Staying in Brazil and heading to Argentina is an adventure in itself. I wanted to make sure I got to experience all that Iguazu (Iguassu) Falls had to offer.
I really had not put much thought into the reality of having to extend my visa. 90 days seemed like an eternity in Brazil. I did my research online and it seemed that it would take a full days dedication to get a 90 day extension and to tell you the truth… I wanted the experience of the expired visa. There is something, somewhere in me that likes toeing the line and even though this was not exactly base jumping off a skyscraper, it still added a little bit of rush to the experience… So I let my 90 days pass, ironically enough as I was playing hockey for Porto Alegre in the Brazil Inline Championships in Curitiba (story to come).
The reality of not having a proper visa hit me once I arrived in Foz do Iguaçu, would I be able to see the Argentina side of the falls and make it back to Brazil? I asked around and got mixed answers and the option of dedicating a day to getting the extension was not an option. I had booked my flight back to LA and for the first time in my adventure, I was feeling the pressure of a limited number of days remaining.
I made a friend, Bruno, who worked at the amazing hostile I was staying at. He was the rooftop bartender and one of the late night front desk agents. The night following my trip to the Brasil side of the falls I was in a moment of doubt if it was a good idea to venture to the Argentina side the next day. Bruno adamantly told me that I would have no problem. After weighing the risk, the option of making it this far and missing out on an adventure was not an option.
I woke up the next day early. I wanted a full day exploring and the last bus back across the border to Brazil was at 5 pm. I filled my water bottles and packed my day pack and headed for the bus stop across the street from my hotel.
After about 20 minutes a man in tattered clothes sat next to me. He tried speaking to me in Portuguese. I smiled and tried to explain that I didn’t speak the language well. He just kept on speaking to me like I knew what was going on. I asked him “Voce esta com fome? (are you hungry)” He replied with a big smile. After purchasing some goodies for him from the shop right next to us, I handed him the bag just as the bus was pulling up. My moment of good feeling was quickly replaced with horror as my new friend had the bread I bought him in one hand and his….”member” in the other, shaking it at every female exiting the bus. So much for the good karma.
The bus took us to the Argentine/Brazil border where we exited and got our passport stamped by an Argentinian customs official, no issue with my expired visa so far. We then decided it would be quicker for 4 of us to split a cab straight to the falls as opposed to taking the bus into town and then linking up with another bus to the falls. It wound up being about R$15 a person and added bonus, the cab driver exchanged my Brazilian Reals for Argentinian Pesos, a must to enter the park (260 pesos, cash only).
Where the Brazil side of the falls has one path, the Argentina side has many. From a bit of research I came up with what I believed to be the best way to maximize my day.
Start with the red trail, Circuito Superior, it is the longest walk and best done while you have fresh legs. This awesome trail took me above the waterfalls where gangways allow you to stand on top of some of the biggest drops.
Next I took the blue trail, or Circuito Inferior, leading to the base of the waterfalls and my favorite experience of the Argentinian Side. The power is incredible, and standing and feeling the force of these waterfalls was like nothing I had ever felt. I brought my waterproof backpack cover and put my valuables inside and let the power of falls wash over me.
I was happy that I had brought my usual snacks and munchies because the food choices inside the park are expensive and less than appealing. After I finished my refuel I spent a couple of hours just following around some of the parks locals.
This is an all day experience and I was glad that I had started my day early because this place is amazing and hurrying is not an option. The last trail I took includes a free tram to the top of the falls, a welcomed relief for my tired legs. After the tram let me off, I followed the pathways over the river and marsh and through the thousands of butterflies, almost forgetting what awaited me at the end of the path.
Once I got close, I could hear the power that awaited me. I ended up standing above one of the biggest falls of Iguazu, the “Devils Throat”.
After such an incredible experience I almost forgot that I didn’t have a valid visa for my return back to Brazil. By this time, I really didn’t care. After seeing the falls, if they where to ship me back to the states, I felt I would go so happy.
Bruno was right, getting back across the border was a joke. A bus ride into Puerto Iguazu, the city on the Argentina side, and another bus to the border, where my passport was given an exit stamp by an Argentina official, and the visa was never an issue. One more bus and I was back in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil before the sun completely set and a night of reflecting on the incredible time I had exploring Iguazu Falls.