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DansDeals Forum => Trip Reports => Topic started by: Kobe Bryant on May 14, 2020, 11:27:47 PM

Title: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on May 14, 2020, 11:27:47 PM
INTRODUCTION

Being in quarantine hopefully gives all of us some time to reflect on those things which are really important in life, like health and family.

And in my case, after many weeks, some time to sit down and write my first TR. I haven’t developed a TR writing style yet, so this will be a work in progress.  I know DDF members like myself enjoy reading TRs and rely to some extent on other DDF members’ experiences when choosing a particular Tour guide/company/ etc., so I will try to provide my personal experience with those that I’ve used over the years.  I also enjoy knowing prices, and I will try to provide that as well when possible.

After close to a decade lurking on DDF, I officially joined the DDF family, and it’s truly an amazing place.  It is only appropriate to take this opportunity to thank Dan in particular and the extended DDFF at large for some of the many amazing experiences and opportunities I’ve had over the years thanks to this amazing Forum, from booking and flying same day from EWR to LAX on Delta one (lie flat) for an extended family member’s Simcha ($80 RT) back in 2013 Here (https://www.dansdeals.com/airfare-deals/hurry-crazy-delta-price-mistakes/)  to flying  for free with my good friend @Tom Brady to Shallots Bistro for dinner with a stay at the PH Chicago (of course we did, its TB) back in 2017 Here (https://www.dansdeals.com/airfare-deals/smoking-hot-get-free-airfare-and-hotels-with-jetblue-vacations/) and everything in between. I also must mention @Something Fishy  for his extremely helpful guide to uploading pictures on DDF Here (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=46084.0) .

This trip could not have happened without the contribution of @Yehoshua , who was gracious and patient enough to plan this itinerary with me.

OUR TRIP

BH my DW and I are fortunate enough to be able to take off a bit of time in the summer and winter to go on vacation.

We love to travel and explore the world, experiencing culture shocks in countries with foreign languages, and marveling at iconic landmarks and natural wonders that we read about as kids and can finally experience in person.

So this past fall I was exploring travel to Brazil, as its been high on my list for some time, but with cash prices at around 1k pp, I decided to explore some of the other destinations on our bucket list. I finally settled on Bali, and after much research I was ready to book when this happened:  direct flights from JFK to GIG in J for 90K UR (https://www.dansdeals.com/airfare-deals/international-flights/hot-fly-delta-one-business-class-nonstop-jfk-rio-de-janeiro-1193-1393-77-5k-hybrid-points-round-trip/) and just like that I knew we were IMYH going to SA.

I immediately booked flights on AA from JFK to GIG for an 8 day stay, arriving Mon. morning in GIG and departing Mon. evening from GIG.

SUNDAY

Sun. evening we drove to the Airport with a quick stop to grab some food at a local eatery in the 5T.

We arrived at JFK and since we weren’t checking in any luggage, went directly to make some peoples day by volunteering to walk the walk of shame as they bark orders and probe peoples private belongings. With some time to spare before our flight, we headed to the  AA Flagship Lounge for some Chocolate M&Ms and a hot shower.

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After which we boarded a 777-200 (a last minute swap had us sitting in the infamous Zodiac seats, which personally I did not find to be an issue) with seats in 7D and 7H respectively.

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Day 1: MONDAY

We arrived in GIG early in the AM. After a quick passport control (Visa Free), we went to locate an ATM in the terminal to get some Brazilian Real [ 1 USD to 4 BRL] (use the red ones on the left).

(I always get local currency from an ATM at the airport, using a debit card with no fees. When withdrawing money at foreign ATMs, I make sure to use local currency option and not their hiked up conversion rate to USD)

For example in this case the actual amount charged by my bank was $240 after declining.

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We settled in to our UBER (R$42,50) for the 30 min drive from the airport to the JW Marriott (67.5k MT) in Copacabana where we were going to spend our next 2 Nights in Rio. While waiting for our ocean view room to be ready, we checked out the rooftop pool area overlooking Copacabana beach.

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An  hour later or so our room was ready, so we unpacked and decided to hit the beach for a bit before we would need to head out to our hang gliding tour.

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Hang gliding was the first activity on our agenda for Rio. This has been on my bucket list for many years and I was definitely excited to finally experience it with my DW. (Before our trip, we watched this video of Dan hang gliding in Rio (https://www.dansdeals.com/points-travel/trip-notes/trip-notes-brazil-part-4-rio-de-janeiro/) to mentally prepare  :P )

We took a 20 minute uber to São Conrado beach for our 1PM meeting with our hang gliding instructor Luciano from Flex 1 Delta (https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g303506-d8858101-Reviews-Flex_1_Delta-Rio_de_Janeiro_State_of_Rio_de_Janeiro.html) (R$600).

