This day is the height of the trip. It’s packed with what I thought to be the highlights of highlights.
Our mobile phones started alarming at exactly 6am. No big adjustments as Brazil and Uruguay are in the same time zone. There are two bathrooms/toilets in the hostel so we just take turns. The rest of the occupants seemed to be still sleeping then. Clocked at a little over 7am, we were already having breakfast in the dining area. After 30 minutes or so, we were walking along Rua Naipi heading to TTU. It was a warm and sunny day.
We didn’t figure out at first that TTU has only one entrance. Our attempt to get in through the exit (which is as open as it can get) was panned by the staff. We were prompted to walk one more block and pay at the booth and enter through the turnstile. There’s only one ticket price for any trip from that bus station (BRL 2.65). Be it as far as the Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (which is the endpoint of Bus # 120) or the next stop around the corner. It works, too, if you have connecting trips and TTU is in the middle of it. There are at least five rows there so be mindful of the spot where your bus is stationed. It’s safe in the area and a couple of refreshment stalls can be found.
Bus # 120, by the way, also stops at the airport as it tours along Avenida das Cataratas. The whole trip to the park could take around 45 minutes and to the airport, roughly 30 minutes. This means that if you’re just there for the falls, you can leave your things at the airport lockers (I saw some on our way to the airport bus stop) and get a 15-minute bus ride to the park.
Birds from Parque das AvesJust a few meters away from Parque Nacional do Iguaçu is the Parque das Aves (bird park) which is an attraction on its own. The bus stopped right in front of the entrance and we decided to alight and do the birds first. Each paid BRL 28 for a walking tour, not guided, that lasted for more than two hours of getting awed and picture takings. There was a guy near the entrance who advised us to go to the falls first while it’s not crowded yet. That’s something to be considered. On personal note, I love the section of the bird park that is open to the visitors. There you can get up close with the tucanos and have a picture taken with them (they’re not scary after all). More of Parque das Aves pictures here.
At around 11am past, we were already at the bus stop waiting for the bus from Centro (same bus number). We didn’t know at first that the reception area for the Parque Nacional do Iguaçu is just a few meters away. From our view, we only got to see a portion of the building on the road going to the left. We waited for 20 minutes more doing some helicopter watching on the other side of the road. So if you want to see the falls from a bird’s eye view, just alight at the bird park (pun intended) and cross the road. When the bus finally arrived and we were trying to get in, the driver just gave us a clueless look and pointed the building.
The entrance to the park costs BRL 41.10. It’s a huge park, so huge that it can be considered to be a town on its own. Park busses are already waiting just beside the entrance area. There are only four stops to consider: (1) an admin office for the Macuco eco-tourism and must be noted that it’s not the one for boat safari yet, (2) the Macuco Boat Safari entrance, (3) some viewdecks of the falls including the first one to be constructed and (4) the final stop with restaurants, souvenir and internet shops and the main viewdeck where you can get up close with the waterfalls.
Starting point for the Macuco river boat safariIt was Monday and we were initially informed on the net that the boat safari only opens at 1pm. Not true. When we went to the second stop, a lot of visitors were already crowding in the area. A ticket costs BRL 140 for a tour with a boat ride and BRL 70 without it (I don’t know what else is thrilling without getting close to the falls). At this point, I had to change my trek get-up to something I don’t mind getting wet (just watch out for the racoons as they might steal your stuff). There are lockers in the area but we decided to use those installed close to the river.
First part of tour is a 3-kilometer ride through the forest while on board an open top emission-free cars (check out the video here). After that is an optional 600-meter trek that leads to the port where the safari boats are docked. We had to pay BRL 5 extra for each locker. After securing the life vest, off we got in our boat and chose the front seat to optimize the experience. For a non-swimmer like me, it was a total adrenaline rush. I haven’t been scared again for a long time, especially every time the boat tried to maneuver against the rapids. In one instance, the boat seems to downplay the engine giving an illusion that the boat is stuck in the middle of the river, still against the rapids that looks more violent the moment the boat got close to the falls, while the mountains on the side were moving. That was a blast! There was a stop after 15 minutes of a slightly calm ride and the staff had our pictures taken with the waterfalls from the Argentina side at the back. From there, the waterproof camera was installed back to the stick in front of the boat. That was the signal that we were about to get inches away from the ravaging water. The experience is simply overwhelming. Maybe I was panicking. I had to hush and take care of my breathing. After being soaked for a minute or two (tip: leave the electronics at the locker), the boat made a U-turn and I was hoping that it will head back to the dock. Too bad, it was just getting ready for another round.
Pictures taken (and purchased) from the Macuco SafariFor all the pictures taken during the ride plus the video, they charged us BRL 110. We just divided the bill into four and secured each a copy of it. It’s expensive but we didn’t have other way to document the experience. Nobody brought a waterproof camera and Ziplocs are deemed useless. More pictures here.
We finished at around 2pm past. That means we only had less than four hours to experience the waterfalls as seen from the viewdecks. The next bus stop after the Macuco trail offers some platforms facing a curtain of the Cataratas in the Argentina side (officially called Cataratas del Iguazú). We opted to proceed to the final stop after some minutes as we hadn’t had our lunch then. In the last stop, burgers are sold in the food court like area from BRL 17 and up. We also bought some souvenirs in the shop. The elevated part of the river can be seen from there. It is where the water from the falls is coming from in Brazil side. They offer some boat rides, too, but we didn’t bother. At the “ground floor” of the waterfalls, there is another viewdeck that leads to the main river. Walking through it, expect some sprinkles and watch out for the rainbow to complete the experience. That, I believe, is the best spot for taking pictures.
The Argentina side, appropriately called Cataratas del Iguazú
Equally majestic Cataratas do Iguaçu in Brazil sideMore photos here and loads of videos here, here, here, here and here.
We reached the hostel at past 7pm and arranged for our last-minute pick-up to the Rafain Churrascaria Show outside the city center. It was a tiring day. I don’t remember the food that I had at Rafain or the sequence of folk dance numbers from the neighboring countries during the show but it was the best way to cap the night. We paid a total of BRL 100 each including the buffet (which is equally good and the selection has wide range), some drinks and the transportation (BRL 14 just for this). More pictures taken at Rafain here and two videos here and here.
Snapshots of the dance numbers at Rafain Churrascaria ShowWe went back to the hostel, had some quick freshening up and slept soundly (sorry for the Japanese couple who just got in).