Iguazu falls: so that's where all the rain went!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2009
Trip End Jun 14, 2010

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Flag of Argentina  , Misiones,
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our journey to Iguazu was somewhat marred by a feeling of having been taken for a ride. The tourist information office in San Ignacio was staffed by a very personable young man who explained that he was able to make bookings on the bus up to the falls, so we took him up. Having handed over the money we had a nagging thought that we had paid more than we had expected and our tickets did not seem to have seat reservations. When we checked, it was clear that the tickets we had were no more than we would have got had we simply waited for the bus and got on. Hence the prospect of standing for five hours was a distinct possibility. When the bus came our fears were realised; the bus was crammed with passengers (mostly local) who occupied all the seats and we new arrivals were forced to stand. Although there was some coming and going on the bus it was some while before we were able to grab a couple of seats and settle down. We never established the true cost of the ticket but a fellow traveller who had also bought her ticket at the tourist office enquired with the bus conductor was very annoyed!

Puerto Iguazu, on the Argentinian side, is a proper tourist town, a real contrast from our recent stops. There are lots of hotels and hostels and a significant number of restaurants and bars. There are even a big late night club called 'Hendrix'. We had a wander around the town on the first day, going down to the riverside and approaching Tres Fronteras  a point where you can look out over the Rivers Parana and Iguazu and see the three countries of Argentina, Brasil and Paraguay.

The Iguazu Falls actually lie between Brasil and Argentina (Paraguay being a bit short changed in this, as it appears to be in most things). We went, logically, to the Argentine side first and were extremely excited. It’s hard to capture the immense force of it all as huge amounts of water tumble over sheer drops and crash down filling the air with fine spray. As you approach the falls, the noise reaches you long before you get even a glimpse of water. We had chosen to go first to the area known as the Devil’s Throat. This is supposed to be the most exciting part and the guide books recommend going there last but we were trying to dodge the crowds (a bit pointless really, because we later realised that it was a Sunday and local people get in for nothing). The water comes from a wide area and seems to be funnelled into a small rounded chasm. The spray of the combined waters reaches right back to the viewing platform above the original level of the water and makes it impossible to see down to the water’s lower surface. As you look out further you are aware that, for all its size and immensity, this is actually only one relatively small part of the waterfall complex and as far as the eye can see there are other huge lines of waterfalls of great height and power.

Two other walkways take you around other sections of the waterfalls and you are able to view the top, sides and bottoms of different falls. There are some smaller falls that would easily merit being a major attraction elsewhere in the world, that one begins to simply walk past ‘just another little one’! As you walk around there are constant sightings of the huge range of wonderful butterflies. It appears that salts are scarce in the rainforest and butterflies like to get them from the sweat we leave behind on the handrails. Another common sighting are the coatis, relatives of the racoon, who are now to all intents tame. The park asks everyone to not feed them and not touch them but the creatures are everywhere and seem to be very happy being petted as we saw several people do. They would also be happy to be fed although we didn’t see any of that but the coatis are very good at raiding rubbish bins.

A highpoint (?) of visiting the falls is actually down at the lower level as the waters crash in front of you and the spray drenches the viewing platform and everyone on it. There are some plastic capes for sale (and we actually had our waterproofs with us) but in the end, getting soaked is the biggest part of the experience and it seems foolish to avoid it!

The falls lie within a national park and we took some time to make a bit of a trek through the forest. This was interesting as we saw  other animals including what we call the streamlined pig (too quick to get a photo), huge ants and lots of lizards. What we did not see were pumas, monkeys and toucans, all of which feature in the publicity materials but we have not met anyone who has seen them. We were particularly disappointed about the toucans, TP says that their association with dark ale suggests they must sing old Irish songs so we have been listening out for distant renditions of the wild colonial boy.

Today we have visited the Brasilian side of the falls. This of course meant that we had to go through Argentine immigration again although the Brasilian side seemed untroubled and waved us through. The organisation on this side is much slicker and the intent to get the cash from you is more apparent. The walkway to the falls gives some really good wide views of the whole system which you can’t get from the Argentinian side. The viewing platform actually over the falls and looking up to the devil’s throat was really good.

We had assumed that the recent heavy rains had swollen the waters significantly and this was confirmed when we found that the viewing platforms on Isla San Martin, right in the middle and surrounded by falls, have been closed because the water levels are too high to get boats across. However, a guide showed us film of 2005 when the waters were considerably higher and more forceful than this year. Amazingly, film of 2006 shows the whole area almost completely dry, with the viewing platform standing on dry ground.

Today it is 6 months since we left home. What incredible sights we have seen! What amazing places we have been to! And there’s still 6 more months to go! Yee Hah!
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Richard Grindrod on

Wow this brings back happy memories and there looks to be significantly more water than when we were there - What a fabulous place

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