Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Run for the Border

So we arrived this morning after a long and ridiculously comfortable bus ride (more in another entry) in Puerto Iguazu, the town at the junction of Brazil, Paraguay, and Arentina, and near the site of the famous Iguazu Falls, the largest (though not highest) waterfalls in South America.

Our guide book recommended seeing the falls from the Brazilian side of the border one day, and then the Argentine side the next. It said that the Brazilian side required less time, and since we arrived late in the morning, we decided to head for Brazil once we got settled.

In general, American citizens need visas to enter Brazil. This wouldn´t be a problem, but they charge US $100 for each visa, and that would be a fairly frivolous expense to spend 2 hours in their country. Fortunately, however, our guidebooks and various travel message boards said that a visa is not required to simply visit the falls in a day visit, so we got on the bus to Brazil.

We cleared Argentine immigration without a problem, but you can probably guess that I wouldn´t be typing this story if everything went smoothly. When we got to the Brazilian border, we noticed that all the buses were simply flying through the border, and we assumed we would do the same. However, the driver stopped, made us get off (everyone else was Brazilian), and go to immigration. When my mild protest fell on deaf ears, we began a walk of shame back to the Argentine border. The real problem with this, however, was that the border offices were each about 3 km from their respective borders, so we got to walk over 3 miles back to the Argentine office, get stamped back in the country (while explaining why we had left the country for an hour in the first place).

Fortunately, it wasn´t an unpleasant walk. The border itself is the middle of a river, and the bridge crossing it towers over the river by at least 200 feet, and affords long views in each direction along the river. Plus, we at least got to walk for a while in Brazil, so I can sort of scratch another country off my list. As an additional bonus, we were able to take pictures of us sitting on the border, with one cheek in each country. Go us! Seriously, how many people can say that?

When all was said and done, we got to the border, got another Argentine stamp, and caught a bus back into town. We did have to somewhat nervously eye a passing policeman as we walked, but other than a few weird expressions at the dumb American tourists, we had no real problems. U-S-A!!!!