Friday, September 6, 2019

XX - On to Argentina

XX - Iguazu Falls

After 8 days on the Amazon, it was time to move on. Most of our group was returning to the states. But 8 of us were staying in South America, traveling to Iguazu Falls then on to Rio before we came home. 

Before this trip, I am embarrassed to say, I was not familiar with the falls, actually - I had never heard of them. A little history: It is the largest waterfall system in the world and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. The name "Iguazú" comes from the Guarani words,  "y", meaning "water", and "ûasú" meaning "big". 

The falls are located on the Iguazu river in both Brazil and Argentina. Depending on the water level, there can be anywhere from 150 to 300 different waterfalls in the system. About half of the system's water flows through what is called the 'Devil's Throat." While Niagara Falls reaches the height of 325', Iguazu is around 640'. And although Victoria Falls are 2904' tall, Iguazu has many more falls in the system and covers a larger area.

Where ever it stands on the list of waterfalls, Iguazu is truly awe inspiring. To see the falls from the top, one needs to visit them from Argentina. The Brazilian side is more from the side and the bottom. 

To see both sides, we were spending one night in Argentina, then the following night in Brazil. 

We left Manaus Wednesday night (actually Thursday morning around 1 am) and flew into Rio, arriving at 6:40 am Thursday. Taking advantage of our 9 hour layover, we visited Ipanema Beach in downtown Rio, had brunch and walked around. At 3:50 pm, we left Rio and flew into Iguazu's small airport,  which is in Brazil, arriving at 6 pm. 

2 cars had been arranged in advance to carry us to the Hotel in Argentina, about 30 minutes away. 

In Brazil there is "Island Time" just without the adult beverages with little umbrellas in them. So, as usual, the cars were late arriving at the airport. By the time they did we were hot and tired. We loaded ourselves and our luggage into the cars and headed out. The drivers were very friendly and spoke little (or no English) but were a welcoming sight. As soon as we were settled into our car, the driver handed each of us a bottle of ice cold water. Short of a good gin and tonic, it was just what the doctor ordered.

The cars took us to the Immigration Station at the border of Argentina. We got out of the cars and went into the Immigration office. The driver presented our passports to the young lady at the desk. I assume he vouched for us, having only known us 20 minutes or so, because the lady stamped our passports, paid little attention to us, and handed them back to the driver. While we were going through Immigration, the drivers had transferred all of our luggage to new cars that were ready to take us into Argentina.

So we resumed our journey. Since the new driver was Argentinian, he spoke Spanish, which is much closer to English for those of us lacking foreign language skills. Once again the driver handed us bottles of ice cold water. He also handed us small towels that were moist with cold water - an offering we all appreciated. Good thing he made us comfortable because we found ourselves in 6 six lanes of traffic to clear Customs. After 15 minutes or so, we arrived at the booth where an Argentinian Customs official stood. Once again, our driver handed him our passports. The officer looked over the passports, glanced at the car and motioned us through.

Keeping in mind South American time, we were already 30 minutes into our 25 minute drive. Knowing the hotel was many kilometers away, we could only have patience. After all, when in South America. . . . We had to keep in mind that we were not "in Kansas anymore".  

We drove through on into the night. In 30 more minutes or so, we arrived at the Hotel Grand Melia Iguazu, having a reputation for luxury and service.  Keep in mind we had spent 8 nights on a boat, that while adequate and air conditioned, was far from lavish. 

Weary from 20 hours of travel, 3 airports, 2 time zones,and 1 international border, we checked into the Melia. As we handed over our passports, we were given more chilled towels and champagne flutes of a special Argentina tea cocktail. Even though it was after 9 pm when we checked in, we still made it to the dining room for a fine meal. The gourmet menu was outstanding and very reasonably priced. The offerings included a selection of world renown  Argentinian beef and sea food among other choices. The wine list of excellent South American wines was vast. 

One really appreciates fine linens and a rain-shower bath with hot water, after spending 8 days on a small bunk with a cotton mattress cover but no sheets. The difference in the accommodations cannot even be compared. We are not talking "apples and oranges", this was more like "apples and rocks".

The safari decor of the Melia was tasteful, appropriate, and very comfortable.  

The service was second to none. It seemed that if one just thought about something, a hotel employee would appear with it. The heck with the falls, I could have stayed inside the large lobby and bar and never venture outside.

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