Some Very Big Waterfalls

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Parana,
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So following on from my rather busy weekend in Sao Paulo (it was meant to be a rest after my Ecuador trip) I have began the rest of the adventure and I packed my bag ready for 2 1/2 months on the road (not scary at all !!)) 

So I got a flight from Sao Paulo down to Foz do Iguasu. This is a small town on the Brazillian side of the Iguasu Falls. Once I arrived I decided to embrace my new backpacker status (the kit bag has rucksack straps as well so I do fit the criteria - those lovely people at the North Face think of everything). So I found the bus stop at the airport and got a local bus into town. Whilst I was on the bus I was feeling very proud because not only was I being a proper gringo in getting he bus but I was also saving the planet at the same time (Debbie you must be so proud - can I now join Ecoclub please). However, whilst in my state of self-congratulation I then realised that  I didn't actually have the faintest idea where the hostel was in relation to where the bus was going . So I piled (more like fell off trying to carry the bag) off the bus, retrieved the Lonely Planet from the bottom of the bag t(excellent packing skills) and trudged off to the hostel. Now I thought I was in luck because the hostel was only a couple of blocks away - no problem there then, just up the road a couple of blocks and turn right.
Well you thought wrong there Liz !!! Carrying a kit bag of  23Kg and a day bag with the camera, laptop etc in 30 degrees heat is just not that easy. There is a very good reason why God invented the taxi - it's so 35 year old wannabe backpackers with more stuff than sense can get from the airport to a hostel without nearly killing themselves. This was up there with the last hour of he ascent up Cotapaxi.

So am in the backpackers hostel and it's full of young people - really am feeling my age now. In the bar last night they were playing Barbie Girl and Saturday Night by Whigfield - even I found it a bit too cheesy. Nobody else seemed to mind. Actually they were only little whipper snappers when they were released (1997 and 1994 incidently).

Strange place Foz do Iguasu. It is the nearest settlement in Brazil to one of the most stunning natural features in the world and the town doesn't seem to be making any attempt to cash in or to actually acknowledge their existence. Went for a bit of an explore round (takes 10 minutes). It's a small town with small town shops - half of them are pharmacies (was the same in Ecuador) and then the rest are like Primark and New Look. Not one place even mentioned the falls. This place seriously needs to rebrand.

So onto the falls themselves. The Iguasu/Iguazu Falls divide the waterway into the Upper and Lower Iguasu/Iguazu River. The northern bank of the falls is in the Brazilian State of Parana while the southern bank sits in the Argentinean Province of Misiones (Hence the two forms of the name). The falls themselves actually consist of over 270 separate falls that stretch for more than one and a half miles. Most of the individual waterfalls are about 200 feet in height. The most famous of them all is known as The Devil's Throat which is a U-shaped waterfall that is almost 500 feet across and well over 2,000 feet in length.

The first European explorer to find Iguazu Falls was Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish Conquistador, who came upon them in 1541. The falls went mostly unvisited after that (probably due to the pants town - they arrived here, took one look and headed off back home) until being rediscovered once again in the late nineteenth century (They'd got a McDonalds by this point). The name Iguasu comes from a local Indian language and roughly translates as "Big Water" (well it does what it says on the tin).

And they are just something else - one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the privilege to see. I have a bit of a thing about waterfalls and in the last few years I have been Gulfoss in Iceland, Niagara Falls (Canada/USA) and Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe). And none of them can get close to the  sheer incredibleness of these falls. Apparently when Eleanor Roosevelt saw them and exclaimed 'poor Niagara'. She went onto describe Niagara as a 'leaky faucet' compared to Iguasu.

So how they were formed  - (Cez, Pip, Benedicte and Andrew - I might use this for my later project!!). First of all here's the geographical bit-  The Iguaz˙ River runs over a plateau that was formed by volcanic activity during  the Mesozic Era more than 135 million years ago. The falls was formed about 200,000 years ago when a shift in a geological fault transformed the mouth of
the Iguaz˙ River into a crescent shaped cliff.  

Since then the falls have constantly been changing in shape due to the consequent erosion of
the plateau by the Iguaz˙ River. This plateau that makes the top of the falls consists of many interleaved layers of sandstone and basalt. The upper layer is the hard basalt and the layer underneath is the softer sandstone. The weaker bottom layer erodes before the upper layer, causing the top layer to fall off the top of the falls in large sheets of rock and creates a deep plunge pool underneath . This erosion (particularly by hydraulic action) not only influenced the shape and size of Iguazu Falls, but it is also moving the falls downstream (recession). Upon formation Iguasu Falls was located about 30 miles downstream at the Triple Frontier, the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, but erosion has and will continue to move the falls upstream. One day they will simply not exist.

The other explanation and an equally plausible one at that -  is that legend has it that a god (not sure which one, but he must have been very important) planned to marry a beautiful woman named NaipÝ. However, she wasn't going along with all of this and fled with her mortal lover Tarobß in a canoe. In rage the god sliced the Iguasu river, creating the waterfalls and condemned the lovers to an eternal fall, and hence created the waterfalls we see today.  So the moral of the story is, boys and girls - if you are going to run off with your lover and not marry the god bloke - take the bus (actually on second thoughts - take a taxi), not a canoe.

I also made a bit of a video of the falls. Borrowed a helicopter, then shot a bit of film (well used a bit of memory card), got the London Symphony Orchestra to do the music in the background, got my friend Dave to narrate it (he's got a more professional voice than mine and his brother is actually Father Christmas) and then put it onto youtube for you

So on Wednesday I did a tour of the Brazillian side - which gives an excellent in troduction to the falls and a great panorama of the falls. The only problem was that it was full of very annoying tour groups who are incapable of taking a quick photo of the falls and then moving on to let someone else see. No, instead they needed to make sure that they and several others are always in the photo and that they can be as completely inconsiderate as you possibly can. So after about 10 minutes of getting annoyed at this I took a different tack and made it my strategy to get the way of as many people's lovely photos as possible. There may not be many photos of me and the falls in this blog but there are a lot of other people who were there at the same time as me with me in their's !!!

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Mum on

Eleanor Roosevelt was right, they are very impressive. Must put them on my wish list.

Caroline on

This has been on my wish list for some time, and it just moved nearer to the top. Beautiful pictures Liz. X

Jim on

Having just visited both sides, I completely agree with everything Liz said (apart from the fact that Whigfield had her one and only hit in 1993, not 94!). I certainly preferred the Brazilian side to the Argie one, far less crowded.

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