puerto Iguazu, the town in Argentina. From there you take another bus directly into the park and return to spend the night in Puerto Iguazu. (Details will be coming of the specifics of how to do this).

I visited both the Brazilian and Argentinean side towards the end of the day. I prefer it when there are less people, when the sun is not as hot and when the time of day offers a chance for beautiful pictures with softer lighting. Lizards bask in the sunlight, toucans rest in the trees but it’s still warm enough that when you take The Great Adventure Boat ride on the Argentinean side, which is an absolute must (it’s no Niagara Falls’ Maid of the Mist) you’ll dry out on your walk back from the Devil’s Throat. On the way back you’ll pass Starwood’s Sheraton Iguazu, located in the heart of the national park which is an excellent choice for those who really want to enjoy all the park has to offer while also enjoying the view of the falls from your balcony.

Other options are to take a helicopter ride over the falls and Iguazu Park with Helisur. Now that would be a way to be proposed to!

A few of my favourite and not so favourite stories from my Iguaçu days.

  • I met David from Amsterdam, Holland at the Iguassu Guesthouse and we also met up a few days later in Buenos Aires, great guy with a similar sense of humour. We chatted a bit at the hostel and then the day he was leaving for the Argentinean side I was also heading that way to visit (I should have stayed over there, especially since the next day I was to return to take a bus to Buenos Aires). We were off to catch our bus and while waiting he went to buy cigarettes. The store owner didn’t have quite enough change so in addition to the peso bills they also gave him some candy (which he didn’t want/need). Minutes later he went in for some water and when he didn’t have enough change he gave them back their candy. They didn’t find amusing. We, of course, thought it was brilliant!
  • As mentioned I did The Great Adventure Boat Ride and purchased the long option, which casually takes you through the jungle en route to the river in open truck sort of thing. I enjoyed it for the most part, learned some interesting facts, such as there are pumas and jaguars at night, the park is 950,000 hectares, has 85 types of orchids yada, yada, yada. And then came the spiders. Many of you have read my post, “Monumental Climb – The Pinnacles at Mulu National Park”, http://thetravellingmunschkin.wordpress.com/category/mulu/ and know I am terrified of spiders. Well, let’s just say there are huge, brown spiders in the trees of the Iguazu Park and the guide had the truck stop just under them. And then move closer to them. I almost jumped out from 10’ up and I started crying. People laughed, I almost strangled the guide while trying not to vomit. Not a highlight for me but getting soaked at the Devil’s Throat made up for it.
  • I met Cam(eron), a native British Columbian at the Iguassu Guesthouse and I gotta say, I love Canadians. I love how smart most are, how well travelled we are, how curious and how funny we are. And fine, if I was Australian I’m sure I’d say I love Canadians too, kidding, I’d say I love Aussies. If I were French I’d say I love the French (although maybe not, I meet a lot of French who don’t like the French), but you get the point. Cameron and I had a great time together and he told me a story about getting his Brazilian visa that I thought should be shared.

When getting my visa, I went online, put in the visa request (https://scedv.serpro.gov.br/frscedv/index.jsp), printed out the form, filled it out and dropped it off in Toronto with the requisite documentation and money order. It was super easy and was ready in 7 days, progress I could track online. Cam, went into the consulate in Vancouver, asked some questions and planned on going back with his application etc. While there asking questions he was asked if he was employed (he had recently quit his job to travel) and was instructed to check unemployed on his application. However, he then had to provide proof of funds, get a personal reference letter and a whole lot that shouldn’t have been required for a quick visit. In addition, most visas are single entry for ninety days (unless you request multiple) and his was only granted for thirty.

He also did not have his flight booked and therefore did not have proof of departure. Highly recommended, even if your flight is leaving from another city, as mine was. Cam had no intention of moving down there, he was simply visiting Brazil, and however, he really had to jump through hoops to get his visa.

Moral of the story, do not say anything about being unemployed and take your airline/flight proof to help expedite things.

Cam and I also did a Paraguayan booze run. What was supposed to be an afternoon walking around the Paraguayan border town and getting a passport stamp ended up being a glorified booze run for Pepe’s bar (at Iguassu Guesthouse) and we didn’t get a stamp. We jumped in a cab to head over and Pepe asked us to grab some tequila for his bar at the duty free. As we were going through customs Cam reminded me that Canadians needed a visa for Paraguay, which we did not have and the taxis did not have to stop for immigration so we entered illegally, I guess.

It turns out that there really is nothing over the border to see and we had, I should say, I had been lazy so we were now going as the sun went down. So we entered into the duty free mall, checked out the prices of things, which were similar to home and then went to get Pepe’s tequila. Wow, let’s just say that alcohol is super cheap. Wonderful Argentinean wines were $3 CAD and tequila was $8 with all the same brands we have at home. We got our purchases, left and contemplated going to ask for a stamp but thought the stamp wasn’t worth the hassle or fine we might encounter having entered the country illegally. We jumped in a cab and headed back to our hostel in Brazil, a ten-minute drive away. I will always have fond memories of our Paraguayan booze run and the night that followed as we consumed one of the bottles of tequila among friends. Thanks Cam!

And the most important, a review of Iguassu Guesthouse (IGH), beginning with Pepe who makes the place so special. Pepe, a native Peruvian is also a former GAP Adventures (now G Adventures) tour guide and he and has relocated, opening and running the bar at the IGH. Pepe offers different events each night, often, incredible BBQs and entertainment for those who sign up and his happy hour specials really are the definition of “happy hour” or a happy night. Pepe has also started his own company (www.pepeadventure.com), running trips in South America and I couldn’t recommend him more. Fantastic personality, fluent in English, top-notch service and I will use him the next time I come down to South America. Cam and I had a fantastic last night with he and his Peruvian sidekick, Jorge as seen in the series of photos below. Jorge, although a little aggressive was harmless and loved flirting with me in Spanish. I just nodded and laughed a lot.

The guesthouse itself is great with clean and spacious rooms. WIFI throughout and a full continental breakfast with fresh rolls, ham, cheese, pastries, fruits, yoghurt and cereal.

The swimming pool is fantastic after lying out in the sun. Security is good and the location is ideal, minutes from the bus station. Only negative is that you need to pay for WIFI (first hostel I saw with that requirement) and definitely check your bill at the end. I had some issues I had to fight when checking out due to a language barrier with one of the staff. Made for the beginning of a difficult day on departure, not fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Iguaçu. I can’t wait to hear about yours!

4 Responses to The Incredible Iguaçu Falls

  1. Pingback: Travel in Brazil: Foz do Iguaçu (PR), 2005 « Adriano Antoine

  2. Pingback: Iguazu Falls: Mist in the jungle « Swift Ink

  3. Pingback: Brazilian Days (196): July 15 « Inside Brazil

  4. Pingback: Braziliaanse Dagen: 15 juli (Dag 196) « Eyes on Brazil

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