Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bus ride to Iguazu Falls, Argentina

My plans after Buenos Aires involved a relaxing 36 hours in the area of Iguazu Falls, on the border between Argentina and Brazil. I wanted that much time to comfortably see both sides of the falls and not rush around. However, the volcano in Chile had other plans, and the ash cloud cancelled my 2 hour early morning flight to the falls, as well as my rescheduled flight 4 hours later. If I were only seeing the falls, that would be bad enough, but I had to make my flight the following day from Iguacu (Brazilian side) to Rio de Janeiro. Here's how I did it.

The scene at Jorge Newbery Airport in Buenos Aires, approximately 8am. At this point all I knew was that most flights were not leaving or landing on account of the ash cloud. About thirty minutes later they finally announced that my flight had been cancelled. With the experience of my last cancelled flight, I grabbed the toll-free number and went back to my hostel to reschedule.

I returned around 11:15 to make my 12:15 flight. They even took my bags, which they didn't do previously. However, it quickly became clear that no flights were leaving or landing, so I asked the airline to retrieve my luggage so that I could make alternate arrangements. I did so just in the nick of time, because I was able to get in the closed off luggage area before it was announced that ALL flights were cancelled, and before the ENTIRE airport showed up. Seen here = the line stretching the entire length of the downstairs concourse.

Another view of the same line.

This also meant that I was towards the front of the massive taxi cab line. I took the taxi to the bus station, and JUST BARELY made it on to the 3pm bus to Iguazu. Duration = EIGHTEEN HOURS SCHEDULED, NINETEEN IN REALITY. Ugh. Also $100 US. But at least I would make it to Iguazu around 10am, with just enough time to blitzkrieg the Argentine falls before crossing into Brazil to fly out.

Leaving Buenos Aires, the bus passed by El Monumental, the stadium of River Plate, the arch-rivals of Boca Juniors.

I had been on 12 hour bus rides before, and I really was not looking forward to 18-19 hours. However, it went far more smoothly than I could have expected.

The scenery wasn't anything special, but it was calming after the craziness of B.A.

I have to give them credit = Argentine buses have great service.

Plus I managed to grab a seat where I could put my feet up. (All of the seats had a nice recliner-style foot rest, but I went a little further) ;-)

Movies were in English, with Spanish subtitles. I had to swallow my masculine pride, however, and succumb to chick flicks.


I made it... 19 hours later. I stowed my bags in this hostel across from the bus station (not my originally planned hostel) and took a cab to the falls.

The complex was far larger than I expected. Niagara has nothing on Iguazu.

My main antagonist = train timetables. Trains left every 30 minutes, but I if I missed one, I was screwed. More explanation below.

After taking two trains, I finally arrived at the centerpiece of the falls = Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). They recommend spending about 2 hours at this part of the park. I was going to try and run there and back in 30 minutes, so I wouldn't miss the train and so I could see other parts of the falls. Obviously a damn shame, but I'm stubborn.

There were points when I was yelling "PERMISO!" (excuse me!) as I barreled past fellow tourists (many of whom decided to block the whole aisle with their families instead of going single file as instructed).

The trail is probably over three quarters of a mile long. I think it took ten minutes each way.

Mist from the falls.

First glimpse of the Devil's Throat

Most of Devil's Throat is Argentine, but the land seen here not completely covered by the falls is actually Brazilian. The border is just to the right of it.

It's hard to tell, but I was pretty high up. This is all Argentina, by the way.

I had ten minutes to "enjoy" the Devil's Throat before running back again, and just barely catching the train before it left. Next, I went to see parts of both the Lower and Upper Circuits. In between was this lighthouse-thingy.

A coati, which are cute but potentially dangerous (mostly to children).

Devil's Throat in the distance (Brazil entirely on the left).

The highlight of my rush-rush time at the falls was this view of the "veil" on the Argentine side (there's probably another name but I'm too lazy to look it up).

Not Photoshopped ;-)

After this, I ran all the way back to meet my cab driver, who took me to get my bags, cross into Brazil, and go to the Brazilian airport. My flight was delayed all of 10 minutes, which was barely noticeable after 3 cancelled flights. Next stop = Rio de Janeiro for 5 days.

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