The sign in at São Conrado beach and the drive up the mountain in Tijuca forest were uneventful. The Pedra Bonita ramp is the only authorized location in Rio for all hang gliding and paragliding takeoffs. While waiting in line for our jump, we got to watch many others take off, which was really enjoyable and built up our anticipation for our own jump.  When it was finally our turn to take that running leap off the edge of the 1700 foot cliff and into the air, the moment was surreal. The incredible feeling of flight is truly indescribable. Seeing the lush forest beneath you and the expansive views of the ocean and the beautiful city of Rio with Sugarloaf mountain in the distance to your left as you glide (so this is what it must feel like to be Superman, was running through my head)  is truly a once in a lifetime experience. (or maybe not… my DW insists this is one activity we must repeat). We landed at Pepino beach and got our pictures and videos transferred to our phones.


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We then bought some cold coconuts (R$7 BRL) before Ubering back to Copacabana to stroll and check out souvenirs. 


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For sunset we headed to Arpoador Rock at Ipanema beach. Unfortunately it was a cloudy evening, but it still made for an enjoyable outing.



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From there we Ubered to Shaq Shuq for dinner. We ordered a dish called Parilla (this is how SA call a platter of grilled meat) a platter of meat for 2 served with rice, farfoa, roasted rustic potatoes, and a campanha dressing (a traditional brazilin dressing) with a side of breaded banana (R$176)



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We headed back to the hotel which is only a block away and hit the rooftop pool for a quick swim, then turned in for the night.


To be continued…






Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: JuryDuty on May 14, 2020, 11:32:48 PM
Great TR so far! Keep them coming! I hope this inspires many more people to write TRs in social distancing
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on May 15, 2020, 07:52:29 AM
Great TR so far!
Thank you
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Dawie on May 15, 2020, 11:29:38 AM
Great job so far!
We were warned not to use ATM's in GIG because of cloning, did you take any precautions?
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on May 15, 2020, 11:42:11 AM
Great job so far!
We were warned not to use ATM's in GIG because of cloning, did you take any precautions?
Thank you.
Personally, if there is one place that I am going to use an ATM, its in an airport. As a general tip when traveling , i transfer money into the debit account as needed.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: m65 on May 16, 2020, 04:25:22 PM
nice start :) waiting for more...
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Yehoshua on May 17, 2020, 02:47:34 AM
Nice TR so far. Keep it coming!
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: smb2270 on May 17, 2020, 08:51:23 AM
Looks great! 
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Mh1 on May 18, 2020, 03:19:26 PM
Excellent! Great style and writing (even though you say you don't have a style yet)

Please tell us how u manage not to take luggage along on such a trip?!!
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on May 18, 2020, 03:26:15 PM
Excellent! Great style and writing (even though you say you don't have a style yet)

Please tell us how u manage not to take luggage along on such a trip?!!

Thank you.
When traveling internationally on vacation (with certain exceptions) our policy is if it doesn't fit in our travel backpacks or daypacks it stays home.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Mh1 on May 18, 2020, 07:21:46 PM
Amazing I think I'm adopting that policy can you share what backpack you use?
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Yehoshua on May 18, 2020, 07:36:27 PM
Amazing I think I'm adopting that policy can you share what backpack you use?
I also only travel with carry-ons internationally. It's not about the actual product you get, though some can fit a little bit more than others, rather it's about your mentality. If you have to bring everything including the kitchen sink "just in case," you'll always find the bag too small. If you bring the bare minimum necessary, you'll find extra room even in the one bag you do bring.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on May 18, 2020, 09:23:30 PM
I also only travel with carry-ons internationally. It's not about the actual product you get, though some can fit a little bit more than others, rather it's about your mentality. If you have to bring everything including the kitchen sink "just in case," you'll always find the bag too small. If you bring the bare minimum necessary, you'll find extra room even in the one bag you do bring.

Very true.
Personally i find it worthwhile investing in a good travel backpack.
 Here's a thread  (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=103671.msg2099533#msg2099533[url=http://Here's a thread) you can check out.
 
