We spent two full days at Iguazu Falls in the end. One on the Argentine side, where you can get close up and very, very wet by taking a boat right underneath the waterfall itself (aftermath pictured below), and one on the Brazilian side, where you get the full panoramic view of the falls in all their glory.
We did our best to avoid the crowds, by catching a ridiculously early bus to the Argentine side on the first day and then rolling up casually late to the Brazilian side on our second day, but even when we found ourselves dawdling behind a tour group of pensioners walking single file along the trails we still couldn’t help but be wowed by the thundering watery glory of it all.
At over a thousand kilometres from Buenos Aires to the falls, our final overnight bus journey of the trip had also been one of the longest, but as we’d once again paid to travel in style on plush and very spacious reclining seats, we weren’t too tired when we were deposited in tiny, tropical Puerto Iguazu the next morning. As well as visiting both sides of the falls, we also took the opportunity to walk to the edge of town, where the Tres Fronteras lookout lets you see three countries from one spot.
Sadly, despite being one of the highlights of the trip, our stay in Iguazu was also tinged with sadness for us, as it marked the end of our affair with Argentina. On our last evening in town, I somehow found room for one more bife de lomo, and then that was that. The next morning we caught a cab to Brazil: at the midway point on the bridge that forms the border, the Argentine blue and white painted on the sides gives way to Brazil’s green and yellow. I turned to Sal and wondered aloud if we’d ever eat steak as fine as that again…
The final two weeks of our trip passed in a blur, starting with a few days in Rio, where we stayed just a coconut’s throw from Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Sadly, for the first time in our trip, the weather didn’t quite cooperate, but it still didn’t stop us from ticking off the standard tourist attractions: including Pão de Açúcar and Christo Redentor. When we rolled up to buy tickets for the train up to see Christo, the weather was so bad that the guy at the ticket window even told us we wouldn’t see anything. “It’s cloudy” he said, as if we hadn’t noticed. Given that we had no other days left, weren’t going to be coming back to Rio any time soon, and had already trekked all over town to get to the bottom of the mountain, we decided to take a punt anyway, and we were glad we did. When we got off the train at the top, it was so cloudy that we could barely even see the top of the statue from the bottom of it. It actually seemed rather appropriate to be up in the heavens with Christo, but then all of a sudden the clouds parted to reveal the glorious city below, before closing again almost as quickly as they had opened, with the pattern repeating at regular intervals. (And every time the train deposited a new set of arrivals at the top of the mountain, we would watch amused as they saw the clouds part for the first time, as we had done, and rushed to the edge to grab their photos of the city, before slowly realising that exactly the same thing would be happening again when the clouds parted again just a few minutes later).
From Rio, we caught the bus to the lovely little idyllic colonial town of Paraty. After hiring bikes again and getting ourselves caught in the torrential rain, then riding up the world’s steepest hill (2 hours up; 10 minutes down), we waited for the sun to come out before indulging in Paraty’s other main attraction. When the sun finally chose to cooperate, though, we didn’t hesitate to jump on a boat and sail off to some of the nearby beaches, serenaded by a chap on board with an acoustic guitar playing “Brazilian pop music”.
On our last night in Paraty, with only a long bus journey to Sao Paulo separating us from the end of our trip, we grabbed a quiet dinner at gimmicky but nice flambé restaurant (they stopped short of flambéing the menu, but that was about it…) and got an early night. Many hours later, we were woken by some very rude people who came in at about 3AM and suddenly started making all sorts of noise. We eventually got back to sleep, but, Sal tells me, I inadvertently got my revenge. Apparently, many hours later when the noisy people had come back and gone to bed, I’d been snoring so loudly that they’d been banging on our wall to try to get me to shut up.
I felt very proud of myself.
The trip to Sao Paulo was long, but largely uneventful. Apart from the fact that as we pulled out of town we paused at a fire station, where a big burly chap in uniform got on. I assumed that he was going to check our documents, like the police who’d sometimes got on our buses in Peru, but that turned out not to be the case. Apparently his job was just to put on the in-bus DVD, Rugrats in Paris. Once he’d carefully selected the Portuguese soundtrack, his job was done, and he hopped off the bus a short while later.
For the final two days of our epic four month journey, we checked in to one of the most expensive hotels in town (our final two nights’ accommodation cost almost as much as our entire month’s stay in the apartment in BA…) and basically didn’t leave.
And then that was that: many hours on the supremely uncomfortable Swiss Air flight back home later, we were on the ground in Manchester wondering what to do with our lives now that it was all over and the real world beckoned…