water, water everywhere and more than a drop to drink!

Iguazu falls

How do you describe Iguazu falls? I was ten years old when I visited Niagra in the states and I remember being pretty blown away by the experience. Well Niagara has nothing, absolutely nothing on Iguazu!

Yesterday I began the experience with the Brazilian side, mainly to convince myself that Portuguese wouldn’t be that hard to understand (it is) and to get an onward bus ticket. The Brazilian side is further away from the falls themselves but gives you a series of fantastic panoramic views of both major sections and finally you arrive on a walkway to look up at the columns of water pounding down over the rim and into the Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat). I’d gone with another English girl, Paula, and with navigating the border, bus to the national park and then the bus across to the beginning of the walk we were both starting to wonder if the trip had really been worth the effort. When you first catch glimpse of the falls, surrounded by jungle with a cloud dotted blue sky there’s no question, it is simply amazing.

Iguazu birds

Today I went in an international contingent of myself (UK), Lou (Argentina) and Will (France) to visit the Argentian side, by far the largest and most impressive. You walk along walkways downstream and upstream of the falls, through jungle filled with brightly coloured butterflies and birds, see small isolated cascades and huge curves of water columns pounding down onto the rocks. There are mischevious racoon like coatis sniffing round trying to steal food from tourists (after my incident with a similar suspiciously cute-faced animal in Guatemala I wasn’t falling for that ruse again) and huge black vulture like birds sunning themselves on the rocks and circling ominously around the falls as if waiting for some poor unbalanced tourist to fall over and provide them with an easy lunch.

It wasn’t long before Lou, Will and I had succumbed to one of the adventure boat tours that departed from the base of the jungle out into the river. After getting back from a wander around Isla San Martin between the falls we put our daysacks and shoes in waterproof bags and donned some very attractive red life jackets and into the boat we went. It was the most touristy and wettest 15 minutes I’ve spent in the whole country and I absolutely loved it. They drive you up two two huge cascades and hover for a few minutes letting you take photos and admire the view and then the boat accelerates and plunges straight into the clouds of mist going right up to the edge of the column of water. Wet is not really a sufficiently strong word to describe the experience. Put on some combats and a t-shirt and stand under a cold shower on full blast for 5 minutes and you’ll get some idea of the effect. I’d only just stopped laughing, screaming and swallowing half the waterfall when they spun around and doused us for a second time. Then you whisk around to the other side of the river and get soaked under a second set of falls. We climbed out sodden down to our pants but all grinning like idiots. Note to Northface, when you claim that your raincoats are indeed waterproof I think you’ll find they do bugger all when submerged under Iguazu spray!

After our early afternoon shower we decided to go and have coffee on the lawns of the only hotel in the park, the Sheraton, who very kindly let us rest our damp arses on their comfy white chairs and served us delicious cafe con leche and media lunas. Sufficiently fortified we headed up to the walkways that criss crossed upstream to give you a bird’s eye view of the churning white waters of Garganta del Diablo.

Lou and Will had to hurry back to catch their bus so I did the final walk myself. It was an hour before sunset and most of the tourists had disappeared off back to their hotels to drink mate. I was almost alone as I wandered along the wooden jetties to see the last rays of sun catching the distant tree shrouded shore of Brazil and a final rainbow in the spray being cast up from below. After three months in such an amazing, diverse, welcoming, beautiful and breathtaking country I couldn’t think of a better experience with which to say farewell to Argentina.

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