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: jose34 on June 08, 2020, 08:00:20 PM
Good job on the pictures as the pictures make it come alive!
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: ah giten on June 08, 2020, 08:10:55 PM
We arrived at JFK and since we weren’t checking in any luggage, went directly to make some peoples day by volunteering to walk the walk of shame as they bark orders and probe peoples private belongings.
Like
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on September 10, 2020, 11:13:52 PM
MONDAY

The next morning, we awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean.

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We strolled to the The Bakers a couple of blocks away for an authentic Brazilian coffee, which we took  “café para viagem.” Back at the hotel, we booked tickets for the train to Corcovado Mountain with the concierge for a 12:40 departure ($21.5 pp). Having a couple hours until then to relax, we headed to the beach for a morning swim (The JW has chairs and umbrellas set up, just need to bring along room key). We bought some cold coconuts (8 BRL), and spent some time choosing “mandatory” cangas (2 for 60 BRL) from a passing vendor.

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We then headed back inside for a quick change, and Ubered to Corcovado (hunchback in Portuguese.) The train to the top was an enjoyable 20 minute ride through the forest, with occasional pull offs to allow descending trains to pass. Though the official attraction at the mountain top is a religious statue, the attraction for us (and many) was the spectacular views of the city and coast line from the mountaintop. We enjoyed watching and waving at hand gliders swooping by, as we took amazing panoramic views of the city below.

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The train.

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 The famed Maracanã Stadium (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maracan%C3%A3_Stadium)

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Black Vulture soaring above Rio.

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Takeoff area as seen from Corcovado mountain.

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These solo hang gliders can spend hours in the air.

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Do not feed the animals.

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Panoramic view from Corcovado.

Once back at the bottom, we Ubered to Santa Teresa neighborhood for a 5 minute stop at Escadaria Selarón. This staircase covered in tiles from around the world began as a project of local artist Jorge Selarón (a Chilean painter and ceramist who moved to Rio in 1990, and in 1994 decided to  redecorate the unattractive staircase outside his studio by placing tiles on the “mirrors” of the staircase) and eventually became a collaborative worldwide project. It is now a touristy landmark and worth a stop for photos.

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Santa Teresa neighborhood.

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Escadaria Selarón.

From there we headed to Ponta do Leme, an active military fort (there are soldiers milling about) which sits directly across from Copacabana Fort. We did not take the full steep hike, which is supposed to have great views of Sugarloaf Mountain to one side and Copacabana beach on the other, and some old artillery. We hiked part of the way, and spent time photographing White Tufted Marmoset monkeys who were casually hanging around in the trees (although there are other spots to see them in Rio, including Sugarloaf Mt, it is the only time we saw them on our trip.)

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Entrance to Fort Leme.

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On the trail.

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White Dove.

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White Tufted Marmosets.

We returned to our hotel a short 5 min. drive away, and headed back to the beach for an afternoon swim and more cold coconuts.

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At 5:30 we departed for our second attempt at watching sunset in Rio, this time from atop Sugarloaf Mountain. The ride up consists of 2 stretches of cable cars, each lasting about three minutes (speeds between 13-20mph). The first lifts riders up from Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) to a smaller mountaintop, Morro da Urca (Urca Hill). Each car holds up to 65 passengers, and we waited to be the first onto a car, so we’d be next to the window for better views. We took some beautiful photos from this stop, before heading to the next cable car. This second stretch takes riders from Morro da Urca to the famous Sugarloaf Mountain (104  BRL.)
If you’d like you can attempt to  hike at your own risk  (https://www.halfwayanywhere.com/hikes/brazil-hikes/hiking-pao-de-acucar-sugarloaf-mountain/)

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A plane departing SDU can be seen in the background.

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Fort Leme and Copacabana beach as seen from Sugarloaf Mountain.

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SDU runway lit up.

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A failed attempt at night photography.

The views of Rio from Sugarloaf are amazing (and a different perspective from what we saw at Corcovado). Though we timed our arrival to see sunset, it was a cloudy evening once again and that perfect sunset was not to be. We still took beautiful photos of Rio from the viewing points on all sides, then sat at Sunset Bar till nightfall. After a few more photos of nighttime Rio, we rode the cable car back down, and headed to dinner at Shaq Shuq.

This time, we ordered Moqueqa (Brazilian fish stew, not for the faint of hear, for fish lovers only) and shakshuka (66 BRL) and a Matte  Leao [sweet iced tea] (6 BRL)   
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Dinner at Shaq Shuq.

