We finally made it to Puerto Iguazu, after a mammoth 22 hour journey involving 3 different buses, an international border, and 5 hours at the bus station in Concordia where we played endless Uno, given it was far too hot to explore the unremarkable looking town with our backpacks.
First, we got a little local bus from the small village of Daymán, where we had been staying – the locals were very casual about it and told us just to stand on the side of the road and flag it down when it went past around 11am.
This worked just fine, and we trundled into town (Salto is Uruguay’s second city but it looked like a fairly dusty small town from what we saw – maybe we missed the centre).
I caught a glimpse of a high-ceilinged building attached to a modern looking shopping mall, and I assumed it was the bus station – started getting my backpack on but we kept going straight past. Turns out the bus stops outside the bus station rather than in it – I soon alerted the driver to my concerns (he was very patient, as everyone has been, with my attempts to communicate in Spanish) and we were dumped by the side of the road, about 500m past where we want to be.
Not a big deal, but it was insanely hot and humid, so we struggled uphill with our bags to the welcome blast of aircon once we got to the bus station. Lauren, as usual, was stoic and uncomplaining.
Thank God I didn’t raise a whiner.
We had a couple of hours in Salto so after buying our tickets to Concordia – an hour away but on the other side of the border in Argentina – we had lunch and bought a few snacks and groceries with the last of our Uruguayan pesos.
The bus to Concordia left on time and took us out of town and up to the bridge that crosses the river that marks the border with Argentina.
This is a ‘one-stop’ border, and perhaps only my friend Carrie will understand my excitement at going through one.
It was quick, pleasant and easy, although I had been a bit nervous after reading all sorts of posts in Argentina forums about how immigration officials will refuse you entry if you don’t have proof of onward travel out of the country. Given I only have a vague idea of where we might exit the country, or when, I didn’t have such proof, but I figured we looked harmless enough, and indeed the official just asked our destination, and gave us 90 days with a smile. Sometimes a child is the best travel accessory 🙂
I had planned to dump the bags in left luggage and head out for a wander around town in Concordia, given we had 5 hours to kill, but the heat was nudging 40 degrees, it was incredibly humid, and the bus station seemed miles from anywhere so the air-conditioning of the rather decrepit bus station won out – we ended up having a 5-hour Uno session.
It was actually quite pleasant watching the comings and goings of Argentinian families heading off on holiday with endless quantities of ramshackle bags and flasks of mate.
Eventually at about ten minutes past the scheduled time (we’d been told our bus would be un poquito atrasado ) a bus was announced to Iguazu, so we jumped up, put our bags on, and raced outside, where a guy was throwing bags into the baggage compartment at great speed. We handed ours over, he threw the bag in and tore our tickets, before noticing that actually we were on a different bus. In both Uruguay and Argentina there are many different independent bus companies plying the same routes and the buses are announced by company and then by schedule. This can get quite confusing when you want to go somewhere, as you have to go up and down all the various kiosks at the bus station to find the company that goes where you want to.
Anyway, our bus eventually arrived an hour late, and we were ‘allowed’ to board with our damaged tickets.
It was worth the wait – our bus was slightly more expensive but I’d gone for the cama category – the seats were massive, like business class seats on a plane, and with a pull-out part that transformed it into an almost fully reclining bed.
They were super comfortable and we both slept well. The only major downside was the fierce air-conditioning, which despite our fleeces, socks and scarves and a blanket provided by the company, made us fairly cold.
It was quite a funny sight seeing everyone arrive in the incredibly hot Puerto Iguazu the following morning, emerging into the sunlight in thick coats, boots etc, and immediately stripping off.