Wow Wow WOW! (Iguazú Falls)
Talk about saving the best for last! With Bolivia behind me, I had one last destination I really wanted to see in Argentina before heading back to Buenos Aires for my final stint in South America: the falls at Iguazú! I’d been told by many people that they’re one of the most impressive natural sights in all the world and definitely shouldn’t be missed.
After just one brief night back in my apartment in Buenos Aires (my flight from Bolivia was routed through BsAs) I caught an early morning flight up to Iguazú, right up in the north-east corner where Argentina, Brasil and Paraguay all meet. I hadn’t made a reservation but I showed up at the Hostel Inn HI hostel, which I’d been told was the backpacker place to stay at in Iguazú. Now I have to admit I’m not a big fan of HI hostels as they attract a certain kind of “independent traveler” that makes me cringe (the kind that isn’t independent at all…), but this hostel didn’t disappoint! It had a swimming pool, bar, pool tables, free internet, the works.
My first view of the falls was truly magical. Around the full moon, the national park offers a moonlight tour of the most spectacular part of the falls, called La Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat), and as I’d heard rave reviews about the night tour I quickly signed up for it. After sunset we were driven to the park and traveled 15 minutes along the narrow gauge railway to the start of the walkway to the Garganta del Diablo. From the train it was a 1km walk in the darkness (it was a perfect evening with a clear sky and bright full moon) along a catwalk over the water to the edge of the falls. We could hear the rumble and see the plume of spray rising up as we approached, but it was only when we turned the last corner that we finally saw the falls. All I can say is WOW! In the darkness you could just make out a truly incredible amount of water spilling down off a horseshoe-shaped cliff and plunging down into the darkness below. Unfortunately my poxy little camera could take an exposure long enough to capture it, but I’m hoping to get a couple of photos from a few of the travelers I met who had SLRs with them. After about 30 minutes enjoying the spectacle we were taken back to the park entrance and enjoyed the free caipirinhas on offer.
The next day I decided to do the more extensive Argentinian side of the falls (Argentina gets the lion’s share of the falls, Brasil just gets a toe-hold of one small corner but has great views looking across to the Argentinian side). I arrived at the falls early morning and walked the Circuito Superior, a trail that follows upper level of the falls.
The falls are surrounded by some beautiful tropical rainforest, and throughout the day I saw loads of wildlife. There were more butterflies than the best butterfly house I’ve been to, loads of coatis (one of my favourite little critters), some guinea pig/capybara looking things, and many different kinds of birds. No jaguars though, although they are about – in 1997 a park ranger’s child was taken by one!
After completing the Circuito Superior it was time to delve down into the Circuito Inferior, a more extensive path that explores the mid-level and lower sections of the falls. Usually this includes a boat ride across to Isla San Martin, but were were told that as the river was too high the island was closed (pros and cons, while we missed out on some of the views we knew we were seeing the falls really gushing). I spent about two hours wandering along the path, enjoying some of the most beautiful views imaginable. Nature couldn’t have designed a better series of waterfalls and cascades, all set around some lush, green rainforest packed full of wildlife.
Down by the river I paid 45 pesos ($15) for La Aventura Nautica, a 15-minute boat ride further up both branches of the gorge. We were told to put all our belonging into waterproof bags and I soon found out why – the boat motored right up close to a few of the huge waterfalls cascading down and we got completely drenched from the spray! The grand finale was driving right up close to the Salto San Martín, the largest waterfall in the photo above. Trust me when I say it was $15 well spent!!
Having already seen La Garganta del Diablo by moonlight, I knew what I was in for and decided to save the best for last. Having seen the other falls I caught the train up to the beginning of the boardwalk and excitedly walked the 1km route to the edge of the Garganta (I saw a giant otter on the way). It was even more impressive during the day than at night, and it really took my breath away. It appeared like the whole world was draining into this hole in the earth, as you couldn’t see the bottom of the falls from all the spray. I stayed there about an hour, hypnotically watching the water plunge down over the falls. Fantastic!
The next day I had the choice to head over to the Brasilian side but decided against it. The weather was a bit iffy (it was cloudy, grey, and poured down later on), it was a hassle to get across there over the border (and there was a chance I’d need to purchase a $35 visa), and I have to admit after exploring the Argentinian side of the falls I wasn’t sure that the Brasilian side could out-do what I’d already experienced. Instead of heading over there I chilled out by the hostel swimming pool before heading back to the airport in the afternoon. It was while I was lying by the pool it kind of hit me: this is the end of my Grand Tour! Iguazú is my final travel destination before I head back to Buenos Aires and then Australia – and I definitely finished on a high! And this hostel is the last one I’ll stay in, for a long time if not ever (I am DONE with dorm rooms). It’s kinda weird to think it’s all coming to an end…
Anyhow I’m back in Buenos Aires now for one final dose of this awesome city, and it’s not long until I’ll be packing my bags one final time to head back to Australia (I need to get back there to organise my US work visa). I’m using the chance to take some final private Spanish lessons, and I’ve also got a million and one things I still want to see and do around the city. It’ll also be good to see some of my friends again, although there’s been a bit of turnover since I was last here and many of my friends have either returned home or are off traveling around Argentina and Chile.