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The Story of our trip to Rio, Iguazu and the Antartic with the MV FRAM, Feb. 09


caramelo

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Our trip “From Rio to the End of the World” and the Antarctica with the MV FRAM”, including Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu both from the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, shopping in Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, Buenos Aires, Colonia in Uruguay, Ushuaia, the Antarctic (Half Moon island, Cuverville and Neko Islands, Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island, Port Lockroy, Deception Island & Arctowski Polish Base on the King George Island), :

 

 

Wednesday, 18th of February, 2.009.

 

We didn´t sleep well because of the excitement for the trip we were about to make. Our plane left on time from Malaga, Spain 9:30am to Madrid. We caught our connecting flight from Madrid at 12:15pm with a stop-over in Sao Paolo, Brazil. This flight took nearly 10 hours.

 

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We were told when we checked-in in Malaga that our suitcases would arrive directly to our final destination Rio de Janeiro but that we would need to get our boarding card for our last flight from Sao Paolo to Rio de Janeiro in the Sao Paolo airport. On the flight we were given our temporary visa forms for Brazil. Fortunately when we were on our way to get the new boarding card in Sao Paolo we were stopped by an airport employee who told us to first go and collect our suitcases, and we answered that this wouldn´t be necessary as our cases would be sent directly to Rio. He insisted ……… and he was right, our cases were waiting for us in Sao Paolo!!! He did us a great favour as we would have arrived in Rio without our cases if he hadn´t helped us.

 

Then we went through passport control and my documents were checked by one employee and my husband was dealt with by a different employee. I was given back my temporary visa slip of paper but my husband´s was taken off him. Again we were lucky that it was two different staff members as otherwise we would have thought that the normal procedure was to give in the temporary visa paper. We insisted and after a long discussion my husband was given back his visa paper! When we thought about it, it was logically to get it back as our next flight was only internal from Sao Paolo to Rio de Janeiro and we were not actually leaving the country of Brazil.

 

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We departed from Sao Paolo with an hours delay at 22:30pm local time and the flight lasted one hour. With the hour difference from Europe to Brazil our arrival time was 23.30pm which was 4 hours behind Europe´s time, so to us it was like arriving at 3:30am in the morning!

 

We were very happy to see that everything we had booked and reserved over the internet, without knowing the companies, worked absolutely perfectly. We had booked with the company ISANGO (with offices in England and collaborating offices all over the World) the transfer from the airport to the hotel, well..... what we really booked with them was a package including the transfer to the hotel, 2 nights in the Sofitel with an excursion to the Christ Redeemer, and also a 6 to 8 minute helicopter trip over Rio, and the transfer back to the airport. It seems rather crazy as we had already booked a helicopter trip for later in the trip over the Iguazu waterfalls, but the overall price worked out really good so we decided to allow ourselves the privilege of doing both.

 

Upon arrival in Rio, our guide for the transfer, Felipe, was waiting for us with our name on a sign. We were very tired naturally after 24 hours travelling without a break, and when we arrived at the hotel, went straight to our room and fell fast asleep within seconds.

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Thursday, the 19th of February, 2009.

Although it had only been a few hours, we slept very well and woke up feeling new and full of energy!

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We went down at 7am for breakfast on the hotel terrace which had absolutely fantastic views of the Copacabana Beach and the Sugar Loaf mountain in the background:

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At 8:30am we were collected by the bus outside the hotel main entrance and we started our excursion. It took approximately half an hour going from hotel to hotel to pick up all the other clients who had booked the same tour.

The bus left us at the bottom of the “Corcovado Hill”.

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There were several people selling souvenirs and it was all very colourful:

 

 

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From there we took the tram to go up the 710m of the hill to reach the Christ Redeemer Statue, and from there we enjoyed some panoramic views of the city and its beaches.

 

 

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It was very difficult to take photos from above as there were so many people everywhere, which generally happens in the important touristic sights all over the world. Also there was a Costa cruise ship that day in Rio and we coincided with the ship´s excursion groups.

 

 

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Here are the details of the Christ Redeemer taken from a postcard:

 

 

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It was very hot, approximately 30 degrees and more than anything it was really humid, but logically we were happier to have heat and sun rather than bad weather. At the top, we had about 40 minutes of free time, which we actually needed by the time we took photos, bought souvenirs, etc.

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On the tram going back down we were accompanied by a group of local musicians playing a Samba / Carnival type of music.

 

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We could also see the “Favelas” which are the equivalent of shantytowns or slum areas, but you could also see that many of these houses had their large satellite TV aerial installed outside:

 

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We returned to the bus where we were taken on a general tour around the town and then passed by the main known beaches, including the Cucumber Beach in Sao Conrado, Leblon, Ipanema, the Copacabana, and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake.

 

 

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We had something to eat and then headed for the Laguna Helipad where we had our appointment for the helicopter tour at 3pm.

