We spent yesterday on the Argentine side of the Iguazú Falls. If you have a passion in life, a hobby or even a general interest then there is always some focus, a heaven, a consummate collection of whatever it is that has caught your eye. For example a train spotter may drool at the prospect of a visit to York Railway Museum. Aviation enthusiasts may dream of visiting Duxford to see all the old aircraft. If waterfalls are your thing, then Iguazú is the Mecca! It is a veritable museum of waterfalls with all types available. There are single falls, double falls, multiple falls, curtains of water, chutes, deluges, dribbles, spouts, sprinkles, spills, sprays, trickles, tinkles – you get the picture? The falls are caused by water cascading off the edge of a basalt lava field, the largest in the world. Where the lava stopped flowing it left an enormous 70-metre precipice over which the Rio Iguazú spills. There are somewhere in the region of 275 different waterfalls in the vicinity making for a visage of aqua on a grandiose scale. Generally with an ‘ordinary’ waterfall you have a river reaching some precipice over which it plummets like pouring water from a jug in a more or less controlled and directional manner. At Iguazú it is more like trying to pour water off a plate or a tray – it just goes everywhere!
As it is so vast, there are a number of trails to explore the falls, all of which are reached from an excellent visitor centre by means of a small train. We started with the biggie ‘Garganta Del Diablo’ – the Devil’s Throat! The trail out to the falls on a metal catwalk over the river gives no hint of the deluge to come until suddenly you are upon it and simply confronted with the biggest wall of water imaginable gushing straight at you. It was a scene of biblical proportions – it really took our breath away and made us take a step back. This is what ancient mariners must have envisaged when thinking of sailing to the edge of the Earth, masses of boiling frothing green-blue water hurtling off the edge of the planet and into oblivion! And all around the green jungle canopy, highlighting the colours of the water in the falls. When she visited Iguazú in the 1930’s, Eleanor Roosevelt said “Poor Niagara”!
In the afternoon we visited the ‘lesser’ falls that run between the San Martin Falls & the Salto Bosetti. It was hot but bearably so and trails led us through the cool shade of the forest, which would suddenly open to yield ‘Lost World’ vistas of the falls and blow our minds even more. This area is sub-tropical jungle and actually suffers occasional frosts in the winter. We took the free ferryboat across to the Isle San Martin (the guy gets his name everywhere!) and followed more trails for yet more views. The digital camera Flash card was soon full, with 130 odd photos – we’d both gone snap happy and this was a rare occasion when we had to use the spare card. At 3pm we set off on a ‘Jungle Explorer Tour’ consisting of a ride in a very fast inflatable raft up towards the Devils Throat and then into the deluge at the bottom of the San Martin cascades. It was cracking fun and everyone was drenched! Then we blasted over some fairly easy rapids down the Rio Iguazú to join a truck for an 8km jungle trail tour, where we learned a little about the forest & its inhabitants. We finished our visit with a walk along the Superior trail leading us out over the top of the San Martin / Bossetti Falls.
We have described the Falls above but there are some incredible animal attractions as well. Take butterflies for example – On the little open air train on the way out it was like a gaily-coloured tickertape parade with all colours of butterfly – bright reds, yellows, blues, oranges, greys – in every possible colour combination all flying alongside the train as if commuting to some butterfly metropolis to do a day’s work. The park also contains Jaguars & Pumas along with lots of not so dangerous mammals and over 400 species of bird. We did have one disappointment ‘though. There were signs up everywhere saying “do not feed the coatis”. These are cute little ring tailed mammals with a longish snout and have recently turned into park bandits, performing daring acts of robbery, pilfering visitors of any food items on display. We desperately wanted to ‘not feed’ the coatis, but there were none around not to feed! We wandered back to the visitor centre at the end of a magnificent day, where we picked up our crash helmets from a secure locker facility. Although it may have been secure against human infiltrators, the lockers were not secure against Termites, who had moved in and decided that our helmets would make a great new nest. They were everywhere – in all of the air vents that line the helmets and we spent the next 3 days clearing the little buggers out. Iguazú rates as one of the greatest natural wonders we have ever had the privilege to see. It is right up there with Yellowstone & Torres Del Paine – Mags was having fits coming home trying to decide which one was best! Maybe they deserve a joint crown?