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Iguassu Falls, Brazil – Iguazu Falls, Argentina (Iguazú Falls)
My trip to Iguassu Falls in Brazil was definitely and adventure. We flew out of Dallas Texas on an 11 hour flight to Sao Paulo Brazil. I rented a car there and navigated the nightmarish traffic jams of a city with 17 million people. We finally made it to my wife’s families’ house on the other side of the city, got acquainted and rested for the next few days of travel. The next day we packed up the car with family members and headed out on what we thought would be a 19 hour drive across the country of Brazil. I got lost several times trying to get to the highway that would lead us out of the city. But eventually found BR 116 that would take us to the city of Curitiba and connect to BR 277 for most of the rest of the journey.

Things were pretty uneventful for most of the way there. But on the west side of Curitiba we stopped for gas and some food and the car stalled on me pulling up to the parking place. A dreaded thought came over me as to what was wrong. But it started up again with no signs of trouble. Still I was worried now. We had been driving for 8 hours now.

The roads here are different. They do not have a great rail system like America has and the highways are flooded with their versions of semi trucks everywhere. It’s a real battle getting around them with most of the roads single lane and the roads are very hilly. When you come to a mountainous area, it splits off to a double lane highway then you better be ready to pass as many trucks as possible. I was Mario Andretti most of the trip. Taking a lot of risks to get around them to try and make good time. I was driving the car very hard. So when it stalled on my pulling up, it had just hoped it needed a rest.

We loaded up and started out again. A few hours later it was 11:30 at night. We were in the middle of nowhere. I was stuck behind another line of trucks and saw us getting ready to go up another hill. I was timing myself to pass them and had the engine revved up. As I gunned it again the car shut down on me. It just lost power. I pulled over and prayed for it to keep going but it was no use. The car was dead.

Now here I was in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land and I did not speak a lick of Portuguese. Glad my wife and her family members did. But I was still at the mercy of the circumstance, something that usually never happens to me. I always have a backup plan. But not this time. Many cars just passed us by, no one stopping to lend a hand. We were trying to wave people down. My cell phone did not work out here and I could not call the rental company. After an hour, a huge tow truck that helps semi trucks pulled up. We were somewhat saved. They towed the car to the nearest town. It was very small. Nothing was open.

We rented this car from Thrifty. They were an American company. I thought service would be good with them. But my wife battled it out many times with them on the phone to do something…like come pick us up and bring us a better car. It turned into a heated argument. With the threats of lawsuits from me they finally agreed to send someone out. How nice of them. Took the three hours to get someone from Curitiba out to use and pick us up. There we were, tired and hungry in the middle of the night stuck at a gas station. Never in any real danger. Just pissed off and inconvenienced. The tiny town we were stuck in was called Irati. Not even a hotel or restaurant here in this place. A taxi from Curitiba made his way there finally and took us west a little over 100 miles to a nice city called Guarapuava. Thrifty put us up in a pretty nice hotel and all was well. We ordered some food and went to sleep and would deal with getting another car the next day.

Well we still had a fight on our hands with Thrifty. In Brazil, Thrifty is a crap company with horrible customer service. I do not recommend them to anyone. Any decent company would have seen and understood the plight we were in and done the right thing…right? We had to actually threaten again with the lawsuit to get them to agree to bring us another car. They finally got us a better car at 7:00 pm the next day. More on my battle with Thrifty later. But lets get to the good stuff about the trip.

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I rallied my wife and her family together and gave them a pep talk like speech and had them focus on the good things. And that we would go forward from here and have a great time together. We still had a long journey to go still and I was not about to let it bring me down. So onward we went. We had called ahead to the nice hotel we had reservation with to let them know we would be late. And I was used to driving really long distances with my own travels in America. So all was good now.

We finally arrive in Foz do Iguaçu where Iguaçu falls are located. We check into our hotel and I start getting all the photo gear ready for the next couple of days. I am up before the sun comes up the next day and make a beeline to be the first in the park. I spent the whole day there on the Brazilian side taking photos. During the crappy part of the day with harsh sunlight I find a place to chill out and eat.

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By 4:30 I am back at it walking the paths, fighting the crowds and taking pic’s. It’s very crowded at this point. My only hope it that it thins out as sunset approaches. The park itself is not photo friendly. The close the park at 6pm. Luckily I was there during the winter in Brazil so the sun was setting in time for the perfect light. 6 pm arrives and I don’t stop taking pic’s. Security had to come and ask me to leave. So I pack it up and barely caught the last bus back to the gate.

The next day I get up early again to go to the Argentina side of the falls. Same routine as yesterday, shoot all morning, find a place to hang out during the crappy part of the day. Push the time to the limit and get thrown again by park security. At least on the Argentine side, they have beer. I drank quite a bit during the day to pass the time.

If you plan on going to Iguaçu falls, here are a few tips. Go in July, it’s a perfect 70 degree’s there during the winter. Do not stay at San Martin resort. You should splurge and stay in the park either on the Brazilian side at the Cataratas Hotel, or the Argentina side at the Sheraton Hotel. Also go during the full moon. They have mid night moon walks through the park. As a photographer, I was pissed off I did not do this. But I was also paying for everyone else on this trip. So next time I will go alone. But I did enjoy taking everyone with me from my wife’s family. They said they saw more of their own country in two weeks with me than they have their whole life time. So all the troubles we went through, it was well worth it.

See more in the waterfall gallery.