Fallsing out of Argentina

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm going to start this entry with a short disclaimer: my pun-loving husband chose the title, and despite vigorous opposition from me, in the interests of democracy, it was left unchanged...!

So I think it's fair to say that we haven't liked the north of Argentina - with the exception of BA, of course - as much as our time in the south. Mendoza and Cordoba were nice enough places to spend some time but our preference has definitely been for what we think Argentina has in spades, and does best: natural beauty - from Patagonia to Tierra del Fuego, it's what we've loved most about this country. That's not to say there isn't more of it in the north of course, and in that sense, the Iguazu Falls were the perfect place to end our stay here. The thing about the Iguazu Falls is that everyone raves about them. They are, without a doubt, a top highlight, a "must-see" for Argentina. But before you get there, you almost start to wonder what all the fuss is about - they're just waterfalls, how good could they possibly be? Particularly when we've been so spoilt by glaciers, mountains, icebergs and natural wildlife. For whatever reason, they just didn't inspire us very much beforehand. But of course they are worth it, and then some. It's difficult to explain why, and the photos certainly don't do them justice, but we were so glad we listened to the hype and went. They were incredible.

They even, and this is a big ask, made up for the "fun" of our 21 hour, 1,408 kms, bus journey to get here. It's hard to pick a highlight (there were so few!) but if I had to narrow it down, I'd have to choose between the lady across the aisle from us who checked her phone for messages (on speaker) so often that we both now know the Spanish for "you have no new messages". I only wish I knew the Spanish for "please stop doing that or I'll throw your phone out the window".... Or of course it could be the Bruce Willis film marathon, taken from volume 3 (!) of the Bruce Willis collection, all played at deafening volume, in Spanish (you might think this is fair enough, but actually most films here are played in English, with Spanish sub-titles) over the bus loudspeakers. And we're not talking the Die Hard trilogy here, but Planet Terror... We got a bit hysterical around the 9 hour mark - which was really way too early for any kind of breakdown - hence the terrible picture which accompanies this entry. Luckily it was our last bus journey for hopefully a very long time - hooray!

Back to the falls, then, and a bit of background. They border both Brazil and Argentina, and where we were staying, in Puerto Iguazu (on the Argentine side), you can also see Paraguay, at a place on the Iguazu and Parana rivers where the 3 borders meet - rather unimaginatively called Los Tres Fronteras. After recovering from our bus journey, we wandered down there to have a look, although of course all 3 countries look pretty much the same at that point - just lots of jungle! 

It then proceeded to rain for 24 hours straight, which rather dampened (pun very much intended) our spirits, but once it stopped we were rewarded with two days of hot glorious sunshine, perfect weather for visiting the falls. We tackled the Argentine side first, which gives you the close-up experience: miles of trails through the national park, taking in one waterfall after another (there are 270 in the whole park). It's a truly stunning place, and the best thing of all were the thousands of butterflies, in every colour of the rainbow - confirming our long-held view that you only get butterflies in the prettiest of places. The whole experience is cleverly designed so that each bit just gets better and better, culminating in the grand finale of the Devil's Throat - the grand dame of the whole place. You approach this over a 1km long catwalk, which takes you over deceptively still water, with no indication of what's ahead, apart from a plume of smoke in the distance - which of course isn't smoke, but mist from all the water spray. Then all of a sudden you're right next to the edge, watching the world fall away from under you. It's impossible to describe but it's bloody brilliant. Apparently, back in the 1930's, one of the tourist attractions involved being rowed out to the edge, whereupon the chap rowing would row like mad to keep you from going over, while you took your snaps. Needless to say this ended in tragedy when a boat containing a bunch of tourists went over the edge, killing all involved. Having stood next to the edge, there's absolutely no way you'd get me in a rowboat near it! 
We also went on a boat ride which takes you under some of the falls, soaking you in the process and reducing both of us, along with the rest of the boat, to shrieking and clapping our hands like children. As we were waiting in the queue, hot and bothered, I had sworn not to get involved with this kind of behaviour, but it must be infectious as I just couldn't help myself. There is a theory that says waterfalls release negative ions, which ease tension and leave you full of energy and after that, I have to say I kind of agree. Steve also bravely went for a swim in the river, I declined on the basis that I wasn't wearing my swimmers - slightly pointless given how soaked we got on the boat!

They say to visit both sides of the falls, and so despite thinking that not much could top the Argentine side, the next day, we went to the Brazilian side, and of course we weren't disappointed. Given the length of this entry, you'll doubtless be pleased to hear that it was a much shorter experience! The main attraction is a walkway which takes you out to the bottom of one waterfall, the top of another, with the Devil's Throat behind you and a view down the river in front of you. I'm running out of words to describe the Iguazu Falls now, but it was spectacular. We could see where we'd stood the day before at the top of the Devil's Throat and all the way down the river to many of the other falls in the park, including some which we'd not seen at all the day before. It perfectly rounded off our stay.

We cheat, and fly to Rio from here, in time to pay a quick visit to Christ the Redeemer (which we missed first time round) before our flight home to London and a week of R&R and laundry!
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