On the Hunt for a Toucan and Other Tales from Iguazu Falls

DSCF2635Ever since I first read about Iguazu Falls, I’ve wanted to experience them for myself. Split between borders and national parks, and described as one of the ‘new seven wonders of nature’, Iguazu Falls is a breathtaking place. The sheer number of waterfalls and nature trails make it more than just a one hour ‘snap your photo and go’ kind of sight. Also, a girl I was travelling with through Peru and Bolivia had just come from Iguazu, and told me she’d seen toucans there. I’d never seen a toucan in the wild before. Now, anybody that knows me knows that I’m a bit of a nature freak (just check out my art website). I couldn’t travel across South America for three months and go home without seeing a toucan.

After catching an overnight bus from a rather obscure service station somewhere outside of Mercedes in Uruguay, we arrived sleepily at the Brazilian border. Stopping at a supermarket quickly we snapped up some food (though unfortunately for me it was all a bit of a rush – all Brazilian ATMs kept rejecting my debit card). Eventually I borrowed some money and endeavoured to try the next ATM I found (in retrospect I should’ve just checked my bank balance at some point during my travels – it wasn’t until I returned home after resorting to a week of borrowing money and eventually using my credit card, that I discovered I’d only had 30p left in my bank account… yep, 30p!).

But that’s another story!

We transferred over to our simple little hotel in Foz do Iguaçu, moods dampened slightly by the endless torrential rain pounding the pavement outside. Had we really come all this way to see the waterfalls shrouded in rain? We started to look for other options and read about an exotic bird park nearby. By mid afternoon though the weather gradually began to clear, and we drove out to see the Brazilian side of the falls. First impressions were: wow, these waterfalls are immense! The sheer power of the water was amazing. There was a trail along the Brazilian side which we walked along for a couple of hours until the end, taking in the magnificence of it all.

Brazil

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I’d recommend when you head out on this walkway that you definitely wear a waterproof jacket! And I wouldn’t take out a DSLR – you’re going to get SOAKED! Luckily I had my backup smaller camera on me which slipped into the pocket of my raincoat.

Iguazu Falls

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After having our fill of the Brazilian side, some of us wanted to pay a visit to the nearby bird park. Unfortunately when we arrived it was just after 5pm and they weren’t allowing in anymore visitors. The toucans would have to wait. We did see a whole bunch of other animals though. Casually creeping along the wooden fence posts along the way were more insects than I’d seen the whole time I’d spent in the Bolivian jungle. There was also a rather adorable looking racoon-like creature wandering about, called a coati.

CoatiIguazu Falls BugIn the evening the group headed out for dinner. The place we picked was fairly nice – I had a delicious plate of chicken alfredo (not exactly a Brazilian specialty, I know). Midway through our meal we were interrupted by a waiter bringing over a large sparkling bottle of champagne.

Wait. Who’d ordered the champagne?!

He told me and Inga, a German girl, that it was for us because ‘we are beautiful’, courtesy of the table opposite. We looked over, and much to our horror… it was a group of three (how shall I say… rather unnattractive) drunken Brazilian men who’d been making a lot of noise all evening. We didn’t know quite what to do. It was especially embarassing as we’d been singled out of our group of about fifteen. Hesitantly we gave a nod of thanks, drank the bottle, then proceeded to not make eye contact with them for the rest of the dinner. I’ll give them one thing though – they had good taste in champers!

Argentina

The next morning we were up early to cross the border to see the Argentinian side of Iguazu. The weather was miserable again, probably even more so than the day before. It seemed a rain cloud had been following us ever since we left Buenos Aires. This side of the falls is truly immense though. Hours and hours of trails wind their way around to different viewpoints, allowing you to experience every aspect of the falls. Almost all the group decided to opt for the boat ride which takes you right up into the walls of water but I decided not to as it was very pricey and the weather wasn’t brilliant. Those who did it loved it though, so I suppose it depends on your taste.

Iguazu FallsDSCF2682DSCF2684DSCN2287Iguazu FallsIguazu FallsA lot of people like to discuss which side of the falls they liked best. Personally I think both have their merits and stunning views, but Argentina’s side is a lot bigger than Brazil’s. And it does boast ‘Garganta del Diablo’ – the Devil’s Throat.

Later we transferred back to our hotel in Foz do Iguaçu, before heading out for dinner. The place we chose was fairly quiet. Starving, we sat down to look at the menu. It was all in Portuguese. But no fear, there were pictures. There was a lot of steak on the menu, and after much deliberation I chose what looked to be like two sauce covered steaks with chips. Gradually, other people’s dishes started coming out, and people tucked into their own steaks and fish and strange pasta combinations. I sat there and waited. And waited. People were going to be looking at desserts soon – where was my meal?!

And then it came. The others looked on in horror as the waitress placed an enormous platter down in front of me. Through my poor understanding of Brazilian Portuguese I’d managed to order not one steak, not two, but six. And they weren’t even beef! They were pork! The six sauce covered pork steaks also came accompanied by what looked like a family portion of fries. Oh dear.

Deciding to take on the challenge I went into a bit of a Man Vs. Food frenzy and devoured everything. A bottomless pit, I even ordered dessert.

I know. What’s wrong with me? Waddling home took me probably twice as long as it did to get there. With a belly the size of a pregnant woman’s I set about packing my bags – I was leaving to catch a flight to Sao Paolo at 3.30 am. It had been a good two days at Iguazu Falls.

Oh and not to forget – at the tale end of my day on the Argentinian side of the falls this happened:

Iguazu Falls ToucanI saw my toucan.

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