On Monday 20th of April, we finally left Buenos Aires and started our trip around South America. Many of our stuff which we couldn’t take with us, were left at a friend’s house in Buenos Aires and only the necessary were loaded on the vespa…our tent, sleeping bags, cameras so that we could take some thousands of photos and videos and some of our most formal clothes to put on, in case of an emergency gala! The vespa after the service was like new again and ready to take us around South America!
Heading to Iguazu Falls! We were estimating that we would need about a week to get there. We stopped at several towns or villages and we have a story to remember from every place we passed and spend some hours or a day. Our first stop for the night was at an abandoned campsite where we became friends with a really cute dog who volunteered to be our guard! He barked at everything he thought as a potential threaten to us and he even slept outside our tent carefully choosing to lie down at the exact place where our heads were! What else…Hilda and her family who found a place for us to sleep (in the municipal sports center) in the city of Concordia, where we had trouble finding a campsite. Also, Pablo and Maria, the couple in Posadas who hosted us through couchsurfing and with whom we had really interesting conversations on the sociopolitical situation both in Argentina and in Greece. We also had a very interesting cultural exchange of recipes! But if I go on like this, the text will be too long…
We were at last at Iguazu! Waterfalls, tropical forest and funny but also malicious little animals, the koaties! And also mosquitoes, too many tourists and ridiculously high prices at everything: from hotels to tomatoes! But let’s start from the beginning: We arrived at the town of Puerto Iguazu on Sunday evening after an interesting route going up and down on small hills! One of the riders of the vespa found it very amusing and the other (who had to constantly put 3rd gear to climb the hills) was not laughing at all – guess who is who!
As we always do, we had the exact locations of every campsite on our map and finding a place to spend one or two nights was our priority, when we got to the town of Puerto Iguazu. But in vain! Every single one of the campsites we had on our map was closed. Some of them seemed abandoned for a long time. Soon, we understood why. Our vespa with a big bag on its front rack didn’t have adequate lights to be safely driven at night, so when it started getting dark we went to a tourist information office to ask about accommodation. There, apart from the polite young woman who gave us some not very useful information, appeared a bunch of people – owners of small b&bs and hotels who were trying to convince us to choose their business. Exactly the tourist marketing we hate! No campsite at Puerto Iguazu or at least that was what they were trying to make us believe. Slightly tired and annoyed, we chose to go for a cold beer – and accompany it with some “asado” (barbeque) – so that we would relax and think more clear. After two cold beers (I’ll not refer to the quantity of asado we needed to feel better), we decided to go and check the last campsite on our map. We had to drive on a stoneroad(!) for 5klms and the vespa was jumping up and down until the luggage tied on it started to slide giving a funny picture of total collapse. Finally we made it to the campsite which surprisingly was open! Very nice place but not that cheap (8euros per person). We pitched our tent among tropical plants and sat quietly so to listen to the sound of the water of the Parana river close to us. Unfortunately though, the sound we heard was that of the mosquitoes. They were really happy with the new arrival and they had also invited friends to taste the “new blood”! Soon, we entered our tent and slept in order to get up early the next morning and visit the famous Iguazu Falls.
We indeed got up early the next morning and felt the tropical heat and humidity along with the mosquitoes on our skin. The coffee and breakfast ritual ended (Stergios’ breakfast should contain tomatoes, cucumber, bread, olive oil, oregano and a big quantity of onion – he loves onion) and we soon left the campsite to visit the waterfalls. The last few days we were discussing about the fact that the Iguazu Falls are part of a National Park and in order to see them, someone has to pay a – not symbolic at all – amount of money (20euros entrance fee, plus the fee for parking your vehicle – for the motorcycles it is 3.5euros). We don’t argue the fact that a National Park needs maintenance and that there are many people who work in it, but we found the price too high. So, we came up with a plan: I would be the only one from us entering the park holding all the cameras and being in charge of the shooting, while Stergios would be waiting for me outside. Besides, he had already visited the Victoria Falls in Zambia.
Inside the Park, everything was organized: the paths were clean, in many places paved or made of wood or metal so a child or an elderly has access. There were signs showing the way so that no one can get lost and many warnings about how bad a koati or a monkey can bite! I’m sure that many visitors have regretted their kind gesture of offering food to a koati! I can’t remember who had given me this advice but I followed it and it proved right: I should start my visit from the upper path, continue to the lower one and finish my visit with the “Devil’s Throat” (La Garganta del Diablo). So, that’s what I did. The view from the upper path gave me the general idea and orientation of the Falls. Bigger and smaller falls around me and the view from the “balcony” made me more curious about what follows. Then, at the lower path, the view changed. I was now at the level of the river and I could see the water falling from above making a loud noise…louder than the screams of the tourists in the boats who were just next to the waterfall and became soaking wet. It was now late in the noon and the heat and humidity made me also soaking wet, but from sweat. What a relief was standing next to the waterfall and letting the water cool me down! My visit however, would be about to get even more interesting: I took the path to the “Devil’s Throat”, got on the little train which would bring me there faster and in about half an hour, after walking on a long bridge above the river, there it was! I was left speechless by the majestic view! Tones of water falling, creating billions of drops which made all the vegetation in the area sparkling green! The noise of the water was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself mumbling words of awe! For a moment, I tried to remember what I had read about the Iguazu Falls when I was a student, or even later…were they the highest? Or the biggest? Or the widest? I couldn’t remember. And the most important of all, I didn’t care at all! What mattered to me was that I was there, admiring nature! All the photos and videos I shot can’t compare to the feeling of the moment I first saw the “Devil’s Throat”.
Being a bit afraid that Stergios, who was waiting for me outside, would have been bored to death, I walked fast to the exit of the National Park. He wasn’t that bored. He had become friend with some exotic birds and also, some toucans let him take pictures of them. His new friends were not only feathered ones, he also had started talking with a guy from Switzerland who was traveling on a small Mercedes truck and he was staying at the same campsite with us. We returned at the campsite and shared a delicious dinner along with some wine with our new Swiss friend, Reto, who surprised us by informing us that he loves Greece and that he has bought some land with olive trees in the southern part of our country. He even had olive oil from his trees with him and a small Greek flag in the cabin of his truck!
The next morning, the vespa and ourselves were ready to leave from the really expensive and not very beautiful Puerto Iguazu. Next destination, Paraguay! To enter Paraguay, we had to drive for about 15klms on Brazilian soil, in the city of Fos de Iguazu. The procedures at the border between Argentina and Brazil were really simple, due to the commercial agreements between the two countries. We didn’t even have to get off the vespa. We don’t have many things to say about Brazil. Our visit there was too short and it could have been shorter if we hadn’t got a bit lost in the highway – we are not that fluent in Portuguese! We reached the border between Brazil and Paraguay without even realizing it.
We were now very close to Ciudad del Este, the first Paraguayan city to visit. Again, the procedure was very simple: a stamp on the passport and 90 days in Paraguay for free! The procedure for the vespa at the customs office could have been also that easy, but we spent some time asking where is the right office, and apparently no one was 100% sure where to send us! No more than half an hour later, we were in Paraguay, ready to explore that country in the hart of South America, which many travelers ignore!