 

 

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We were 4 passengers plus the pilot and we were extremely lucky as our voucher stipulated a duration of 6 to 8 minutes for the trip, but in reality (and this was clear from the minutes recorded on our video camera) we were in the helicopter for a total of 18 minutes, the pilot just kept flying around and the minutes extra were never mentioned!!!. This was our first time ever in a helicopter and all I can say is that it was an unforgettable and thrilling experience. I didn´t even have time to even think of being afraid as because it was only going to last a few minutes (I thought!) and I wanted to make the most of it, taking photos, etc. It was fantastic and we saw everything from every side and from a few hair-raising angles as well!

 

 

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We went around the Christ Redeemer Statue several times so as that each passenger could see it well and take photographs.

 

 

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The following photos are not very good or clear but they do give an idea as to how close we were to the Statue:

 

 

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When we landed we stayed there for a while watching other groups leaving and arriving back from their tours:

 

 

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We returned to the hotel and relaxed for a while, recovering a little from all the travelling the previous day.

 

 

We took a cold beer from the mini-bar and it gave us pleasure to see which beer it was!:

 

 

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Later on, when the sun was going setting, we went for a short walk along the promenade of the Copacabana Beach, where every night there is a small street market with touristic products, t-shirts, paintings, etc. At this moment we could see the Costa cruise ship departing from Rio. I didn´t manage to get a photo as there wasn´t enough light for it to come out clearly. I could imagine that it must be wonderful on a ship crossing so close to the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema and with the sun setting.

 

 

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The market:

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We returned to the hotel and had a very nice dinner sitting on the same terrace where we had had breakfast with the beautiful views of Rio and I finished up the evening enjoying a Caipirinha!

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TO BE CONTINUED VERY SOON ......... this is a L O N G story as we covered a lot of interesting places, so it will be posted here little by little in separate "chapters", when time permits!!!!!

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Friday, 20th of February, 2009.

After breakfast, we went across to the Copacabana beach as the hotel has their own assigned area with sun-beds and umbrella shades for their hotel guests. As they had some hotel staff at he beach we felt totally safe. We had a nice long swim in the sea and really enjoyed our time which we spent there.

There were a lot of street seller son the beach offering their products but they didn´t disturb us at all.

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This second seller is offering a cover to keep your beer can cold:

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We saw these vehicles which are free of cost in Rio:

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We returned to the hotel as we had to check-out and we were collected again by Felipe to transfer us back to the airport of Rio.

Luckily we decided to have some lunch in one of the cafeterias in the airport before going through the security control to go into the departure areas and gates, as we didn´t know that there are no restaurants inside where the departure gates are, there is only one small café where you can drink a coffee but there are no meals or lunchas available there.

Since we had arrived in Brazil we were very impressed in general with the good service and the friendliness of the people. Just to give you an example of this, is the following anecdote in the fast-food cafeteria where we stopped for lunch in the airport. As I say, it was fast-food but there was waiter service at the tables. When the waiter came we ordered our food, chicken fillets with chips, and then my husband ordered a beer and I asked for a glass of white wine. The waiter said nothing, took note of our order and left our table. Only then did I realise looking around at the other tables, seeing the plastic cups and the menu that in this establishment you only had on offer soft drinks, water or beer but no wine. However, the waiter said nothing and after a few moments appeared back with a wine menu and asked me which wine I wanted, and I chose my glass of wine, which was brought to me in a normal glass after a few minutes by a waitress from the neighbouring restaurant. Normally fast food staff are not the most motivated employees and I was most surprised that this waiter without mentioning that they don´t serve wine actually went to the bother of going to the other restaurant to make sure that his customer was happy and got the glass of wine that she wanted. We made sure that he got a generous tip as he had earned it!

We also found it amusing that as we live in Spain we could understand a lot of the written Portuguese language which they use in Brazil, but we could not understand anything when it was spoken!

Our flight was with the airline Tam Linhas which actually was very good.

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The passengers were surprised when they saw the amount of vapour which filled the air inside the plane to keep it fresh and cool:

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Before we checked in I asked one of the employees of Tam Linhas as to whether you can see anything of the Falls from the plane, and alter she checked with a fellow worker, she assigned us two seats on the left side of the plane, and yes, we did get to see a small first image of the waterfalls from the plane:

 

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We realised how big Brazil is as our flight lasted 1 hour and 50 minutes which just covered a small area, but to fly from the north to the south must be a flight of about 5 or 6 hours, and during our flight we could see kilometres and kilometres of forest and vegetation without seeing any houses or villages.

 

The airport at Foz de Iguazú is very small and we left the plane by the stairs. Everybody then just left their hand luggage on the ground while they took photos of the plane and of the airport with the name.