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To wrap up our day, we strolled on Copacabana, drinking a fresh Caipirinha (10 BRL), watching nighttime volleyball players, and browsing souvenirs. We made a stop at the rooftop pool, and then headed to bed, as we had an early morning flight to catch to Iguazu…

Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: HappyJulie on September 11, 2020, 06:46:05 AM
Wow, it looks like an amazing trip. Almost hurts a little in Corona times.
I also find it super helpful to have my backpack with me, always one big one and a smaller one for day trips.
A big backpack is a bit of an investment, but definitely worth it. This article (https://www.travelspring.de/trekkingrucksack-test/) is quite interesting to read, when looking for a backpack.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Yehoshua on September 11, 2020, 07:12:36 AM
It looks like you had a really nice time! I'm even more jealous of all your pictures since I couldn't see those things due to the rain when I was there.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on September 13, 2020, 09:03:59 PM
Wow, it looks like an amazing trip. Almost hurts a little in Corona times.
I also find it super helpful to have my backpack with me, always one big one and a smaller one for day trips.
A big backpack is a bit of an investment, but definitely worth it. This article (https://www.travelspring.de/trekkingrucksack-test/) is quite interesting to read, when looking for a backpack.
Got an Osprey Porter 46 this past Aug. its Travel changing.....
14 flights and 7 countries later, one of the smartest travel investment i have ever made.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: ponash123 on September 14, 2020, 10:53:45 AM
Amazing!

Is Brazil safe these days?
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: mgoldhammer18 on September 24, 2020, 11:24:15 AM
Nice.  Cannot wait for the rest
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Tom Brady on September 24, 2020, 01:19:25 PM
Really well written and kept me interested the whole way through. Keep em coming!  :)
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on September 25, 2020, 04:14:53 PM
Amazing!

Is Brazil safe these days?
I would say we felt safe (we were mainly in touristy areas and didn't visit favelas.) if anything more cognizant of our surroundings, like many places around the world and even in the USA.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on September 25, 2020, 04:15:15 PM
Nice.  Cannot wait for the rest
Thank you.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on September 25, 2020, 04:16:03 PM
Really well written and kept me interested the whole way through. Keep em coming!  :)
WOW! From the legend himself.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on September 30, 2020, 12:27:10 AM
We woke up bright and early, and by 6am were UBERing to GIG for our early morning LATAM flight to IGU.

Destination: Iguazu Falls, the largest and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. The Iguazu River and its falls form the border between Brazil and Argentina, and each country has a national park on the site, with nearby international airports (IGU in Brazil and IGR in Argentina)
We scheduled one day to spend on each side. You need to visit both parks to truly experience Iguazu. The Brazilian side offers more panoramic views of the falls, while the Argentinian side allows you to get up closer to and even inside the falls


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Fresh Brazilian Coffee To Start The Morning.

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Our Gate.

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Plane Spotting At GIG.

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Airplane Views.
 
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A cloudy descent.             
                                                                           
We were greeted by heavy mist as we landed in IGU at 10:40 AM. A few short minutes later we stood outside the arrivals area to get a taxi. We had a difficult time ordering an UBER, and settled on a sketchy local, who wore a UBER hat and claimed to work for UBER (which he clearly did not). We agreed on 20 BRL (way over priced) for the short 5 Min. drive to the entrance of Iguaçu National Park, on the Brazilian side in Foz do Iguaçu.


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Our Uber Driver


We headed to the welcome center to buy our entry tickets (72 BRL) and a locker for our luggage (30 BRL). Located to the left of the welcome center, the lockers are pretty large and had plenty of room for our luggage.
                                                                                       

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Lockers.

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There Is a Souvenir Shop Near The Entrance/Exit.

We packed a daily backpack with the camera gear and food for the day, and waited for the bus which takes visitors from the welcome center into the actual park and trails.
                                                                                       
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@Marco Polo


We arrived at noon, and began 5 enjoyable hours exploring the 2 miles of paved trail alongside the falls. There are many great viewing points and photo spots along the way, and we kept stopping to take pictures of the vast panoramic views.  Along the trail are also a few gift shops where we picked up sodas and magnets, and picnic tables where we stopped to have lunch in view of the falls. The trail culminates beneath the roaring falls at Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), where we walked out on the boardwalk and experienced the roaring water and heavy mist up close. Some tourists wore ponchos here. We didn’t, and definitely got a bit wet!

Photos don’t do justice to the spectacular views in this magical landscape of lush greenery and water, where rivers and hundreds of waterfalls cascade down miles of rock face and the beautiful green of the rain forest. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "Poor Niagara!" 

