How to sneak into Brazil

In case the NSA is reading this: the title is click bait! I didn’t actually sneak into Brazil. Don’t arrest me!

As mentioned in my previous post about Iguazu, my travel fam wanted to visit the Brazilian side of the falls on our third day in the area. Santiago and I, with our Columbian and Hong Kong passports respectively, did not need visas to hop over the border. Unfortunately, Andres and Zoe, the Americans, needed $160USD visas to visit Brazil. However, many people both online and at the hostel, told us that the visa was not actually necessary. Several people said that immigration would just wave you through if you told them that you were only going to visit the falls.

And so, the four of us piled onto a bus to go across the border. We all crossed our fingers hoping for the best. Exiting Argentina was no problem. Our bus driver simply asked foreigners to get off the bus and line-up for immigration. We got our passports stamped, hopped back on the bus, and headed into no man’s land. When we got to Brazil, our bus driver again asked foreigners to get off the bus and go through immigration. Santi and I got through no problem but poor Zoe and Andres were turned away. Crestfallen, they had to wait for the next bus next to Argentina. The thing is though, no one checks the buses so they could have just stayed on. That being said, that would be actually really illegal and none of us really liked the idea of spending the night in a Brazilian prison.

Anyways, Santi and I ended up continuing on to see the falls from Brazil. This may be my personal bias, but I gotta say, the view might be grander on the Brazilian side, but the grass is still greener in Argentina. The Argentina side is more interactive what with it’s hikes that go in and amongst the falls. The Brazil side is more about the big picture view from a far.

That being said, the Brazilian side features many adorable little coatis, ring tailed possum-like creatures that are super cute but also secretly vicious. The observation decks on the Brazilian side also took us right up to some of the bigger falls and was a wonderful compliment to our experience the day before.

After seeing the falls, we decided to head into town to have lunch. Foz do Iguaçu is the closest city to the falls. We searched the streets looking for a good steakhouse to treat ourselves after a long day of border-hopping and waterfall admiring. We somehow found ourselves in a really nice restaurant. It wasn’t quite a steakhouse, but it was definitely quite something in its own right. We had unknowingly stumbled upon an unlimited pasta and risotto joint – carb heaven (or hell if you’re on a diet). Despite being right across the border, we quickly learned that no one here speaks Spanish. It’s Portuguese all the way. No matter though – the language of noodles is universal. Waiters walked around with pans straight of the stove of fresh, beautiful, and handmade pasta, with several different sauces. They would just stop by tables, and ask if you wanted some, before scooping a healthy portion of pappardelle with ragout, creamy mushroom risotto, cacio e pepe linguini, ricotta tortellini, etc. etc. on to your plate. I had to take a break after a couple rounds, but Santi, being the champ that he is, kept going and going – to the point where the waiters wouldn’t even really ask him if he wanted anymore when they walked by, they’d just scoop.

What a champ

Approximately 8 pounds heavier, we headed back the the bus stop to get back to the falls where we would catch the last bus back to Argentina. We stopped at a little store to bring a couple Brazilian snacks back for Zo and Andres.

That night, back in Argentina, the four of us heading to Las Tres Fronteras, a viewing point where you can see the border of Paraguay and Brazil. Staring out at the border towards Brazil, I felt a little weird. I was just there, a stone’s throw a way, and yet it was a totally different world with a different language and culture. Feeling contemplative, a quote from Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera, one of my favorite books, came to mind: “Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar”.

Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks.

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