* I did not see a single mozzie while I was there! (I saw more in my accommodation in Buenos Aires!) Maybe I was lucky - as I did not take Malaria medicine or use insect repellent (although I was wearing Noslife repellent clothing)
* Because I was staying in the Sheraton on the Argentine side, even though I was in the Argentine park for 2 days, I did not need to buy a second day park fee (which is discounted for the second day)
* I did not do any of the extra attractions i.e. jet boat ride, guided tour, rappelling. (And the San Martin boat was closed both days)
* As an Australian, I bought my Brazil visa in advance. In the scheme of things, the extra cost and paperwork hassles was worth it - plus I'm not risking who-knows-what-penalties by intentionally crossing a border without a visa when I know it is required.
Tue 28 Jan 2014
I had an early LAN flight from AEP to IGR (Argentina). (I was lucky - I heard of some people on an Aerolineas flight who were delayed 1.5hrs) It was almost intolerably hot and humid in Iguazu (like breathing heated fog). I ask for a taxi at the IGR airport and so my driver is Walter. He is lovely - his little English was WAY more than my 3 words of Spanish!
We stop to pay the National park fee ARS$170 (CASH). (The Argentine National park is open from 7:30am - 6pm when I am there.)
Then he drops me at the Sheraton (IGR to Sheraton = ARS$160)
The view from the public areas in the Sheraton i.e. the bar, reception, restaurant, lounge are amazing - so postcard-ish and fogged over form the inside aircon and outside humidity that I almost don't register I am already seeing the falls!
NOTE: the Sheraton exchange rates are diabolical - when I was there, the quoted room rate is in US$ and was converted to ARS at the "official" rate of US$1 = ARS$8. If I wanted to exchange currency, if I gave them US$1 I get ARS$5…. AND. The only ATM is back at the National park Entrance, so be prepared with suitable cash.
ALSO: I had two Visa chip credit cards from Australia - one debit from one bank, one credit from another. Neither of these cards worked in ANY outlet within the Falls area that accepted credit card. They did NOT work in the Sheraton bar, but they did work at Sheraton reception. I had this problem elsewhere in Argentina - Ushuaia.
Reception told me the temperatures were unlikely to ease as the afternoon went on. So I had lunch in the bar (toasted sandwich), then geared up, water bottle filled, sunscreen on, and headed out. (I was pretty much the only person wearing long sleeves, long pants and a hat and sunglasses.)
That afternoon, I was in the Falls from 2-6pm.
In the 4 hours, I did the Upper then Lower Trail then Devils Throat. I didn't race through them. I took my time (and lots of photographs!)
I had been advised that the best time for photos on the Argentine side is the afternoon, and the Brazil side is the morning because this is when you see the rainbows. This was accurate.
Being saturated by the falls on the Lower Trail and again at Devils Throat was a welcome relief from the heat.
Wed 29 Jan 2014
I went outside before breakfast at 6am as reception advised that early/sun-up was the best time to see the toucans. Correct! They were in the trees over by the Old Cataratas Hotel that is being renovated.
Then back to the hotel for included buffet breakfast (excellent) then pack up and cloak baggage at 10am checkout.
Today I end up doing the Lower then Upper Trail then Devils Throat - from 10am to 2pm.
It's more hot and humid than yesterday, and the experience is not pleasant whereas the day before was wonderful.
There are more tour groups (of multiple dozens of people) than yesterday, and strangely no one makes way? I am going up stairs on the Lower Trail and the groups take up both sides and don't clear for me to have any room on either side so I am stationary?
So I head back to the hotel. Yesterday's experience was perhaps enough and today was not needed.
Walter had given me his business card so reception calls him for me and at 2:30pm we are off heading towards Brazil and Hotel Das Cataratas. ARS$400/US$50
As we head into Brazil, first we pull into a booth where we hand over my passport and Walter's card (without leaving the car).
At the next point, we have to park the car and join a long queue with my passport. BUt another driver walks by, recognises Walter, and tells him of some short cut. So Walter takes my passport, goes into an office, and shortly returns when the queue has barely moved.
