After managing to get out of bed at 6am, we were packed and ready for breakfast just after 7am.
Today's plan was to visit the world famous Iguazú Falls. The falls are split between Argentina and Brazil, with the border between both countries running through them. We wanted to visit both sides of the falls as they both offer different and unique perspectives.
To make it easier in terms of logistics and as well as having a guide, we booked a tour to see both sides of the falls for a reasonable $80 each. This included pickup from our hotel in Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and drop off at our hotel in Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil but excluded entry for the falls. We had booked a group tour but as it was only us on the tour today, it ended being a private tour.
After the quick breakfast, we checked out of the Iguazú Jungle Lodge and were soon greeted by our driver/guide for the day, Eduardo.
After the short drive we arrived at the entrance to Iguazú National Park.
And our tickets in hand for 600 pesos ($21) each. The debit/credit card system wasn't working but luckily we had brought enough cash.
Eduardo showing us the different trails to the falls. He said that Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo), a long and narrow chasm where half of the river's flow falls, is the most popular viewing point and we would head here first before it got too crowded.
Taking the Waterfalls Train into the park.
We then followed the 1.1 kilometre steel walkway to Garganta del Diablo (The Devil's Throat).
We were among the first to visit Garganta del Diablo today so luckily there weren't too many other people.
Taking in the massive volume of water tumbling over the 80 metre high falls.
The rising mist both gently soaked us and blurred the view of bottom of the falls.
The lookout platform was perched right over the powerful torrent of water, giving a perfect view of the deafening cascade plunging down to an invisible destination.
Garganta del Diablo from above with the platform on the Argentine side visible top right while the viewing platform on the Brazilian side bottom-left and which we would visit later in the afternoon (Photo by Enaldo Valadares, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).
We then walked back to take some of the other walkways along the falls.
It was hard to not be mesmerized by the spectacular views.
And a great backdrop for a holiday selfie!
The first European to discover the falls was the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1542.
Iguazú is made up of a system of 275 waterfalls or cataracts over 2.7 kilometres, with the exact number varying with the seasons.
Iguazú means "big water" in the native Guarani Indian language.
I was a little skeptical about visiting the falls, and was wary that we maybe disappointed like some other overhyped destinations, but we were literally blown away by the raw beauty, overwhelming power and the amazing size and scale.
Just before 10:30am we then caught the Waterfalls Train back to the park cafeteria, where people were intently watching the World Cup match on TV.
Enjoying a few fresh empanadas for morning tea.
We then boarded a flatbed truck for the ~20 minute nature drive down to the dock for the falls boat ride.
After being kitted out with lifejackets and waterproof bags for our belongings we headed up river.
Looking across to the falls where we had previously walked along the top of earlier in the day.
It was great to get the different perspective from below.
Looking up the river with Devil's Throat in the distance (Garganta del Diablo).
People visible on the left on the Brazil side of the falls.
We then went to the western side of the falls with the multiple cascades of falling water on the Argentinian side.
Preparing for the deluge to come.
And getting close and personal (and very wet) with Iguazú Falls!
Back safely on land at the park cafeteria where we had a late lunch.
We then headed back to Puerto Iguazú and then onto Argentinian migration before heading to the Brazil side of the border.
Crossing Tancredo Neves Bridge over the Iguazú River. The colour of the bridge changed from the blue & white of Argentina to the green & yellow of Brazil at the half-way and official border point.
And were then stamped into Brazil, right next to the stamps from our visit in September last year.
We then continued onto the entrance of Iguaçu National Park to purchase our tickets. There was a poster of the tri-border area between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay where the Iguazu River and Paraná River meet. The Amérian Portal del Iguazú Hotel visible on the far left and where we would be staying tomorrow night.
Eduardo showing us the location of the other national parks in Brazil. The country has a total of 72 national parks.
Outside the Belmond Hotel das Cataratass after driving into the park. The Portuguese colonial style hotel opened in 1958 and is the only one inside the park.
While the Argentinian side offers an intimate experience with views up close to the falls, the Brazilian side gives a good overall panoramic view.
It was great to see the falls from a different perspective and where we had just visited in the river boat.
A rainbow with the low afternoon sun and continuous mist from Devil's Throat (Garganta do Diabo).
People walking out on the Garganta do Diablo Walkway.
The walkway lead out over the water and close to the mouth of Devil's Throat (Garganta do Diabo) for more breathtaking views.
And the beautiful double rainbow haloing the rushing waters.
The late afternoon sun accentuating the rich colours of the water and foliage.
Some not very shy Coatis sniffing around for something to eat!
Looking down for one last view of the breathtaking and surreal beauty of the falls before heading back to the carpark.
And meeting up with Eduardo for the drive to the city of Foz do Iguaçu.
Eduardo then dropped us off at Hotel Rafain Centro where we thanked him for the amazing and memorable day at the falls.
Our room for our one night stay in Brazil for $66 including breakfast.
And the view from the window of the city below at dusk.
For dinner we headed to Yuu Asian Bar which Eduardo had earlier recommended for some good sushi.
Some Jasmine tea to start.