                                                                                     
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Map Of The Park.

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In Case You Face off With A Jaguar.

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We Started The Trail At  The Belmond (https://www.belmond.com/pt-br/hotels/south-america/brazil/iguassu-falls/belmond-hotel-das-cataratas/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkLu28rqP7AIVgeCzCh0U_QlXEAAYASAAEgJ1fPD_BwE)

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We Didn't Have Much Luck With Birds.

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Lunch Views.

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The Ubiquitous Ring-Tailed Coati.

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Orange Mushrooms.

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Our Balcony In the Gran Meliá As Seen From The Brazilian Side.

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Rainforest In Argentina.

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Golden Silk Orb-Weaver.

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Panoramic View.

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It Is Always Nice To Find Kosher Ice Cream In Foreign Countries.

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Argentinian side overlooking Garganta Del Diablo As Seen From The Brazilian Side.

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Souvenirs.

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Souvenirs With A Higher Price Tag.


We had booked a room at the   Gran Meliá Iguazú (https://www.melia.com/en/hotels/argentina/iguazu-national-park/melia-iguazu/index.htm?utm_source=listing&utm_medium=organic), which is situated inside Iguazu NP on the Argentinian side, overlooking the falls. 
I had read online that they offer a free pickup from IGU to the hotel, so I called earlier in the day to arrange for a pickup at 5:30 PM, confirming with Concierge that it is complimentary.
We Ubered back to IGU (8 BRL), and were greeted by a handler holding a sign with our name. He introduced us to our driver, who would take us across the border to Argentina. Approaching the border a few minutes later, we accompanied our driver inside the building to get a Brazilian exit stamp on our passports. A bit further down the road, our driver pulled into a parking lot before the border, and explained that we were transferring vehicles, to cross into Argentina with a driver from the hotel. The hotel driver, Juan, paid the Brazilian driver, and we were on our way again to the border and Argentinian passport control. This time we stayed in the car while Juan went in and got Argentine entry stamps on our passports. We bypassed the long line of cars at the border with a special permit Juan had.
It was a pleasant drive from there through the jungle and into Iguazu NP in Argentina. We chatted with Juan, who told us he had seen a Jaguar once on the road leading to the hotel. We got to see some Black Faced Capuchin monkeys swinging in the trees as we pulled up to the park. The hotel is situated within the park border, and so we paid our park entrance fee on the way in (880 ARS) and arrived at the hotel a bit over an hour from when we departed IGU. Juan was a friendly person and so I handed him a nice tip when we got out, only for him to explain that the fare wasn’t covered and we owed him money. I was very perplexed and headed over to the front desk to speak to the manager, who told me that I owed 4500 ARS. I explained that I called earlier and confirmed that it was complimentary. She said she will look into it and proceeded to check us in. (it was awkward to say the least and left a bitter taste in my mouth)

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Entrance To Parque Nacional Iguazú.

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Can You Spot It?

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There Is Deer Xing Signs And Than There Is This.

We had reserved a waterfall view room, which was beautiful with the most amazing views (Avg. seems to be around $500.) IMO it is only worth saying at the Gran Meliá in a waterfall view room. The pool closed at 8PM, so we headed to the infinity pool overlooking the falls for a quick swim.
 
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View From Our Room

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Infinity Pool Overlooking The Falls.


We had some deluxe tuna sandwiches for dinner and headed to the lobby floor bar for some local Quilmes beer, which has since become one of our favorites…

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Quilmes Time.
 
We headed in for the night, there was a long day ahead.

Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Yehoshua on September 30, 2020, 12:44:16 AM
Nice! So what ended up happening with the ride from IGU to the hotel? Did the manager confirm you need to pay or did s/he see that you were told it's complementary? Did you end up paying the driver in the end?

Can't wait to see how you liked Argentina after such a wonderful time in Brazil!
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Kobe Bryant on September 30, 2020, 12:46:54 AM
Nice! So what ended up happening with the ride from IGU to the hotel? Did the manager confirm you need to pay or did s/he see that you were told it's complementary? Did you end up paying the driver in the end?

Can't wait to see how you liked Argentina after such a wonderful time in Brazil!
You will have to wait for the next episode to air, lol.
Title: Re: Brazil, Argentina & a splash of Uruguay
Post by: Yehoshua on September 30, 2020, 12:47:52 AM
You will have to wait for the next episode to air, lol.
Lol, the suspense.... I'm at the edge of my seat.