Iguazú

Posted by on May 19, 2013

Iguazú

The word ‘Iguazú’ in the local indigenous language of Guaraní means ‘Great Waters’. The falls are situated in far north eastern Argentina where the Río Iguazú floods a large area of bushland before falling off a plateau in 288 separate waterfalls. The river marks the boundary between the two nations with the majority of the falls located within Argentina. Both the Argentinean and Brazilian sides are national parks or protected areas.

I was not able to go to the Brazilian side. They say that there is less to do and see from that side, but that a more complete or panoramic view is offered. As an Australian, I required a visa to enter Brazil – some $128 – which was not worth a few hours of more distant viewing.

 

The park includes kilometres of raised walkway and very well maintained facilities. Native animals are abundant and so are tourists. Small lively creatures that look like something like a cross between a possum and a big scurry out from the undergrowth and are not shy – they’ll make a dash for your plastic wrapped lunch if you’re not careful.

 

Paseo Inferior – Lower Trail

I began on the lower walk which starts a little way down river from the falls. Before I could ever see the falls, I could hear them. Soon enough I caught my first distant glimpse of the Garganta del Diablo (Throat of the Devil), partly hidden behind the island of San Martín and a cloud of its own mist. Soon the foliage gave way to a larger panoramic view of the falls. Water poured off the step in dozens of smaller falls making me realise that this wasn’t just a river reaching a steep descent but rather a flooded plain, much like a river delta, pouring over walls of rock many hundreds of meters wide.

As I descended down to the point from where the boat launches, everything became damp. In addition to the bus ride and entrance to the park, which was a combined total of $29, I also bought a short boat ride which takes you right up to some of the falls giving you the appropriate opportunity to get soaked. I liked it; a little dash and a splash and you’re back on the shore.

Beforehand I had made my way over to the island of San Martín which is sometimes shut if the water level is too high, but I was fortunate enough to be able to go. It offers a close up viewing platform of a more powerful part of the falls and I started to get the impression of the power of the falls.

 

Paseo Superior – Upper Trail

From there I walked the higher trail, which winds its way along the top of the cliff. To one side the water flows tranquilly through the scrub, under your feet and plunges over the edge. It’s quite a contrast, though perhaps less spectacular. From above one walks the bridge (the entire park has raised bridge-like walkways) between the calm, slow moving river and its spectacular drop over the edge of the plateau onto the rocks and jungle below. Viewing platforms provide a beautiful angle of many falls leading away in a gentle curve to the north-east in the direction of the Garganta del Diablo.

 

Another cute (and very touristic) aspect of the park is the small train line, which takes load after load of camera touting, foreign language speaking tourists from the park entrance up to the beginnings of the higher and lower trails and then onwards to the Garganta del Diablo. I didn’t take the train to the trails; I preferred to walk the short ‘Sendero Verde’ or ‘Green Path’ from the park entrance. It’s funny, despite the thousands of tourists; this stretch of fully paved pathway was almost completely deserted. But I did take the train to the Garganta. The little native possum-pigs scurried around the quaint little platform as the train chugged in and disgorged its cargo of tourists. From there an impressive raised platform – I would judge a kilometer at least – lead me out over the flooded plain, through the trunks of the trees and small islands and out towards the viewing platform.

 

La Garganta del Diablo – Throat of the Devil


The Garganta del Diablo is comprised of a U shaped incursion into the rock face and the water first pours over a small step before plunging down into the throat from all sides. Here the Río Iguazú is at its deepest and my first glimpse of the Garganta was where I saw the river suddenly…disappear. From behind the foliage, the mist could be seen blowing away down river and the sound of roaring water became steadily louder. When I reached the crowded platform I could see it all. Water two or three meters deep slid over the first depression before roaring into the canyon. From all side of the throat, massive volumes of water disappeared over the edge every second. The bottom was lost in a perpetual cloud of mist as the water was churned to a frenzy and vented up and out of the throat before being caught by the breeze. Here I appreciated the true force of nature. I would estimate that at least six Olympic swimming pools of water makes its way over the edge of the falls every second. There is such bounty and beauty in nature and here it was just pure energy.

It was an antipodean experience; at once frothing and thundering with fury and power, and at the same time falling with the graceful repetition and uniformity that gives moving water its fascinating and hypnotic qualities.

 

It was an antipodean experience; at once frothing and thundering with fury and power, and at the same time falling with the graceful repetition and uniformity that gives moving water its fascinating and hypnotic qualities. Though surrounded by others, the presense of this immense power had a isolating effect making it a very personal experience between myself and the raw force of nature.

Above the spay, many butterflies flitted about and were thrown around by the turbulent upward draft, occasionally settling on the support rail or your arm and dabbing droplets of moisture from your arm with fine green antennae – perhaps for the salt.

 

I ambled back along the walkway as the sun descended, in no rush to be going anywhere, enjoying the hot humid laziness of my tranquil surroundings. It was one amazing day with a beautiful ending. I would like to also see it from the Brazilian side, and I may in due course, but I thoroughly enjoyed this occasion in this balmy corner of northern Argentina.

 

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