The Spectacular Iguazu Falls
Trip Start Apr 02, 2009
123Trip End Sep 09, 2010
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The Rio Iguazu (I is Guarani for big and guazu is water) rises in the hills where we have just completed our railway journey and wanders inland receiving water from 30 rivers as it crosses the plateau before turning toward the sea, crashing over the falls, and joins the Rio Parana 20km downstream before flowing into the River Plate
Eleanor Roosevelt apparently remarked 'poor Niagara’ when she first saw the falls (they are 4 times wider) and viewed from below, the tumbling water is majestically beautiful in its setting of begonias, orchids, ferns and palms. Toucans, flocks of parrots and caique birds and great dusky swifts dodge in and out along with myriad butterflies.
The sheer scale of the falls is the first thing that strikes. Spread across 2.5km and made up of 275 individual cascades, some very large, others only running during the wet season, 200 million litres of water each second jump off the top of the river and plunge up to 80 metres into shallow water below. The spray from the explosion of water rises above the falls, turns into cloud in which the sun creates blazing rainbows and drifts away across the sub tropical forest. Temperatures can reach 45c in the summer and, together with humidity that can reach 100%, if the spray from the falls does not give a soaking the weather will instead.
We experienced the falls from the Brazilian side first
On the Argentinean side, there is an even longer walkway that took us out to the very edge of Salto Union, the largest of the falls, where it plunges into the Garganta del Diablo (Throat of the Devil). So called because the local Indians seeing the spray assumed it was smoke and thought that there can be no smoke without fire and no fire without the devil. Often, the top of the falls here are obliterated by the updraft of winds that drive the spray way into the sky and when the wind shifts slightly we get drenched. The experience is exhilarating and wonderful – who cares for a little soaking in this magical place? The main task is to keep the camera dry! It’s difficult not to feel the excitement and impatience of the little child as we cannot wait to see the next wonderful waterfall and we have to make ourselves stop and enjoy every moment.
Our guide, a young chap called William (good Brazilian name) keeps wanting to stop to point out flora and fauna as we tour the falls
One of the best viewing areas is along a path known as the Circuito Inferior (lower pathway) along which we view the falls from below. Here, it is possible to experience the power, volume and weight of water spilling off the summit of the falls. Here, also we abandon any attempt to remain dry as the stiff breezes, born of the strength of the falls, drives water into every part of our bodies. This part of the falls is called Dos Hermanas (two sisters) and the noise and anger of the river can only resemble two women arguing.
Now that we are thoroughly soaked, we got on a jet rib that took us along the river and right up close to the base of the cascades. William informs us that we will get 101% soaked
When we finally managed to return to terra firma, we went scavenging for lunch, finding a not-too-busy place for a sandwich where we could drip dry. However, the weather had the last laugh when, just as we finished eating, the skies opened and a torrent of rain every bit as intensely wet as the waterfalls fell on us and we reached our hotel looking as if we had swam all the way from London. But we cared not a jot. It had been a wonderful, magical experience and one with which we will bore our friends (if we have any left) for years to come!
The only downside to the experience was the hotel (Sheraton). Wonderfully positioned on the Argentine side and looking straight at the falls, it looks like a building completed in the late 60s or early 70s and gone through numerous part refurbishments ever since. Thus, the bar area was plush and very comfortable but it was a fight to open any of the doors and the sliding windows only opened if I swore at them. In addition, the hotel was full of large middle aged Brits and Americans on trips with large tour operators. We tried to pretend we were Martians so as not to be associated with them. In fact the whole National Park area got really busy with visitors (day trippers and sightseers mostly) who blocked walkways, took interminable photos of each other and were generally very irritating getting in our way. How thoughtless of them. We have not come across such numbers of people outside of a city before.