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It could be argued that it would have been better to have made reservations in advance, but we like the liberty that unplanned travels provides us. Make decisions on the go, and give serendipity a chance!
We bought tickets for the city of Curitiba. It is the capital of the Parana state, to which the Iguacu waterfalls belong. It would be interesting to know what a non-touristy, regular city in Brazil looks like.
After depositing our bags in the cloak room, we were free to discover a city we knew nothing about. In Curitiba we saw our first clear signs that winter had arrived in full flow in the Southern hemisphere. People were dressed in coats, caps and boots. Shops were selling a variety of colourful lacy wool.
Public spaces here are dominated by parks. In the crisp winter afternoon, we saw many locals come out for a run. Older people were using the open air gyms. Families were out with heir kids. These parks were all well maintained and clearly a huge part of the daily life of the Curitiba people. Here, we saw the largest number of gyms and fitness centres of any city we have been to. There was also a yoga centre! Yoga certainly seems like India’s biggest export!
Curitiba also has a 24 hour market. It is a lane of restaurants, bars, shops, chemists even the tourism office that stay open for all 24 hours. Using the free wifi here, we got to know that Walter from Foz do Iguacu had accepted our couch request. We had another home to stay in!
With fond memories of an unexpected city visit, dreaming about Walter’s home and the bed we would have in there, we spent a pleasant second consecutive night in the bus.
Walter’s home brought with it the warmth of a family – his wife and their 2.5 year old daughter Mary. The bed obviously felt like heaven! Walter is an English language teacher and loves to speak the language at every chance he gets. In the mornings, he goes to the prison to teach. His wife didn’t speak much of English, we communicated through a lot of broken Portuguese (ours), broken English (hers), sign language (both) and Google translate (universal!)
In Foz do Iguacu, regular public buses ply between Brazil and Paraguay. There is a daily to and fro of the people from these countries. From Walter’s house, the Paraguay border was only 5 kms away. This adds another mix to the already multi-racial people of Brazil.
Clearly a much smaller city than the ones we had been to earlier in Brazil, Foz do Iguacu still had a very functional and efficient public infrastructure. Wide roads, discipline traffic, sidewalks on all major roads, parks with gyms – it was all there.
The next morning it was time to see the star of our visit – the Iguacu waterfalls. These waterfalls straddle the Brazil and Argentina border, over the Iguacu river. This river, unlike the Parana which flows north-south, flows east-west.
Our first view was a panorama of waterfalls. Wow, this is cool, we thought. But we had read the Igucu waterfalls were massive, three times the size of the Niagara waterfalls. Where was all of that? With questioning looks we walked further ahead. All along the walk, waterfalls followed us. At one point, we could see the boats in the water, and people with life jackets sitting inside the boats. In front of them, were a series of 3 waterfalls plundering down. These we realised were the 3 musketeers that the boats take you under.
There was a huge vantage point ahead, with everyone posing for selfie and group photos. This was another broad waterfall, almost as wide as the 3 musketeers put together and one tier above the 3 musketeers. So the Iguacu waterfalls were not only wide spread but also at different levels.
A little ahead, we suddenly started seeing raincoat-clad people. It had been a cloudy day with the sun nowhere in sight. But it hadn’t rained all morning. These raincoats surprised us quite a bit.
Until we looked ahead – all we saw was white space. And a narrow platform leading to this white space. We too wore our rain jackets at the beginning of this final platform. Each step took us closer to this white space. Each step also made us wetter. By the time we got to the end of this walking platform, we were drenched.
We now couldn’t take our eyes off the white space. This, we realised was the Devil’s throat – the pièce de résistance of the Iguacu watefalls, what made it one of the wonders of the world, what attracted tourists from all over the world to come, see and marvel.
The water of the Iguacu river plunges down a wide, but not too deep ravine, causing this gigantic splash of water, which is the “white space” we were seeing in front. This final fall is known as Devil’s throat! The splash is so massive, that from this side of the waterfall, you couldn’t really see the mouth – where the water plunges down from.
We now couldn’t wait to see the Argentine side of these Iguacu waterfalls. Just one tiny formality – overland crossing into Argentina was left to be done!
With butterfies in the stomach, we woke up the next day. As instructed by Walter, took the Rio Uruguay bus. The driver dropped us off at the Policia Federal border post. The immigration officer stamped our passports with the exit stamp, took back the entry form we had been given on our entry in Brazil, and that’s it. We were suddenly in “no man’s land”. Out of one country and officially not yet in another. We waited for the next bus to take us over the border. A bridge over the Iguacu river separates Brazil from Argentina. In around 10 minutes, we were at the other end of the bridge. Here the bus stopped and everybody got off to get their passports stamped. Again the Argentine officials had a look at our visas, stamped an entry, and that’s it! We were in Argentina. Our first ever overland border crossing was smoother than butter! The only difference from here and Brazil so far, was a Gracias instead of Obrigada.
The town here is called Puerto Iguazu and the waterfalls are known as Iguazu instead of Iguacu. The next day we headed to the Iguazu waterfalls.
Here, a train took us from the entrance to the start of the trails. There is lots to do on this side of the Iguazu waterfalls, and we highly recommend reaching there at opening time, to walk through all the trails.
The Brazilian side had given us a taste of the Devil’s throat and we couldn’t wait to see it from the Argentine side. What would we like better, we wondered – the Brazilian or the Argentinian side of the Iguazu waterfalls!
The walkway ended right at the throat! We saw a completely different side of the Devil’s throat here. The actual waterfall, which was all hidden in the splash the previous day, now lay right in front of us! We have never ever seen so much water right there in front of us. It was gallons and gallons of water plundering down endlessly. It was almost bizarre, the sheer magnanimity of the force that lay in front of us! The power of nature was being unleashed right in front of us, all that there was for us to do was stand and stare in awe. We are not sure the goosebumps we got were from the cold or the sight in front of us!
There are two more trails Upper and Lower circuits which take to you the mouth of the other “smaller” waterfalls. We walked through these trails as well and could see the falls of varying sizes and heights from every angle possible.
A devilish journey had led us to the Devil’s throat at Iguacu/Iguazu waterfalls, a UNESCO world heritage site. The devil of new discoveries had now truly engulfed us. What would this devil unleash? We couldn’t wait to find out!
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“Which way to the airport express?” Blank stares, shrugs and then the response ” Aah, Inglés!” Lots of sign language, pointing directions, followed by a thumbs up, a smile and us replying ” Obrigada!” Invariably, there is a dismissive wave of the hand saying, ” Na Da!” Thus began our trip to Brazil.
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Rio de Janeiro, the city of the sun and the sand welcomed us with heavy rains! But there is so much this city has to offer, that rains weren’t a dampener at all. This is a quick snapshot of what we did in the rainy yet marvellous Rio de Janeiro.