Rather than waiting 30 minutes for the next local bus to pick us up for our official entry into Argentina, we slung our packs on our backs and hoofed it. What was supposed to be 20 minutes, turned into close to an hour in 38 degree midday heat. The bus beat us to the next border but our reward for walking was the opportunity to stand, straddling the dividing line between the two countries on the Friendship Bridge over Rio de Iguazu. This lead to having our picture taken by Paraguayan and Argentinean tourists, who were fascinated by the fact we were walking, we had become a tourist attraction. Border formalities on both sides were straight forward and quick. We instantly changed our Reais to Pesos and hopped on the next local bus into the town of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina’s answer to Brazil’s Foz.
It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me how instantly a language totally shifts when you cross a border. It’s just like currency, all of a sudden Brazilian Reais are worthless and the Argentinean peso takes its place. Speaking Portuguese, even 3km from the Brazilian border, gets you blank stares of non-understanding and the questionable look pegging you as an alien that’s just landed from another planet. Damn, just when we were starting to think in Portuguese. It is true that the best way to learn a language is to live somewhere where you are forced to speak only it. We are living proof; we hadn’t needed our phrasebook for weeks.
It’s been six years since I learned Spanish by travelling through Central America. I haven’t practiced since the day I returned home and as a result I’m severely rusty. Because our initial plan had been to u-turn back to Brazil, we didn’t spend any time reviewing Spanish. The result was our comical combination of the two languages. “Obigracias”, our response of “thank you” mixing our auto-pilot Portuguese of “obrigato” with the Spanish “Gracias”, creating our very own language. So far, we are the only 2 people who seem to understand this new interesting language but we’re convinced it will catch on.
Despite the high-season’s tourist trodden streets and overpriced mediocre food, Puerto Iguacu had us hooked on Argentina at first sight. There was something different in the air. Maybe we were just ready to move on from Brazil and the freshness gave us a renewed energy. More like a hotel, Peter Pan Hostel gave us a home in bunks and a pool to soak in for a few days while we gathered our bearings and ventured to Las Cataratas (The Waterfalls).
Iguazu Falls was very different from the Argentinean perspective. Still set in the National Park shared with Brazil, other than a few landmarks, we felt like we were visiting an entirely different place. The Brazil side was the right side to see first. Frankly, Argentina kicked its ass. The paths in Brazil leading to the falls showed you the enormity of the wonder and a nice shower as you walked at its base. In Argentina, a bit of a longer walk in with more wildlife and less people took us along the peak of the Devil’s Throat. Standing at the edge of “Garganta” the river flow drops so dramatically that you truly feel the awesome speed and power of the water. It felt more like a vacuum hole ready to swallow us rather than a waterfall. We also meandered through other trails that took us to different viewpoints and cascades, fed by smaller river branches and narrow streams, but still creating powerful falls in their own right, eventually converging with the others in the gorge below.
With a desire to get south before the snow does, we departed Iguazu. Following a night-over in Posadas, we hit the road to Buenos Aires – first class. Like flying executive class, this first class bus was incredible, fully loaded with seat back TV hosting English movies, full service meals with wine and flat lying seats. Perfect for our overnight ride to BA – a city where dogs are pets and their owners need to be trained (think dodging sidewalk landmines).