There are definitely highs and lows to this traveling business. The night I arrived in Iguazu Falls, Brazil, was arguably the low of my trip so far. It resulted from a combination of factors, really, starting with my lost debit card. I had last spoken with my bank while in the Cuzco airport and had been reassured that I could use my credit card at any ATM to get out cash via a cash advance (not ideal due to the fees, but an acceptable solution to my current dilemma.) I planned on doing this immediately upon arriving to Brazil in order to have at least some cash in the Brazilian currency of reais (I needed this to get from the airport to my hostel). When I arrived in the Iguacu Falls airport, I headed straight to the ATMs, where my card was promptly rejected by three different machines. My back up plan was to exchange the few remaining Peruvian soles and dollars I had left into reais but there was no money exchange at this tiny airport. I begged the young guy at the information desk to give me the wifi password for the airport and he graciously agreed. Using wifi on my iPhone, I called the bank again and they reassured me that they had lifted the fraud alert and I should be able to get money out of the machine now. The wifi network didn't extend to where the ATMs were so I had to hang up while I tried my card again. Still no luck. I called the bank back and they told me if it still wasn't working, my card may have been blocked due to too many attempts at the machine.
At this point, the storm started, literally. The wind picked up outside, blowing debris in from the street and down from the ceiling of the airport, the lights in the airport started flickering and then went out altogether, and the rain started pouring down. I was in the company of an Argentinean friend I had met in the Cuzco airport, and was helping him find a hostel to stay in that night- he hadn't anticipated the holiday weekend that made almost all the hotels in the town full of vacationing Brazilians. Nor had he anticipated the food poisoning that struck him soon after we landed in Brazil. Both of us were in sorry shape.
Finally things started working out. The storm calmed down a little, we were able to reserve my friend a bed in a hostel downtown, and, on my third attempt with the ATM, by a miracle I was able to take money out. We waited outside in the rain at the bus stop for about 40 minutes for a bus to take us downtown. The bus dropped my friend off a few blocks from his hostel, but my hostel was located a little farther out of town. The bus driver informed me that it would be best for me to ride the bus all the way to the bus terminal then take a taxi from there to the hostel. What he didn't anticipate was that, due to the holiday weekend, there were very few taxis available, and there were none waiting at the terminal. He conferred with the bus coordinator at the terminal, I gave them the address of my hostel, and they instructed me to take a bus which would drop me off near the hostel. I got on the bus and told the driver where I needed to go. He seemed confused and proceeded to take me on his entire 45 minute route before returning back to the terminal where we had started. In my broken Portuguese, I spoke with the bus coordinator again, and he informed me he didn't know of any buses that could take me to my hostel, it would be best for me to take a taxi. Again, no taxis at the bus terminal, so they instructed me to get on another bus which would take me to a place where taxis congregated. Sure enough, 20 minutes later I was in front of some hotel downtown, trying to explain to a taxi driver where my hostel was. He reassured me he would take me there, but it turned out, he had never heard of my hostel either. We drove around for an hour before he finally called the hostel itself and got more specific directions.
My flight had landed in Brazil around 7:30pm. I didn't get to the hostel until 12:30am. Joe the hostel owner was up waiting for me and lead me to my bed, the top bunk in a room with some others who were sleeping soundly. I climbed into the bed, fully clothed, dehydrated, starving and mentally and physically exhausted, and cried myself to sleep. Only to be awakened at 3am when the rest of the guests in the room came in from the casino, turned on all the lights, and made lots of noise getting ready for bed.
Whew. That was the storm, and I have no pictures documenting that evening, just the description.
The next morning Joe knocked on my door around 8:30 asking me if I wanted to join a group of hostel guests in a trip to the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls that day. They were leaving at 9:30, and the cost was $15 for the transport there and back plus the cost of the entrance to the park. He also advised me that a new reciprocity law was in place requiring US, Canadian, and Australian citizens to pay a one time entrance fee of $160 to go to Argentina, a pass that was good up to 10 years. Decisions, decisions. I thought for a few minutes, took a shower, then decided to go ahead and join the group. This ended up being a fantastic decision, pulling me out of my slump from the night before, introducing me to the small group that would become my friends for the next couple days, and allowing me to see one of the natural wonders of the world from the Argentine side.
I spent the day with Adam, an architect from Brooklyn, NY on vacation, Elaine, a buyer from São Paulo enjoying her holiday weekend, and Joey, a fellow backpacker from Singapore- fantastic company. We decided to take the boat tour of the falls which guaranteed to get us wet but was totally worth it. We then took the train up to the biggest waterfall of the park known as La Garganta del Diablo (the “Devil's Throat”). The views were absolutely amazing, and there was no way to capture the experience with a camera, but here are a few shots from the day.
That evening we hung out at the hostel and enjoyed some mediocre carryout Italian food for dinner.
The next morning, Elaine and I decided to check out the renowned Parque das Aves (bird park) in the town. We spent the morning sauntering down the jungle-like path of the park, attempting to take pictures of beautiful tropical birds. It was actually cooler than I thought, though bird-watching isn't really my thing.
Elaine had to head back to São Paulo that afternoon so I ended up meeting up with Adam for lunch at a local churrascaria. Churrascarias are Brazilian barbecue restaurants, and this particular one was set off the main road right next to a campground in the woods. The meal started with a buffet of tons of incredible dishes, from vegetables to potatoes to fruits to rice and beans to pasta. And then it was on to the savory cuts of meat roasting over the open flame. It was one of the most delicious meals I've had on my trip so far.
In the afternoon, Adam and I visited the waterfalls again, this time from the Brazilian side. The views from Brazil were even more incredible than the Argentine side, panoramas that were absolutely impossible to capture on film. We had the opportunity to stand right next to the falls themselves and the power of the water was breathtaking, almost brought tears to my eyes.
Last night back at the hostel, Adam left for New York and I spent the evening speaking to two ladies, Adriana and Suzi, who were on vacation in Iguazu for the weekend as well. The ladies live in Curitiba, Brazil, and one of them is a nurse who works at a school in Curitiba. After swapping stories for a while, the ladies invited me to come stay at their home in Curitiba which was going to be the next stop on my trip anyway- so incredibly generous of them. I'm even going to give a presentation at the nursing school here on Wednesday night about nursing in the US- if they can find me a translator. My Portuguese isn't that good!
That's all for now- I'm in Curitiba, hanging out at the school and waiting to head back home with Adriana and Suzi. Will post this later after I add in the pictures. So grateful that things seem to be on the upswing again.