Big Water

Trip Start Sep 22, 2007
Trip End Nov 10, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Iguazu Falls. One of the most spectacular sites on the planet. Visited by thousands of people every year. A series of waterfalls in the lush South American rainforest.

Puerto Iguazu in Argentina is our base for visiting the National Park that encompases these falls. We stay in a small cabin in Sr Jose Geogeous´s garden.  He´s probably one of the friendliest people you could imagine. He has a leather-bound account ledger from the 1940´s, a book almost too heavy to carry, that has become his visitors book.

On our first day in Puerto Iguazu we decide not to head straight to the park but visit a couple of other attractions in the area. Guira Oga is a bird sanctuary where there are guided tours around some cages containing birds that are recovering from various accidents. The South American birds of prey are beautiful. We also go to La Aripuca. It is an unusual building constructed entirely of the trunks of forest giants that used to cover the area before it was logged out. The loss of the giant trees is depressing; I would rather walk round a forest where they were still alive. Nonetheless I pick up some ideas for what to do with some 5000 year old bog oak I have stashed in Scotland.

We take a bus out to the park early the next morning and enjoy some peace and tranquility before the masses arrive. The falls are incredible, spanning such a large area. We walk for most of the day to catch as many alternate views as possible. Despite the steadily increasing crowds we still see quite a bit of wildlife; toucans with their cartoon orange beaks are a favourite. Swifts and swallows fly beneath the falls, playing with the tremendous jets of water. Crested jays, with piercing yellow eyes, take every opportunity they can to steal food.
At the foot of the falls there´s a boat trip for adrenaline junkies. High powered motor boats jet up to the base of one of the falls and everyone on board gets a thorough soaking. Its a bit like paying a fortune to have someone throw a bucket of cold water over you. Rachel declines the 15 minute A$50 (GBP 8.00) ride, but I give it a shot, and its good fun. I am amazed by how many people wear normal clothes and then have to walk around soaked for the rest of the day. But then, walking a couple of kilometres to the base of the falls in bathers is probably not everyone´s cup of tea. Fat tourists walking through the jungle sans clothes look strange.

Puerto Iguazu is clearly set up with mass tourism in mind. Its easy to access and even has an international airport and burgeoning casinos. The Argentinian town feels like its heading in the direction of Las Vegas and is gradually losing its identity. With the spectacular falls next door the town is guaranteed a future, but its not a place I would choose to return to.
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