BIG Water!

Trip Start Aug 17, 2003
Trip End Jun 04, 2004

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, April 16, 2004

Have just spent two days at the Iguazu Falls which I can't believe aren't better known as they are absolutely incredible!! Admittedly I only saw Vic Falls at low water, but this place knocked the socks off there.... It is just amazing.....

We flew up here from Buenos Aires and took advantage of some hot weather and a hotel with a pool for the first afternoon, just preparing ourselves for a heavy day of jungle exploring, and acclimatising ourselves to sub-tropical heat, which neither of us had been used to for a while!!! We did manage to drag ourselves away from the pool for a little while though, to walk to the viewpoint of the 3 Fronteras, where you can see Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay on the different sides of the Iguazu and Parana rivers. It was a great view and as it was also sunset, was quite pretty (if you could just ignore the skyscrapers and smog over Ciudad del Este (Paraguay)...) A great chance for Nick to play with his new camera for hours!!! However, we did discover the other downside to this whole tropical lark - it was a long and very sweaty walk!

The next day we set out to explore the waterfalls with a vengence... Off to the National Park that surrounds the waterfalls on the Argentinian side of the river first of all. Getting there on the public bus was our first adventure, but once we arrived all seemed to go smoothly. After getting into the park, there are two options - the lazy yank train option, or a 10 minute walk along a trail supposedly good for seeing wildlife. We went for the walk to soak up the atmosphere, and with a little hope of maybe even seeing the tapirs, pumas etc who live in this jungle. Needless to say 10 minutes later we'd seen 10 different butterflies and a small mouse, and that was it. Fairly disappointing!

Next was the only organised part of the day - a trip to explore the jungle and then look at the falls from water level. We piled into a jeep (along with an entire family of spaniards - 35 of them - who were absolutely mad and incredibly noisy!) and set off into the forest. Again we were a bit disappointed not to see more wildlife (total tally 5 butterflies, and a huge 4" big tiger ant), but to be honest not entirely surprised given the noise from the jeep. It was very funny though - especially when the girls at the back started screaming because a leaf had landed on one of them!!!

After that it was onto a boat for a trip up the river. This started off quite tamely, with a good spot of an alligator on the shore, although by the time we'd circled back around for a closer look, he'd disappeared (as did our earlier joking about swimming from Argentina to Brazil...!) Not far after the alligator it started to get a bit less tame as we started to travel up the rapids. A couple of times I looked out of the side of the boat and just saw a hole where there should have been water! A bumpy ride and excellent fun. At the top of the rapids section, we rounded a corner for our first look at some of the falls - the San Martin falls. This was an entire wall of rock covered in water, like I imagine Victoria Falls would have been if I'd seen it in high water. It was breathtaking.

After snapping away lots of photos, we were told to put our cameras away in waterproof bags and get ready for some up close contact with the falls. When they'd said we'd get wet, they weren't kidding! They literally drove the boat underneath 2 of the main falls about 3 times each. I was absolutely soaked through to my knickers!!! But it was excellent fun. And as it was about 30 degrees, it really didn't matter that we were wet.

For the hour or so we wandered around the Isla San Martin and the Circuito Superior, which gave us the chance to see this section of waterfalls from different perspectives - a panoramic view of the whole area, and up close to the different falls. The power of the water was just amazing and we stood and watched entranced for ages. It was also incredible to see the vultures which wheeled constantly over the tops of the falls. There were so many of them!

Once we had climbed back up the cliffs from the river to the central part of the park, we decided to head over to the main falls, the Garganta del Diablo, or Devil's Throat. There is a walkway stretched across the upper river to take you right out to stand on top of the falls, and I just don't know how to describe it. The water from this incredibly wide river just drops off a very narrow section of cliff, almost into a hole. And you're standing on top of it just watching it drop. We were wet again almost immediately from the spray, and the thundering of the water as it dropped over was just deafening. We spoke to an argentine who told us she'd come 30 years ago, and there was much more water then, as the Brazilians have dammed the river since then. But we just couldn't believe it would be possible to get more water going over - there was so much already.

Still in a state of awe from the Garganta del Diablo, we headed back to the centre of the park to explore the last section we hadn't yet been to. We were pretty disappointed with the lack of wildlife so far, especially the more common species like toucans, which the guidebook had implied we'd practically be tripping over. But we obviously just needed to wait until it got cooler.... Just at the end of the day we saw a tree full of toucans, which was great, and also a load of coatís.

Toucans are just the weirdest looking birds - when you see them up close, it really looks like their beaks aren't real - like someone's glued an inflatable beak onto their faces! And coatís are I think a kind of rodent, with a long tail, which climb trees (see the pictures). They look quite cute, but when I tried to walk past the 6 or 7 of them we came across on one of the walkways, they obviously smelt the sandwich in my bag and suddenly became all claws and teeth. Needless to say I kept walking pretty quickly!!!

We went home absolutely exhausted, but having had a fantastic day - the falls were just incredible, and seeing the wildlife eventually was great as well. Although Nick was hoping to see a puma, secretly I was actually quite glad that we didn't see any!!

The next day was a bit different. We wanted to combine seeing the falls from the other side, from Brazil, with also getting a few more passport stamps and ticking off some extra countries. So first step was Paraguay. After waiting for ages for a local bus, we gave up and grabbed a taxi - and inevitably the bus turned up just as we pulled away. But it made things a little easier as we were dropped in the centre of the main shopping area of Ciudad del Este.

The town itself was everything I'd been told it was - polluted, hectic and slightly seedy. It is the capital of dodgy dealing in this part of south america, and you name it, you can probably buy a fake of it here. We wandered around for about half an hour being offered incredibly bad fakes about 400 times and then decided to cut our losses and flee back into Brazil. But at least we'd been there and seen it for ourselves. The worst thing was that we didn't even get a passport stamp from it - there are so many people crossing the border all the time, that they just don't bother with border formalities.

Back into Brazil, our first view of the city here, Foz do Iguaçu wasn't much better. So we headed straight up to the national park on this side to have another look at the falls. Having been enticed by the "panoramic restaurant" we went straight there for lunch. Only to discover that they'd blatantly built it in completely the wrong place. They had the opportunity for the most amazing view over the Garganta del Diablo, but actually it's too far up river, so all you see is a massive expanse of flat water, a little bit of white water in the middle and lots of people in Argentina gawping and taking photos of something. If you didn't know the falls were there, you'd probably completly miss them!!!

Luckily the walkways back through the park were fantastic for giving a great panoramic view of the main falls - it was great to be able to stand and watch without your eyes stinging from the spray! And the views really were immense. Unfortunately we were limited on time - it would have been good to do some of the trails on this side, which might have been better for the wildlife (maybe we'd have seen a puma after all!) But we didn't want to get trapped on the Brazilian side, so we started to head back to Argentina. Finding the right bus was quite a challenge, but once we got on it was easy to find our way back home and get back to Argentina again.

Iguazu Falls were absolutely amazing - definitely a highlight of the whole trip so far.
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