Followed by a feast of various sushi and sashimi served on a bamboo boat.
And an Açaí bowl to share for dessert at the end of a memorable day 4.
The view from our balcony on the morning of day 5. We had originally booked the 2.5 hour technical tour at the nearby Itaipu Dam this morning but unfortunately it was cancelled a few days prior.
After a morning jog on the streets of Foz do Iguaçu we headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
We then headed down the street to check out the Sunday morning markets that Eduardo had mentioned to us the day before. Apparently the market opens up at 5am to catch late night revellers on their way home!
While we had just had breakfast, we couldn't resist lining up for fresh tapioca pancakes.
We had eaten them on our food tour in Rio de Janeiro last year, so it was great to sample them again on our brief return to Brazil.
Just after 10am we headed back to the hotel, checked out, and then caught an Uber to Friendship Bridge to cross over the Paraná River.
After being stamped out of Brazil, we began the walk over the 550 metre wide bridge.
And outside migration where we were stamped into Paraguay. The local residents on both sides of the bridge are free to pass back and forth without their passport so there was no queue for migration and we were the only ones there.
A short walk away was Ciudad del Este, the second largest city in Paraguay. The border city is frequently visited by Brazilians on day trips, taking advantage of the lower taxes and discounts.
The outline of a familiar looking building on a 'Dubai Shop' sign.
Definitely an interesting mix of goods for sale!
It was Sunday morning and even McDonald's as closed but we managed to find a small café for some coffee and cake.
And a couple of souvenirs from our very brief visit.
Our original plan was to catch a ferry across the Paraná river back to Argentina. There was almost no information about the ferry online however and if it operated on Sunday. After catching a taxi ~10 kilometres south to the tri-border the ferry was idle in the water and didn't seem to be operating, so we caught the taxi back to Friendship Bridge. Just visible on the upper right is our hotel for tonight in Puerto Iguazú. So close but still four passport stamps away!
Making the trek over the bridge and back to Brazil.
We then caught another taxi south to Tancredo Neves Bridge and back over to Argentina.
Back in Puerto Iguazú where we checked into the Amérian Portal del Iguazú Hotel for $122 a night including breakfast.
The hotel swimming pool and the view of the Iguazu and Paraná rivers.
For lunch we shared a burger and fries at the hotel café.
In the afternoon we walked to the nearby Monumento Tres Banderas (Monument Three Flags).
7,713 kilometres to Panama.
Amérian Portal del Iguazú Hotel to the left with the tri-border monument just to the right.
And a view out over Puerto Iguazú.
Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil on the left bank of the Iguazu River and Puerto Iguazú in Argentina on the left. The dark water of the Iguazu River and more milky Paraná River merging together below.
An abandoned riverboat tied up.
Foz do Iguaçu is the second largest city in the tri-border area with a population of 263,000.
Marco das Três Fronteiras centre on the Brazil side of the rivers.
Looking over to Brazil and Argentina from Paraguay.
Looking north up the Paraná River, with Ciudad del Este in the distance on the left, and Foz do Iguaçu on the right. The Paraná River is the second largest river in South America after the Amazon.
Looking down on some river barges.
Monumento Tres Banderas to the right and our hotel to left.
We then returned to the Amerian Portal del Iguazú in the late afternoon.
For dinner we headed to the hotel restaurant downstairs. I opted for the succulent pork ribs.
While Rianda decided on the tasty fried Pacu riverfish.
And we both shared the delicious dark chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert at the end of day 5.
After an early morning run through the foggy streets of Puerto Iguazú, we enjoyed the impressive spread in the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
And back at Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport after catching a taxi for our flight west to Salta.
Airside with our boarding passes in hand.
And about to board the Austral Embraer 190. Austral Líneas Aéreas is the sister company of Aerolíneas Argentinas.
The airport below and in the distance mist rising from Iguazu Falls.
Watching a Spanish documentary on Hong Kong on the IFE.
Drinks and snacks handed out on the two hour flight.
Looking down on the city of Salta near the end of our descent.
After agreeing on a very reasonable 200 pesos ($7.30) we caught a taxi for the 12 kilometre ride into town.
Outside our hotel, Hotel Salta, situated in the centre of town just on Plaza 9 de Julio.
And our room for the next three nights. At $64 a night including breakfast it was very good value.
Although it was an historic hotel, it was in very good condition and it was great to stay somewhere with a bit of character.
After stopping at a cambio to change some money, we headed to the nearby Van Gogh Café for lunch. Ironically the main headline of the newspaper on our table referred to the current climb of the US dollar (and drop in value of the peso).
For lunch we had their signature Van Gogh pizza. Generously sized and really hit the spot!
After the very filling lunch we went for a walk east through the city and then took the teleférico / cable car up to the top of Cerro San Bernardo.
Looking down on the city.
A football match underway below
A panorama of Salta City, population of 619,000 and an elevation of 1,152 metres.
We then headed down to Parque San Martín.
And browsed the souvenirs at the local market.
And bought some food to feed the park birds.
The bigger ducks pushing their way to the front.
