My Birthday Gift: 275 Waterfalls at Iguazu!!
Trip Start Oct 04, 2009
70Trip End Nov 20, 2010
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It wasn't easy to leave the warmth and comforts of our BA apartment for an overnight bus getaway, but we weren't going to miss Iguazu when we were so close. And by close, I mean 19 hours close. I was trying to convince Frederico to meet me there for the weekend as he is ONLY 11 hours away in southern Brazil and that's when I got thinking about how when you are working full-time, thats not really close at all. That's like me driving from Boston to Florida to spend the weekend in Jacksonville visiting my family for 2 nights. Put that way, it sounds a little like crazy talk, but after my 30 hour bus ride from Bolivia to Peru, 19 hours still feels like child's play. I actually prefer it to a 10 hour bus, since there's more time to nap in the morning after an inevitable terrible nights sleep and you don't arrive until noon (instead of 7AM) and can actually check-in to a hostel. As long as the roads are straight, paved, and driven responsibly, which does happen every so often, especially in Argentina, I find the bus time rather relaxing.
Because our travel day was my actual 26th bday, Andy upgraded us to the luxurious "full bed" bus equipped for the 19 hour journey, called Via Bariloche. Each seat had its own television screen which was already previewing the movie, one of our ridiculous faves, Fool's Gold. The server offered us bottles of wine to get sleepy and we could recline a full 180 degrees. We were having no regrets about this bus. Andy was asleep almost instantly.
I'd like to believe I would've slept wonderfully if for once, we didn't sit in front of the chattiest, most enthusiastic talkers aboard. These guys must not have seen each other in YEARS, they were practically yelling to one another until 1AM, at which time I climbed up on my seat and asked them super sweetly (obviously) in Spanish if they could speak a littleeeeee less loudly. I had so many other things I had thought out that I wanted to say, but when Iīm tired, Spanish is a lot of work. It probably worked out best for everyone involved anyway. The complementary wine helped, but I'm beginning to believe that sleeping terribly is an inheritable trait? Mom, we should start skyping during the wee morning hours. I am nearly always awake listening to Andy snore.
There is literally nothing else to do in Puerto Iguazu except visit the Cataracas (waterfalls) and eat tons and tons of meat, so I wouldn't recommend visiting for more than 2 days. Even without crowds, it would be a long & rushed day to try to see the whole park in a single entry. It's surprisingly spread out, with Upper and Lower Iguazu stretching over a mile. Plus, the 2nd day at Iguazu is half price so we couldn't leave a deal like that on the table.
The day before we arrived, it was a sunny 80 degrees. The following day, our first day at Iguazu, was dark, windy and cold. Our second day was perfect though, sunny with bright blue skies and gorgeous rainbows. It's easy to see which day we did what in the photos.
You could see the waterfall mist from a kilometer away. Some people expected to get soaked and wore rain boots and full gear, but they ended up looking just uncomfortable walking around as the mist is pretty gentle and refreshing, unlike the crazy crowds.
The crown jewel of Iguazu, the largest drop and most breath-taking, is the Devil's Throat. It divides the Brazil side from the Argentine side, and I must say, I was not jealous of the Brazilian view.
We were basically right on top of this monster waterfall.
I wasnīt anticipating having to share the waterfalls with thousands of other guests, but also didn't expect to be so wowed by them. I was excited going in, but the Devilīs Throat waterfall literally made me speechless. Andy immediately started videoing and I just kept dumbfoundedly repeating Ļoh my god, <pause> oh my GOD!Ļ You simply canīt be prepared to experience it.
Water gushes in from three sides plummeting into the horse-shoe shaped throat. It was mesmerizing to watch the power and sheer volume of the water. The viewing platforms get crowded so we only stayed as long as we could handle the bumping and cutting......this is why you will see random hands and shoulders in the photos. We are impatient and this waterfall made tourists ferocious!!
Somehow, the tourists didnīt really take away from the spectacular waterfall show. The deafening sound of the water blocked out the crowds and gave precious yet brief moments of exhilarating peace. Then you would be yanked back to reality by being whistled at (to move out of someones photo), bumped by someone trying to squeeze in next to you, or asked to take a picture. The park has a very theme park-like set up, almost as if these waterfalls were as manufactured as the iron walkways, train shuttles, and photo platforms. You wait in line for everything. Definitely not the dirt paths winding through jungle overgrowth I envisioned. Andy and I had brought books to spend the day next to the soothing sounds of crashing water, but the crowds are so frustrating you canīt relax anywhere near the biggest attraction waterfalls - luckily there are so many to choose from, you can still find a quiet waterfall-y spot to lounge.
Our plan of relaxing and reading by the waterfalls turned out to be a bit idealistic, but we got pretty close to that experience on San Martin Island.
Isla San Martin has a rocky beach and a nature path leading to a platform close enough to the water to get sprayed by the largest falls in Lower Iguazu. Itīs a great way to get away from the crowds too. The boat to cross over to the island doesn't cost you anything except your valuable time. Do this in the morning or spend your whole afternoon in line! At first glance, the line deceives you into believing that it will move quickly - do not be fooled. The boat shuttle is extremely sporadic and in absolutely no rush. Wait anyway.
It was a beautiful view to take in while waiting and lines do give you a chance to chat up other tourists. We happened to be behind a gal from Arizona. The first English speaker I'd heard in 2 days. Our conversation is a fine example of what every Latin American traveler becomes borderline too comfortable discussing.
And what did we end up talking about after saying what city we were from, you ask?? We moved straight to Immodium, and painful indigestion, and whether we had any drugs to offer, followed closely by "Do you think there will be bathrooms on San Martin island?" Now if you were in this line, you would see how the snake-filled thickly forested island was clearly not where you'd want to be headed if you were expecting to need a bathroom at any unlucky moment. But what do I know, I wouldnīt probably tell total strangers about the digestion issues Iīd been having the past few weeks and what I thought might be setting it off. Thatīs just me though. Good for her.
Early on in the trip, I tried to forbid Andy from confiding in me about such issues. After about two days, I just tried to discourage it, but it was hopeless, it really does come up quite often, especially when we are always together. Peru made us almost constantly sick, it was impossible to avoid the subject. Foreign stomachs really donīt know what to do with Latin American bacteria and tourists apparently donīt know how not to openly share the intimate details of their misfortune. It did help us understand why our new friend was walking so weird around San Martin Isla.....
Despite the crowds, the park should definitely be added to your bucket list. Just remember, there really is no bathroom on San Martin Island.