We talked to our son a lot about our tour before we left home. That we were going to travel to faraway places and that we will have summer when it’s winter in Austria. And that we will embrace whatever the place has to offer, the good and the ugly. This was important, therapeutic even, not only for him, but also for us. One image that came up more than once was that one day we might stay at a place with a mango tree in the garden. We did not know if or when this dream was going to come true, but we kept it treasured in our hearts.
While we do enjoy and depend on cultural hotspots, i.e., larger cities, we also love nature. Spending time outdoors, be it a garden or a national park, is vital. Therefore, we decided to spend a few days at the Iguazu National Park before moving on to Buenos Aires. The ten-hour bus ride from Curitiba to Foz de Iguazu in the middle of the jungle was one of the most comfortable journeys I can imagine: We boarded the bus at 9 pm, reclined our seats alle the way, received pillows and blankets, and dozed off soon after. The first thing I saw waking up the next morning was Foz de Iguazu, the town next to the world-famous waterfalls. Our hotel room was not ready yet, so we spent some time in the lush garden with lots of shade and mango trees around the pool area. And there we were: collecting mangos in our garden and cutting them open on the spot.
The Iguazu falls are a AAA tourist hotspot that you cannot miss, even if you usually tend to avoid crowded places. We learned that the week prior to our visit, parts of the walkways in the park had been closed or even destroyed due to exceptional floodwaters, and we could still experience the raw force of the even bigger than usual falls. In a nutshell: it was damp, impressive, crowded, stunning, hot, beautiful, and wet. We skipped the overpriced boat tour and went to see the excellent bird park instead. The interesting thing, however, was crossing the border to a different country. The confluence of the Iguaçu and the Parana rivers also marks the boarders of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. So we took an Uber form our hotel to the Brazilian border, hopped on the public bus, crossed the Iguaçu river and moved to the Argentinian town of Puerto Iguazu. And even though our journey was only ten kilometers, it was quite a culture shock. It is striking how you miss something you took for granted when it’s gone. Let me explain.
In Brazil, we were using Uber a lot, as it is not only convenient and safe, but also very cheap compared to Europe. Puerto Iguazu? No Uber. We found something similar to a taxi and asked for the fare to our accommodation. The driver suggested 2000 Argentinian pesos, I offered 12 Brazilian reales and we had a deal. Minutes later, I bought snacks and drinks at a minimarket for 5 US dollars. Money is a very strange issue in Argentina. At the moment, inflation is around 140%, cash is hard to get (most ATMs are out of order, out of cash or out of paper), comes in the form of ridiculously thick bundles of small banknotes, and official exchange rates are borderline criminal. I went to a bank, waited in line for at least 30 minutes and got around 350 pesos for a dollar (yes, the Argentinian peso is somehow linked to the US dollar, but really isn’t). However, if you know where to go, you can have more than 900 Pesos per Dollar (that’s called the dólar blue). Credit cards and debit cards seem to apply different exchange rates, too. So, it’s quite a mess, to say the least. Luckily, once we found out how to obtain larger sums of cash at a good exchange rate, we found live to be quite affordable and quite agreeable in Argentina.