Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Three Countries, One Day

Being at Iguassu Falls gives you the opportunity to visit all three countries that meet here at 'Tres Fronteras' - Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. 

Yesterday Milena and I went to the Brazilian side of the Falls, and they are breathtaking. Such an amazing sight. As we rounded the corner of the forest trail and caught our first sight I couldn't help but stop and point. I'm pretty sure my mouth fell open. What a loser. But it was a view I'd wanted to see since I was a child, and it was worth the wait. And the 15 hours on the bus to get here. 

We did the whole trail, crescendoing with the awe-inspiring, and soaking, Devil's Throat. There are platforms that go right to the lip and look down over the pouring water. And the best part was the rainbow stretching across the canyon at the foot of the falling water. Absolutely beautiful. 

We are going to the Argentinian side of the Falls tomorrow to do a boat trip and do the other activities on that side. But today we decided to stay dry and go to Paraguay for the afternoon. Casual. 

We took the bus from Puerto Iguazú, Argentina to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay this afternoon, and found that the bus went back through Brazil to get there. Although we didn't have to stop at the Brazilian border, so we just got our Argentinian exit stamps and Paraguayan ones. 

Ciudad del Este seems to be an electronics and shopping mecca for people from all the surrounding countries. As soon as you're through the border you're confronted with markets, department stores and street-sellers peddling everything from handbags to iPhones. It reminded me of Akihabara in Tokyo. And I actually found an iPhone 5S for the equivalent of £108. I was so tempted. But no, if something was wrong with it, I'd never get that money back. So I refrained. 

The interesting thing was that, being on the triple border, most places took a variety of currency. The place we had lunch asked if we wanted to pay for it in Uruguayan Guarani, Brazilian Real, Argentinian Pesos or US dollars. Spoilt for choice! 

The ATMs also give you the option to withdraw US dollars, which is very handy, as you can exchange dollars on the black market in Argentina for a much more favourable rate than the official rate. The current official rate is 7 pesos to the dollar, whereas you can get 13 pesos by talking to the "right" people. 

Leaving Paraguay, we had to wait over an hour at the border for the bus back to Argentina (via Brazil of course) so that was a bit of a grind, but we got back eventually, our passports even more overflowing with exit and entry stamps. 

It was interesting that Ciudad del Este was the first place I've been to in the last three weeks that I've actually felt was a developing country. Everywhere else in Brazil and Argentina could have easily been Spain or Italy. I need to get used to it though, I imagine Peru to be quite similar. But I'll find that out in just over a week! 

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