Unfortunately I had to leave Florianópolis that I fell in love with despite numerous encounters with water in my least preferred forms (waves, salty water, humidity in my clothes, …). I headed off to spend 5 amazing days in Foz do Iguaçu and Bonito, surrounded by forms of water that I somehow enjoy more (waterfalls, snorkeling in clear rivers filled with fish, calm sweet water …). It seems that the more beautiful the place is the harder it is to reach, but these are places I wouldn’t want to have missed.
Foz do Iguaçu
I left Florianópolis a day earlier than I had initially planned because I realized that it’s highly recommended to see both the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side of the Iguaçu Falls (one of the world’s largest waterfalls). However, it’s not recommendable at all to do both in one day (as confirmed by people who did it: http://www.heynadine.com/how-to-do-iguassu-falls-in-1-day/), so I decided to be a reasonable tourist and take two days for my visit.
Of course I got another full day of free showers just for the fun of writing about it, but I was lucky enough that this was on the day I went to the Argentinian side of the falls. You basically walk on platforms right on the waterfalls and see everything from the top, so I guess it looks the same with or without rain. The only “backpack” that I’m using now are plastic bags anyway, so everything besides my pants and shoes was waterproof.
I preferred the Brazilian side, maybe because it was a sunny day, or maybe simply because the panoramic view from there is amazing. Also, I was wearing flip flops that day, and they dry much faster than sport shoes after getting soaked when observing the falls from the platforms.
I won’t explain in detail how to get to each of the national parks, because that’s easy enough and any receptionist in a hostel can explain it.
There are just a few things to take into account though:
-Pesos to pay the entrance fee to the park in Argentina should be obtained before hand (260 pesos at the time of writing). Luckily I was told in my hostel that on the Argentinian side of the falls you can’t pay by card and there is no functioning cash machine (anyway, the day I went there the existing machines outside and inside the park didn’t work). It was Sunday and exchange offices were closed, so the hostel staff changed money for me at a rate that I didn’t really understand, but I got a lot more money than my currency app told me, which is why I didn’t object.
-In the Brazilian national park it was possiblle to pay the entrance fee by card.
-I was glad I brought my own food, because inside the park nothing is cheap. I didn’t see any monkeys and only a few coatis, so I managed not to get food-robbed by them (which they sometimes do when they smell food).
-transfer to the falls takes much longer than I would have expected, since several busses/trains are needed to get places. I was glad I wasn’t on a tight schedule and it was a good excuse not to do any of the expensive optional activities (hikes, boat tours, …). I would have had to stay longer to have time for any of those anyway.
-The Parque das Aves (bird park) is a cheaper option to spend the afternoon after visiting the falls on the Brazilian side.
Bonito is beautiful, just like the name says, snorkeling in Rio da Prata is like being inside a huge aquarium meeting up with my favorite type of fish: the ones that “clean” the ground. The ones in this river are called Curimba and are followed by a swarm of smaller fish trying to catch food in the sand that the big fish swirls up. On the way down the river there were loads of these little families, they are so cute 🙂 I was freaked out by an alligator that was passing by just a meter or two away. Luckily it had a big fish in its mouth, so I knew it wouldn’t eat me. When I joined the rest of the group the guide said that alligators in Brazil have enough food and don’t attack humans, but I didn’t know this when I saw it. The others in the group saw a three meter long anaconda, if I had seen it I might have been slightly shocked as well I think. (I didn’t have a waterproof camera, but a nice tour member took some of me, I’ll upload them when I get them).
Most of the tours take a full day from pick up till drop off at the hostel, so on the day of my arrival I just took care of booking the tours and spent a relaxing afternoon in the Balneário Municipal, the coolest swimming pool ever. It’s a calm river with loads of fish inside, including my favorite cleaner fish. Renting the snorkeling equipment there wasn’t really worth it, because I could probably see more fish just when I was sitting at the edge of the water. Lunch there was great and the restaurant staff lent me a padlock so I could lock in my stuff into a locker.
Two and a half days for Bonito is a tight schedule and I thought I should do something different from the first two days, so I went on a walking tour to Boca da Onça. This hike leads past 11 waterfalls some of which we stopped at to swim in. The last one falls into a big basin with a cave behind the waterfall. I love standing behind waterfalls… There are no words to describe the feeling.
A few words about getting to Foz do Iguaçu and Bonito (in that order, but it’s probably similar the other way round):
Getting to Foz do Iguaçu was easy, but long. I took a bus from Florianópolis that took about 14 and a half hours to get to Foz do Iguaçu.
The tricky bit is getting to Bonito from there. After much research online I found out that I had to take a bus from Foz do Iguaçu to Dourados (6pm to 3am) and after an unpleasant three hours wait in the bus station in Dourados another bus goes to Bonito (6am to 12am). My flight to Brasília left from the airport in Campo Grande, which most people reach by a shuttle service that they book with an agency (100R$). I didn’t know about this service and took the normal bus (55R$, 6pm to 11pm), slept in a hostel (40R$) and took my flight in the morning (around 8am). I thought that I would get to sleep more paying the same price, but it didn’t work out that well because getting to the hostel took a while. So maybe if I had to do it again I would go for the shuttle instead.
Busses and how I survived in extreme temperatures
The aircon is either too cold or not turned on, depending on the bus company or the bus driver, here are some of my experiences:
Catarinense: The aircon was freezing and blowing. I was wishing I had a burka, a sleeping bag, a winter coat, … anything that would get me out of the icy blow. By the way, the cheaper seats upstairs are as comfortable as the downstairs expensive seats (leito). After realizing this I’m glad I didn’t waste more money on a luxury option that basically is the same as the standard comfort.
Eucatur: It was freezing, but I was prepared and improvised a full body wrap in various jackets, a head scarf, a sleeping mask… People must have thought I’m crazy.
Cruzeiro do Sul: This company’s busses are less comfy and aircon is optional, basically you don’t know if they will turn it on. Good for night trips, sad for night trips that start when the heat from the day still sticks around. I was wondering what the perfect bus-kini is and constantly had to dry my face with a towel while I was on the bus from Bonito to Campo Grande.
Now I’ll spend three days in Brasília and continue to Salvador where I’ll spend a few weeks. I already miss the cooling free outdoor showers called rain of Florianópolis…