Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quest for Brazil, with a little waterfalls on the way

                                                               The cruise ended and we were back in Buenos Aires. We had spent a few days here before the cruise, and I would have loved to spend a few more days here, but we needed to make it up to Salvador for Carnaval (the biggest street party in the world), just a few days away. We had heard horror stories from other travellers about trying to get Brazilian visas after already leaving your home country. I had heard it could take from a week to ten days, time we did not have. I also heard that you must have proof of your onward travel, accommodation booked for your whole stay, proof of funds to sustain you there, a contact in Brazil, and that the visa could cost up to $250. Of course we didn't have onward travel booked, as we change our minds often, had only booked the hostel for Carnaval, had no bank statements printed out, knew no one in Brazil, and need our visas the day after we got there if we were going to make it on time for Carnaval.

Our trusty guide book suggested that the easiest and fastest place to have Brazilian visas processed was in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. I wanted to see the world famous waterfalls anyway, so we crossed our fingers and jumped on a bus bound for Iguazu. The bus ride was surprisingly uneventful and went by quickly.

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu without a hostel booked. It was a small town and we thought we could easily find somewhere to stay. Well, turns out every gringo in Argentina had the same idea as us and was hoping for a quick visa to Brazil. We wandered for quite some time before we found a place that was cheap enough and had beds for us. We dumped our bags and made a dash for the Brazilian consulate to see exactly what we needed to get our visas.

Turns out it wasn't too difficult to complete the application process. We needed to fill out a form online, print it, pay 276 pesos (about $70) in EXACT change and give them a passport sized photo. As long as we got this all in before 11 am, we would receive our visas by lunch time the next day. It was only 9:30 now, so we got to work. We went to an internet cafe so we could easily print the applications when we were done. Other travellers were there trying to get their visas in as well. And then the problems started.

First, I could not open the website where the application form was. I tried 32 different ways but nothing worked. Laurie was able to get to the application form and spent 20 minutes filling out all the minute details. When it came time to hit send, and put the application through the internet cut out. Just to tease us, it would cut back in and allow her to fill out the form again but always stop when she needed to send it. This went on for 45 minutes. Now it was 10:15...we had less than 45 minutes to complete the application process if we wanted to leave tomorrow. We went back to the hostel and used their wireless connection to get the application forms in, but had no way of printing the forms we needed. We tried to take the computer to the consulate with our reference numbers for our applications, but they refused and said it must be printed out. We went back to the internet cafe to try and print them out there. While Laurie tried to get the applications printed, I went on a mission for the exact change we needed to pay for the visas. In Canada, change is not a problem. In Argentina, change is a precious commodity. No one willingly hands out change, and often a shop will refuse to sell you something if you only have a big bill.

With 10 minutes to the deadline, Laurie was struggling at the internet cafe because the program that her computer used to save our applications was not compatible with whatever South American shit the internet cafe was using. So close, but so far, we were nearly pulling our hair out. The internet came back on in the cafe and the lady was able to go online and retrieve our applications on her computer. She got one printed out before it cut out again. Miraculously I had managed to return with the proper change. It was 11:10, ten minutes after the deadline that we finally had both pages printed. We ran down to the consulate anyway, hoping maybe he would give us a break and let us submit our applications a few minutes late.

It was 11:17 by the time we arrived there. No deal. The only thing to ever run on time in all of South America seems to be the application deadline at the Brazilian consulate.

It was not the end of the world; one more day meant we could spend an entire day at the waterfalls. The next day we were up early to make sure our applications were in with plenty of time to spare and then headed to the falls.

Iguazu falls was beautiful! We started at the bottom and worked our way up. The bottom circuit provided a close up view of the falls and the certainty of getting wet. The upper circuit gave a spectacular view from the top of the falls, encompassing much of the surrounding landscape. Devil’s Throat was an amazing show of how powerful the waterfalls actually are, with water spraying everywhere and the deafening thunder of crashing water. We had a great day at the park and were exhausted when the day was through.

Too many tourists on the lower circut

We awoke early the next morning and checked out of the hostel. We had to wait until lunch time to pick up our Brazilian visas and we were crossing our fingers that they went through ok. In the meantime we went to the bus station to find out how we could get to Salvador. None of the bus companies seemed to go direct to Salvador, so we were looking for tickets to Rio where we figured we could get another bus to Salvador. After 4 bus companies told us that buses to Rio were sold out for the next 3 days, my heart sank in my chest. We were already going to be missing the first day of Carnaval, something that has been on my life’s to do list ever since I had a list, I did not want to arrive for only 1 night of the giant party. We searched a little more and eventually found a company that offered non stop service to Salvador. The good news was there was a bus leaving that afternoon. The bad news was that it was not a luxury bus, it was going to take 52 hours, and it was ridiculously expensive.

We picked up our visas without a problem, made some sandwiches for the bus journey and later that afternoon set out on what was sure to be another adventure.

Up next…Carnaval Salvador Style…Partying in the streets with 2 million people.


  1. iguazu is unreal! so beautiful following a fellow traveler!..maybe you could follow back if you like my page? I just started so i'd really appreciate it, thank you!
    xoxo from NY :-)



  2. This looks like so much fun! I hope one day I can actually travel again! But for now, I guess I can live vicariously through you via your blog. :) Thanks for stopping by my blog!