At the entrance to the Brazil National park, we park and Walter shows me where to queue (they take VISA and it works!) CREDIT R$48.80
At the entrance to the park I wait in a foyer for the Hotel Das Cataratas shuttle that comes every 20 minutes. (The bird park and helicopter are about 100m back, across from the park entrance fee place.)
(If you ever plan to splurge on a hotel, Hotel Das Cataratas is the one :) )
I don't visit the falls that afternoon (I rolled my watch forward an hour crossing from Argentina into Brazil). I instead go up the bell tower for a 360o view and enjoy the hotel.
Thu 30 Jan 2014
After an alarm malfunction I don't wake up until 7:30am. Which turns out to be the best time, rather than getting up at sunrise (when photos are grainy from the low light, and there is no sun for rainbows)
I start the path directly opposite the hotel at 8am. I barely see anyone else (maybe 5 people in total along the path) and they are hotel guests out for a stroll or a jog. The morning rainbows are beautiful in the falls, and I am alone at Devil's Throat except for one other person. That time of day, with no one else around, it is beautiful.
Quite amazing to realise I was looking up at the Argentina Devils Throat where I had stood the previous day and still couldn't see from one country to the next through the mist and spray!
The "panoramic" elevator and buses are not working at that hour so I walk back to the hotel for 9:30am breakfast.
I stopped and took a lot of photos, but I imagine with a lot of other people there it would take a lot longer to have photo opportunities, and to just take it all in.
I get organised and make the 10:20am shuttle from the hotel back to the park entrance.
Then I visit the Bird Park - Parque Das Aves R$28 CASH ONLY
I spend HOURS there - it is amazingly done. At first when I saw the cages I thought I might find it a bit depressing like so many zoos. But then when you walk in, and see there are rescued plants as well as birds, and it is all planted like a rainforest, it is cool and relaxing. And the walk-through aviaries are AMAZING! Toucans. Macaws. I spent ages just sitting watching the birds, and photographing them. The butterfly enclosure is wonderful too with hummingbirds also, but it is MUCh hotter in there and very humid.
Then I headed across the road to the helicopter. R$255 for 10 minutes. You cant' book so I waited for the minimum number of passengers. You do have to be assertive - I was first for the next helicopter so they told me to take a seat and not pay yet. But then when new passengers arrived, they paid, and then when I got up to pay I lost my spot in the queue so had to do some assertive walking to take my seat in the front which I had been aiming for by being first.
It was really interesting to see the falls from up high, to get that great perspective, to see the little trail of paths that I had walked previously. But if I was budgeting, I am just not sure if I would do it again - if it was stay at the hotel or do the helicopter I'd stay at the hotel :)
I head back to the hotel.
That afternoon I walk down the road to check out the panoramic elevator. It is interesting, but I guess once you've been up close to the falls in the spray on the catwalk, nothing else matches it!
I catch a bus back to the hotel.
Fri 31 Jan 2014
I get up early to be out at sunrise and while I do see one toucan flying away, and a family of coatis heading out early down to the food place at the elevator, the views of the falls aren't as magnificent as the previous morning because I am too early for sunshine and rainbows. BUt. I see another hummingbird. And by the time I get to the falls themselves, there is no one there and standing in their spray is amazing. And I'm lucky with the direction of the wind so I can safely get out my SLR rather than the waterproof camera.
Walk back to the hotel as it is again too early for buses.
Breakfast. Checkout. Transfer back to Argentina IGR.
NOTE: I had Walter's card, and I was goign to call and then he was going to come and pick me up and take me back to the IGR airport for the same ARS$400 / US$50. But reception could not contact his Argentine mobile. They said it is not an uncommon problem to have difficulty reaching Argentina mobiles from Brazil. So the hotel arranged a transfer for me at very short notice.
So if you plan to contact from Brazil a driver on an Argentine mobile, perhaps instead pre-arrange a fixed time for him to be at the gate and be there. Rather than trying to call...