Thursday January 15, 2015 (Brazil, Foz Do Iguacu, South America)
Alright friends – photos are coming first now. We'll get to the meat right away, as I'm assuming that's what people wanna see!
We went to see the falls today – Iguazu falls technically (because we were on the Argentinian side as opposed to the Brazilian side). We took a little train to a secondary station to get access to "The Devil's Throat", which is where one of the big views of the falls is. At the first stop (where we were forced to disembark before continuing on another train…?!), we encountered a bunch of "coatis". They look like little anteaters, kind of? Very cute, but they're considered a pest that's always trying to get at your food. Although they kept us occupied nicely, we were a bit worried that we'd have to wait out in the blazing sun for a few hundred people to board a train that only departed every 30 minutes. Fortunately the trains fit a ton of people, so we only had to wait about an hour. And most of that had us under a nice shady roof, so nobody whined too loudly.
The next couple of shots show us at the Devil's Throat. You get a pretty solid panoramic of a whole bunch of waterfalls with a massive volume of water moving over the falls. I caught a picture of a really nice blue butterfly. They're all over here, and they're very graceful. They also get quite large, and this is mildly disturbing to Sandra.
We spent a long time wandering around the park and seeing various sections of the falls from various altitudes and perspectives. We thought we were doing a pretty good job of sunscreen reapplication, but that didn't stop each of us from getting mildly burned on necks, shoulders, and backs. Jackson won the award for most egregious tan with a full tank-top shaped anti-burn on his back. If he took his shirt off, he'd look like he was still wearing one. Nice work, Jackson!
I took a selfie to try to determine the extent of my neck burn as reported to me by the other members of our party. I was unsuccessful in that goal, but the picture didn't turn out too badly!
We're also starting to encounter the strangeness that is the Argentinian exchange rate. There's an official government rate, and then there's a "blue dollar" rate that you can get on the street if you have cash to exchange. Generally, US dollars are king. All prices in Argentina are in ARS – Argentinian Pesos. Perhaps that's obvious. They'll let you pay with lots of currencies, but they'll generally give you the "official" rate. However, if you have a bunch of US cash, you can convert it at a much better (30-50%) rate. This means you can afford a whole lot more stuff for the same amount of money. Not knowing this, we don't have a ton of cash. We don't have a great way to get any, either, but we're going to do our best to bring more cash as we head towards Argentina proper in order to take advantage of this bizarre double exchange rate.
There was one short mixup toward the end of the day when we left the park at closing time expecting to hop right into a cab we had previously arranged to be there. Upon waiting for 15 minutes or so, we started to wonder if the cabbie was going to show up at all. Then we realized that Argentina's time zone is one hour behind Brazil, so we'd lost an hour just by heading into the park! Although we resigned ourselves to possibly having to wait an additional hour to make up for our error in communication, luckily the cab driver showed himself not long after to bring us back to the hostel.
For dinner, we went out with our Swiss friend Anna to a place called Zeppelin. It's a local rock and roll club that had a show on that night. All sorts of weird things going on there once we arrived, however. Step 1: Obtain a payment card at the front desk. Keep in mind, this is a restaurant. They make everybody show them a passport or other form of ID. Then the customer is issued a payment card with which they can order food and drinks. The expectation is that before leaving the customer must return the payment card and pay whatever balance exists on it. Fine, we get the cards. Then we're told that if we don't leave before the DJ starts, we have to pay half a cover charge. If we then stay until the band starts playing, we have to pay a full cover charge. We're on a timer now, folks!
We head into the restaurant. It's fairly barren at this time of the evening, so we start eyeing a booth to sit in. "Nope", says the hostess. It's reserved. We realize about 3/4 of the restaurant is "reserved", but nobody is actually present. OK, we grab a table in the centre of the restaurant. At which a massive air conditioner is conveniently pointed. Blasting us with freezing cold air. Apparently Brazilians like this, but we didn't find it overly pleasant.
The food was quite nice, but being the cheapskates we are we immediately rushed out of the restaurant when we realized it was only 5 minutes until the DJ started playing. Quick! Get out and avoid that cover charge! A bit strange to pay on the way out of a place, but I guess it works.
To bed at a fairly reasonable hour as we head to Itaipu Dam tomorrow. Engineering marvels, folks!