7th June 2012
Igauzu Falls, Argentina
Returning to the hustle and bustle of Santa Cruz on the morning of the 2nd June having lived the hammock life in Samaipata for just under a week, I made my way back to the Bi-Modal bus terminal and booked a seat on the next departing service bound for the capital of Paraguay. At 7.30pm that evening, I therefore embarked upon yet another long haul bus journey into the twilight hours arriving in Asuncion around twenty three hours later just as night-time was settling into the strange new city. I spent three unexciting days in this dreary capital and if I'm honest I was not massively in awe of the rundown, mundane and depressing city that I came across and in many ways my arrival there felt like stepping back into the grim side of the 1980's. People had advised me against visiting Paraguay but I hate judging a place based on unfounded hearsay as many of these people had never actually visited the country. Ignoring the warnings and seeing as it was a natural pit-stop en route to Rio, I thought I would at least give the landlocked country a chance to prove itself. It didn't. I won't bore you with the lackluster days I spent in Asuncion as they mostly involved a great deal of writing and eating my body weight in empanadas. Needless to say, I was eager to move on as soon as possible and the new target I set my sights on was the fabled waterfalls of Iguazu which would hopefully prove to be a far more interesting affair. These mighty falls actually rest at the meeting point of three countries: Paraguay to the West, Brazil to the North and Argentina to the South and although Paraguay is very close to the waterfalls it is only possible to visit them from the Brazilian and Argentinian sides. Each of these two sides also offer very different experiences as viewing them from Brazil gives a wide panoramic perspective of the rushing waters as a whole whereas the Argentinian side allows you to get right up close to the action and the opportunity to look down into the famous Garganta del Diablo or "Devil's Throat"; a massive U-shaped ring where several powerful waterfalls conjoin to form a Herculean display of cascading water. The multitude of cataracts rest deep within the jungle and are located where the strong currents of the Igauzu river tumble over the edge of Southern Brazil's enormous Parana Plateau. Compared to the Niagara Falls, Iguazu is four times as wide, half as high again and carries seven times more water and in 2011 they were voted as one of the "New7Wonders of Nature" to crown them the king of waterfalls. I had been told by nearly everyone who had visited Iguazu that although the Brazilian view points undeniably offer some spectacular vistas, if they were to pick one side the impressive ability to get right up close to the base of the falls on the Argentinian sides gives it the slight edge. With money and time dictating everything I now do, I therefore decided to take their advice and headed towards the small Argentinian town of Puerto Igauzu which is the jumping off point for visiting their side of the falls.
"When we stand at the foot of this world of cascades and, raising our eyes, see 269 feet above us, the horizon filled with a line of waters, this awesome spectacle of an ocean pouring into an abyss is almost frightening." - Swiss botanist Robert Chodat.
Catching the first bus up to the Igauzu National Park, I arrived at the entrance when it opened at 8am and made my way straight towards the small electric train which ferries people back and forth from the main attraction of the park, the Devil's Throat, as I was eager to check out the 82 metre high powerhouse before the crowds descended upon it. Strolling towards the station, a flash of orange was caught in my peripheral vision and turning my gaze to the slender branches of a nearby tree I saw several Toucans perched in the early morning light; their instantly recognisable flaming beaks pointing towards a retreating moon which hung defiantly in the early morning sky:
|Location of Iguazu.|
It was an extremely brisk morning in the national park as I sat rigid on the cold wooden bench of the open-sided train waiting for it to depart. At the stroke of 8.30am, we finally trundled out of the station and into the sunlight heading slowly but surely up to the top of the waterfalls; cutting a wide arc around the roaring ridge of water which was hidden from view by the thick bush. Alighting at the final station, I ran ahead of the crowds - as I had done at Machu Picchu - and headed onto a metal pathway that crossed the Rio Iguazu Superior towards the famed Devil's Throat. Traversing the metal gangway which hovered above the different channels of the river, I came across tree covered islands where dappled sunlight peeked through the branches to the metal path below. Breaking through one final island, the true scale of the Devil's Throat came into view as a huge plume of mist rose from the narrow gullet; joining the ruptured earth with a seamless sky. The roar of crashing water was electrifying as I covered the last 100 metres to a rectangular platform which stretched out to where a powerhouse display of natural forces was in effect. The agitated whitewater poured endlessly over the edge of the ridge; crashing over different ledges before plunging at great speed into the thick mist which erupted from the depths of the gorge. Looking into this morning cloud, a troupe of adventurous swallows dived through the spray; deftly flicking their wings as they raced past the colliding waters:
|Hundreds of waterfalls fill the park.|
|Got a little too close to the base of this one and got drenched for stepping too far.|