Iguazu – Wet & Wild

There was a painfully recognisable fact in the departures lounge at Salta Airport in Argentina: the number if people on our flight to Puerto Iguazu totalled exactly 18 – the number of passengers needed to fill a plane the same size as that of our nightmare flight to Rurrenabaque in Bolivia last month. Out of the window we could see such a plane, so to turn a corner and see a brand new large jet standing there was an enormous relief. Good old Aerolíneas Argentinas – running at a loss to give us a relatively safe and comfortable flight to the far north-eastern tip of the country, where the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet around a spectacular sight.

The gigantic waterfalls of Iguazú straddle the Argentinian and Brazilian border and can be viewed from either country. We started on the Argentinian side which, with its droves of tourists (even on a weekday in spring), its food courts, immaculate paths, signposted attractions, small train service and uniformed information points, felt much like an enthusiastic theme park.

Getting there early we began with a wildlife trail. A clear path through rainforest reminiscent of our Bolivian jungle experience. Even without a guide we were able to see various birds including a toucan, as well as some other badger-sized mammals called coatis (which we later found to be pretty prevalent in the park, attempting Yogi-style picnic robberies). So far only one small waterfall, but we knew the main event was yet to come.

Befitting its theme park nature, the first glimpses of the big waterfall were akin to the scene in Jurassic Park, where the Brontosauruses are first spotted moving across the distant plain. Here, whilst still feeling like the set of that film, it was instead the clouds of spray that first gave away the awe-inspiring view to come. The train took us most of the way to the northernmost point where we walked with plenty of others, (many of whom obsessively cradled a flask and a cup of maté in typically Argentinian style) across a long winding bridge structure to above the ‘Devils Throat’. Cascading below was an indescribable amount of water. Nobody even though about getting in a barrel. The bottom was virtually invisible due to the height and vast clouds of spray, which teams of swallows threaded through, adding further swirls to the torrents. Tourists had their pictures taken in-front of the spay, everybody got wet and we thought we might have seen the falls. But there was more.

 

At every turn on the subsequent easy trails, we had spectacular views. The falls are immense and range over such a wide area that it took us around three hours to get around the majority of the length. On the way we were joined at close quarters by monkeys, lizards big and small, more coati, butterflies, eagles and of course plenty of humans. But like the Jurassic Park idea, where mammoth attractions astound visitors who still feel like they’re in the jungle, we rarely felt overcrowded.

 

That evening we crossed into Brazil (hello new passport stamp, goodbye bank balance and ability to comprehend…) so that the following day we could visit the falls on that side before heading off on a somewhat ridiculous 24 hour bus trip to Rio. The Brazilian side was also full of souvenir shops and talking bus rides, but still the majesty of the falls could not be overcome. Here the scale of the site could be seen in full, and the sheer size, weight and noise of the water could be appreciated. We left for the bus station damp but awed.

 

 

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