Rianda taking care of the pigeons who didn't want to be left out.
Iglesia de la Viña
Iglesia San Francisco.
And back at Plaza 9 de Julio with Hotel Salta just to the right.
In the evening we went for a walk around the Plaza. Outside the brightly lit Cathedral of Salta.
There was a big queue outside this hot dog place so figured they couldn't be too bad.
And great value for only 25 pesos ($0.85).
At Teuco Café where we indulged in a café doble, a submarino and the pastel de chocolate.
And then headed back to Hotel Salta at the end of an enjoyable day 6.
After getting up at early we got ready for our tour and headed downstairs to get some breakfast. The hotel breakfast started from 5:30am and there were already a few other guests up early before their early morning tour pickups.
And just after 7am where we were the first pickup for our tour today. Most of the other guests on the tour spoke Spanish but there was also three Australians.
As we headed out of town we stopped at a corner shops to buy some water and snacks for the day as there would be only limited civilization for most of the trip. Some people also bought small bags of fresh coca leaves to chew on to help with our eventual drive up to ~4,000+ metres elevation. Our guide later told us that the cultivation, sale, and possession of unprocessed coca leaf is legal in (only the) the northern provinces of Argentina.
Today's tour plan was to first head south out of Salta before heading north-west, following along the road through Quebrada del Toro Canyon. After stopping for lunch at San Antonio de Cobres we would continue along Route 40 until reaching the Salinas Grandes salt flats. After reaching an elevation of 4,170 metres on Route 52 we would then descend to Cerro de los Siete Colores (The Hill of Seven Colors) beside the town of Purmamarca before returning to Salta in the evening.
Stopping at the Viaducto del Toro, a rail bridge where the famous Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds) also passes.
As we would be entering an area that is close to the Chilean border, we stopped at a police checkpoint and had to have our passports checked.
The Río Rosario river meandering along the canyon floor.
A very photogenic dog as we make another stop.
Rianda making another Argentinian friend! Our guide said that some of the cacti were 100+ and up to 300 years old, and that cutting them down is forbidden by law.
And stopping mid-morning at the small village of Santa Rosa de Tastil. Population: 25.
In the town was the Museo de Sitio Tastil.
Near the town are the ruins of Tastil. Built by the Atacameño people, the settlement thrived during the 15th century and grew to over 2,000 inhabitants before being besieged by invading troops of the Inca Empire.
The settlement ruins were rediscovered by a Swedish anthropologist in 1903.
There was also a private museum nearby. Although not quite as polished, it had a well preserved mummy on display.
Another photo stop at ~3,800 metres elevation as we continued on our way along Route 51.
Just after midday, San Antonio de los Cobres came into view. A mining town which is surrounded by copper (cobre) rich mountains.
Outside Restaurante El Malevo where we headed to for lunch.
They only had menu's in Spanish so I used the Google Translate and the camera on my phone to do a live translation. The waiter was really intrigued and asked me if it worked from English to Spanish too.
Always eager to try some local cuisine I opted for the llama schnitzel while Rianda had the llama stew. Surprisingly tasty!
We were starting to feel the effects of the altitude so Rianda ordered a large cup of coffee.
And I couldn't resist the coca candy. Not sure if it helped but the mild buzz was kinda cool.
After lunch we said farewell to San Antonio de los Cobres and then headed along Route 40 towards Salinas Grandes salt flats.
Some Llama's beside the road.
At about 2:30 pm we arrived at the salt flats.
The interesting gemoetric shapes where the salt has dried after infrequent rain fall.
And a great place for a jump photo!
Salinas Grandes is situated at an altitude of 3450 meters and covers an area of 212 km2.
The salt is mined for its sodium and potassium.
Mining trucks heading along parallel lines carved into the salt.
Heading back. It was the highest altitude that I launched my quadcopter from and I could clearly hear the motors working overtime with the very thin air.
After 40 minutes of exploring the salt flats we then hit the road again .
Heading east and beginning the journey back to Salta.
And at the top elevation for the trip at 4,170 metres elevation! The last time we were close to this high was when we had been climbed to the top of Mount Kinabalu at 4,095 metres tall. This time above 4,000 metres was a definitely alot easier though!
215 k's to Salta and 1,750 k's back to Buenos Aires.
More woolly llama's.
The winding descent down.
At about 4pm we arrived at Cerro de los Siete Colores (The Hill of Seven Colors).
A beautiful sight with a rainbow of different colours, each derived from different types of rocks. Each colour/rock is said to have formed during different time periods.
Nestled on the southern side of the hill is small the town of Purmamarca.
The name of the town comes from the combination of Aymara language words purma (desert) and marca (city).
Florida. We then went for a stroll around the town.
Colourful shawls on display in a market in the town's centre.
And some lemonade and an alfajores before beginning the final drive back.
We arrived back in Salta just after at dusk at 7:30pm.
For dinner we headed to Café Rústiko just across from our hotel.
And enjoyed a hot drink and some tasty beef and ham & cheese empanadas at the end of a long but very interesting day of sightseeing through the dry brown landscape of Salta province.