 

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It was aproximately 32 degrees at 8pm in the evening. Again once we had collected our suitcases a guide was waiting for us when we came out to bring us to our hotel in Foz.

 

Foz, itself, is a town which doesn´t have a lot of touristic sights to see. These are some images of the typical streets within Foz:

 

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And a panoramic view taken from a top floor in the hotel:

 

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We nearly fainted when we opened our hotel room door and felt the heat inside. We urgently turned on the air-conditioning and left the room and went down to the bar-restaurant for something to eat. The hotel was reasonably basic, it seems like most of the others within the town, but clean and more than sufficient.

 

Saturday, the 21st of February, 2009.

 

At 8am our guide, also through the company “Isango” was waiting for us in the hotel reception. We had reserved a 2 hour shopping tour to Paraguay, to a town called “Ciudad del Este”. It seems that many people go shopping there as it is a “tax free” area and therefore very cheap especially for electronics etc., and it is also full of false copies of well known brands, some of them very good imitations and others of a poorer quality. The frontier between Brazil and Paraguay is only 10 kilometres distance from Foz de Iguazu, crossing over the Friendship Bridge.

 

 

In the following image (which isn´t mine) you can see Foz do Iguaçu on the left hand side, the Friendship Bridge in the middle and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay to the right, and you can calculate the distance between the 2 places:

 

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The following photos are not good as they have been taken from inside the moving car, but they are they only ones which I have and they show the street life arriving at the frontier still on the Brazilian side:

 

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The Frontier:

 

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At the border they don´t generally stamp the passports as the people from Brazil don´t need the stamp and other foreigners are usually accompanied by a guide who shows a list with the clients names and nationality and if the authorities stamp anything it is this list that they stamp. We did not actually go to Paraguay for shopping but because the frontier was so close in distance we just wanted to visit a new country and have another stamp in the passport. Our guide Cristian said he would try and get our passports stamped but he couldn´t guarantee it, and sometimes it could mean paying a small amount of money to the officials to stamp it! We really wanted this stamp and if necessary we would have paid some money for it. We stayed outside waiting in the car while Cristian went to deal with the paperwork. After a few minutes he came back and with our passports stamped with the stamp of Paraguay and without having to pay anything for this. We were happy to see that Cristian had been honest with us as he could have said that he had to pay say $10 and we would have believed him and paid him, but he did´nt try to cheat us which was good to see.

 

 

The stamp in the passport:

 

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We were now inside Paraguay, in Ciudad del Este:

 

 

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As soon as we entered the country we could see that everything was total chaos, with loads of people everywhere and all trying to sell you something, and just looking at the expresión of the faces you could see that it was place where one should be very careful.

 

 

A lot of people from Brazil cross over the border to do shopping as I mentioned earlier.

 

 

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It seemed that Cristian was more afraid than we were even though he was a strong fellow and confident, but probably this was because he felt responsible to look after us. He said we could take photos and video from inside the car but that it would not be advisable to use the cameras out on the street as it would just be looking for a problem and from what we had seen we know he was right

 

 

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We left the car in a public car park where he knew the staff and we then started our walk around the main shopping area.

These are some images taken from the upper level of the car park where we left the car:

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And these are some of the houses and dwellings in the surrounding areas of the car park:

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We went down in the lift……. and in the lift was the following sign!:

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We walked through many streets just looking in general and observing everything. The guide told us that in general the people there are lazy and they beg in the street but only until they have sufficient for that one day and when they don´t need any more well they don´t do any more work until the following day. Just when we had finished seeing everything then Cristian took us to see one last commercial centre called “Mona Lisa” and this place surprised us greatly as from the outside it looked like all the other buildings in the area, but inside it was very luxurious, a similar type of store to Harrods, extreemly elegant and even with a pianist playing music, all very classy but it did not fit in at all in such a low class area.!

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We returned to the car park. I took another look of the views from above from the car park, and the following building with the balconies painted brown….. attracted my attention ……….. the 3rd from above with the security bars……….. at such a height are the security bars necessary to avoid robberies?

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We crossed back over the Friendship Bridge and in the traffic jam I saw this “self-made” number plate painted on this van:

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Half way across the bridge we could see the boundaries painted dividing Brazil and Paraguay:

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We left Paraguay and close to the border but no won the Brazil side Cristian took us to an area ehere we could take panoramic photos of Ciudad del Este and the Friendship Bridge:

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Our next appointment was a helicopter trip over the Iguazu Waterfalls:

 

 

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Again we were four people and the pilot. As soon as we got in I noticed that my seat belt was hanging loose with no possible way to connect it, and nobody cared anyway as the pilot couldn´t hear me with his earplugs on and the other passengers were busy looking after themselves and there was no time to do anything as within a couple of minutes we started to take off……

 

 

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This time it was really beautiful and totally different from our previos experience which was over a large city whereas this time we were flying over forests and rivers

 

 

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The first image of the Falls:

 

 

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We were getting closer, and with difficulty you can see a beige coloured building which is the hotel which we had booked for the next day when we would change over from the Brazilian side to the Argentinian side of the Falls:

 

 

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Within no time we were directly above the waterfalls. Incredible and beautiful. We were amazed as to how big they are and we were lucky as we flew over them and could see them from so many different angles and some at quite an inclination and me without any seatbelt! It was an incredible feeling and in my case I think it will be an unforgettable memory which I will always remember.

