As soon as we arrived to Foz do Iguazú from Sao Paulo, we crossed the border and we found ourselves in Puerto de Iguazú in Argentina. It turned out to be a reasonably easy transition – a public bus took us from one border point to another, crossing Paraná River, that divides the two countries. For us, arriving to Iguazú was a time to go back to camping lifestyle, after quite a few days spent in a large city.
Puerto de Iguazu is a small, but very tourist town, full of tacky souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels. There is one thing really worth seeing though. Not far from the centre, there is a park with a small hill from which you can see two rivers join (Paraná and Iguazú). This is the only place in South America where a river defines a border between three countries (Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay).
We managed to find an isolated camping, situated in a residential area of the town. In Barrio de Santa Rosa we could merge with the locals and escape the crowds. It looked like a little village and required a 20 min bus ride from the centre, but it was exactly what we needed.
The bus rides turned out to be quite an adventure too. First of all, the machines were so old and loud that they resembled an antique tractor rather than a means of public transport. Second of all, there were no bus stops and no stop buttons. Everyone would just let the driver know, when they wanted to get off. Finally, apparently it was not forbidden for the drivers to socialise and relax while working, because they would smoke cigarettes or share passenger’s mate and chat while driving the dusty, unpaved roads.
Our camping was located just by the River Paraná and we could see Paraguay on the other shore. The place was owned by a middle aged couple, who clearly loved to be surrounded by nature. It was beautiful, full of trees, plants…and animals! They had 2 dogs, 1 Guacamayo (that talked), 2 Blue-fronted Amazon Parrots, 2 “running free” lizards (we never saw them, though), a cat, and a monkey!!
Now, we had some contact with wild monkeys in Brazil before, but this was a totally different experience. This monkey lost his mother and was being brought up by humans. It isn’t just that he was interested in everything and everyone that surrounded him. He was bored and desperate for any kind of attention and entertainment, and once he got it, he wouldn’t let go. The cat knew that, and he tried to stay away. He was not always lucky though. Once he got caught, he had to “play” until he managed to escape. The parrots weren’t that smart and paid a very high price for being careless. One day, one of them fell from a tree and the monkey pulled its tail off.
Still, humans were what interested him the most. He had to work much harder for the reward of keeping a person within his reach. We were much stronger than him, but he had a secret weapon. He was extremely cute and extremely skilled in using his arms, legs and tail as a hitch. Before you even realized, he was sitting on your shoulder, with his tail rapped around your neck, holding tight to your hair, biting your face, and sticking fingers into your mouth.
We were amazed how smart he was. For example, he understood perfectly well, that when his chain got trapped and he was unable to move forward, he had to go back and disentangle it to continue what he was up to. If there was something that he couldn’t reach with his arm, he would try to do it with his leg or with his tail. Also, he would dip his food in water to soften it. In fact, he ate like a human (well, a badly educated one), and he slept like a human, covering himself with a blanket that had to be changed every day, because if it wasn’t, or if it was made of a wrong fabric, he would tear it to pieces. He really did have humanlike face expressions, tiny hands, nails and a pair of intelligent little eyes.
So, even though it was often physically painful to play with him, every day, we could spend hours admiring this extraordinary creature – a living reminder of who we are. Meeting Moni has unquestionably been one of the best adventures of our trip.