Thursday, January 3, 2013

Getting to Iguazu Falls – and the worst cab ride we’ve ever had

Iguazu falls is one of those rare sites that cannot be overhyped. I really believe that no matter how great you expect it to be, it will still exceed your expectations. The waterfalls are just so huge, the environment is so green and lush…it adds up to a beautiful and amazing experience. I had even seen the falls before, when I was here in 2008, but seeing them again was still just as fantastic.

However, our trip to the town of Iguazu did not start auspiciously. Our cab from the airport passed many beautiful looking hotels right near the falls and near the center of town, then kept going, then kept going, then turned down a few dark empty streets and arrived at our hotel, which turned out to be more of a hostel. It was pretty nice as hostels go, but the first impression was a bit…disappointing.

We decided to make the best of it, and we took a cab to a nice restaurant that was a bit of a tourist trap, but hey what can you do. Pretty much the entire town of Puerto Iguazu exists to be a tourist trap near the falls. Oh well.
This band was playing, and while they were not exactly authentic – they played the Fritos Banditos song – they were quite talented. The guy in the black shirt played some really crazy fast parts in a spanish guitar style. The dinner was pretty good, and helped relax everyone after the bummer of a hostel…but then the real fun began.

We had the restaurant call us a cab back to the hostel, and I told the driver the name of our hostel and tried to show him on a little map that he should follow the main street and then turn on Avenida Brasil. Well, you might be able to guess what happened next, if you already knew that the town of Iguazu is right on the border between Argentina and Brazil.

We’re driving along and while it’s pitch black, things don’t look exactly like the way we came. I start to ask him about how much it will cost, and he says 200 pesos. We had only paid 20 on the way there, so in my pretty terrible spanish, I basically say “whoa that’s way too much, pull over immediately.” He stops, and points straight ahead to what we now realize is a border crossing and passport control. We had been just about to try and cross into Brazil. Whoops.

So, we get things cleared up, we all laugh about the confusion a little, and he agrees that 20 pesos is enough to get us only to the hostel. Unfortunately, the craziness of this cab ride wasn’t over yet. Turns out the cab driver has no idea where our hostel is, even when we give him the address. This is especially bizarre because the entire town is like 30 streets, so how can a cab driver not know where our street is.

We’re driving along, trying to figure out where to go, and as we’re going through an intersection, my dad in the front seat all of a sudden shouts and points and the cab driver slams on the brakes, just barely missing a collision with another car coming through the intersection.

Needless to say, this cab drive has been more than crazy enough for all of our tastes. When we finally managed to direct him back to our hostel, I think we were ready to just call it a night. Suddenly the mosquitoes in our room and the falling apart toilet seat didn’t seem to matter too much.
We woke up the next morning to a much better situation. The weather looked great for going to the falls and the hostel had a pretty decent breakfast, including some amazingly delicious pastries. You can see people are looking pretty happy!

In case you’re wondering about the long sleeves and long pants, it was going to nearly 100F that day, but Caroline and I had not gotten our yellow fever immunizations and we were trying to be extra careful about mosquito bites. And in case you’re wondering, no, neither of us got yellow fever.

Coming up next, we will tell all about our trip to the falls and share some pictures of amazing flora, fauna and falls.

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