 

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And we returned over the forest areas:

 

 

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Until we got back to where we had started from:

 

 

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Cristian, our guide, had been so good that we negociated with him a couple of hours more to acompany us to go by foot to see the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls.

 

 

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We started from the Hotel “Das Cataratas”. The hotel looks really nice and is only a few meters away from the Falls.

 

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The path starts approximately 100 m from the hotel where we took these first images:

 

 

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Then we saw some people who made the excursion by boat, a type of motor boat:

 

 

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When you see the falls for the first time you are so impressed by how beautiful they are. Every time when you think you have seen something spectacular then you go around the next corner and find something even more spectacular!

 

 

Suddenly a Coati crossed in front of us, and I was delighted as I had never seen one before:

 

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The highlight logically was the “Garganta del Diablo” or “Devil´s Throat”. Really incredible. It was very hot and we had walked a long way but it is so lovely that it is really worth the effort.

 

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We arrived back very happy at the hotel and had a few hours to relax and we had a nice swim in the hotel swimming pool. After the swim and a shower afterwards in the hotel we felt new and full of energy with our batteries recharged ready for more……..

 

 

We went out for a small walk near the hotel and went to a small supermarket for a couple of things which we headed, when suddenly an extremely strong wind blew up, to such an extent that even the supermarket employees were frightened and closed the doors quickly. We just got back to the hotel before it started to pour rain, but we didn´t mind as we had had an absolutely wonderful day and now we were about to go to a dinner show which would be indoors so the rain wouldn´t affect us

 

 

We went to the “Churrasquera Show” which was in the village Foz itself which was really good.

 

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First there was a buffet dinner with a large variety of starters and salads, and then a selection of different types of meats, which this area is well known for:

 

 

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We were given a table in very good position and very near to the stage, which was important and the restaurant has a capacity for up to 1.200 people in total and not all of them can have a good place. The show was a mixture of music and dance from the South American countries but concentrating on the 3 countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

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The following 2 images are to promote and ask the people to vote for Iguaçu as one of the future new Wonders of the World:

 

 

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We had a great time and enjoyed the show and dinner, it was a lovely way to finish up such a special day.

 

 

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TO BE CONTINUED: WITH THE TRIPLE FRONTIER LANDMARKS (BRAZIL, ARGENTINA & PARAGUAY) AND THE ARGENTINIAN SIDE OF THE IGUAZU FALLS……….

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The following day, Sunday, 22nd of February, 2009, a different guide, Ivan, came to collect us to bring us from Foz do Iguazu, Brazil over to the Argentinian side, to Puerto de Iguazú, passing on our way the “Triple Frontier Landmark”.

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Reaching the frontier ……. They had the colour from the flags of the two countries painted on the sides of the main road, yellow and green for Brazil and blue and white for Argentina.

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We stopped the car off the road to take some photos and Ivan asked us not to take long and when we saw some people from the nearby fields approaching we understood why. When we returned to the car Ivan explained that the area is not very safe but normally there are no problems, but that on one occasion a woman tourist was killed here, they wanted to rob her camera and she wouldn´t give it to them and they killed her, exactly at the same point where we had got out to take photos.

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At the frontier it was necessary to hand over the white piece of paper which was our temporary visa slip of paper as we were now leaving Brazil and we realized the importance of having insisted that we were given back this paper when the staff member at Sao Paolo airport wanted to keep it!

We arrived at Puerto Iguazu

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This is one of the typical streets of the village:

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And these are the 2 oldest houses in Puerto Iguazu:

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From there we went to the “Triple Frontier” which was very interesting. You are standing on the Argentinian side and just a few meters to your left is Paraguay and the same distance to your right hand side is Brazil.

The following photo, which is not one of mine, helps to explain this better. In this photo Argentina is on the left, Brazil is on the right, and Paraguay is in front. We were in Argentina and the point with the landmark is known as the Triple Frontier:

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It is a very small distance between the 3 countries but I couldn´t fit it into one photo and unfortunately they didn´t have a postcard of this either…… they were at the printers being printed. We really enjoyed seeing this place.

These are the photos which I took from the “Triple Frontier”:

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Argentina:

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This symbol painted blue and white marks the land in Argentina. If you stand beside this symbol and you look towards the water, this is the view, towards the left you can see another symbol (small) with the colours of Paraguay:

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