Saturday, 12 January 2008


It's a rare gift to visit a natural phenomenon that's tourist friendly without being Disney-fied. I expected the falls of Iguazu to be stunning but I had no idea how close I would get or how deeply affected I would be. The magic is still there. I could have been a member of the Guarani tribe creeping through the forest with my spear, instead of a Scot wandering wide-eyed through forest trails, my face wet from the spray.
An adventure from the beginning
Having crossed the continent twice on a bus - the first so dilapidated I wouldn't have been surprised if the next passenger had been carrying chickens - the second the height of luxury because the seats reclined three centimetres - the three Glasgow girls opted to splash out on a plane ticket from Buenos Aires to Iguazu.
Areolineas Argentinas was on strike that day - which didn't come as a huge surprise after several days of rude awakening as to how they do things in Argentina - so we made the best of our wait by swapping cultural tales with a group of Argentinian journalists. The things I learned during that afternoon could fill a whole other post - I'll tell you about it some day.
The plane journey was only an hour and I blagged us a free transfer to our hotel. We instantly met other travellers and took their advice about seeing the falls from Brazil first.
I'll have a Brazilian
From Iguazu town we caught a bus to Brazil - we were very pleased with ourselves and looking forward to another stamp on the passport. Another rude awakening - we drove straight through the border and were unceremoniously dumped by the side of the highway. Some sixth sense guided us to another bus stop where we caught a bus to the falls, otherwise I'm convinced we would have been picked up by a rogue operator and sold into slavery.
Entrance to the national park was a mere 25 pesos and we were bussed again to the start of the trails.
I will never forget turning that corner and seeing the panorama of the falls in front of me.
It's difficult to describe how it makes you feel but I'll try.
Have you ever had a really bad day, when everything has gone wrong, everything has been extra difficult, nothing's worked out and then someone does a really tiny thing for you but it means so much and you suddenly realise life's not so bad?
Seeing the falls makes you realise how wonderful life actually is.
The path leads you closer and closer to the falls, the spray throws up dozens and dozens of rainbows and you half expect a unicorn to come wandering through the trees.
It ends on a platform directly in front of the largest falls, where photos are futile because all you can see is mist.
Cured at last
If we thought the view from Brazil was impressive, we were set to be blown away by the experience in Argentina.
The upper trail leads you along a catwalk which has been ingeniously built across the top of all the falls. To the right you see a wide, murky green, lazy river, to the left the edge of
the world.
Now, I have a confession to make.
I have a waterfall phobia.
When I'm stressed I have nightmares about falling over waterfalls or watching members of my families slipping over the edge, while I watch, powerless to stop them.
And, in the way arachnophobics are forced to hold tarantulas to conquer their fear, I found myself at the edge of The Devil's Throat, staring transfixed into the thundering abyss.
The fence between you and the void is only waist height - you can't see even close to the bottom because of the millions of gallons of water and the heavy spray it throws up. The noise is deafening, the sheer power is awe-inspiring.
I stepped back, tearing my eyes away and felt calm. To this day I have never had another nightmare.
A baptism of water
The lower trail takes you through the forest and out into the lagoon that gracefully receives the avalanche of water dumped into it every second.
Following my spiritual experience at the top, where I made my peace with the Devil's Throat, I felt it was only appropriate to get 'baptised' under the falls.
A speedboat took us round the lagoon and under the spray. We were actually nowhere near the point where the falls hit the water, but got completely soaked nonetheless. Screaming with laughter and shock we got back to the shore to wring out our t-shirts and squelch back up the trail to the welcoming luxury of the Sheraton.
The waiters calmly handed us a couple of towels to sit on, directed us to the groaning buffet tables, laden with every delicacy imaginable and only charged us 20 pesos for the privilege!

There are few things more satisfying than munching chocolate mousse cake in a luxury hotel, gazing out the window at 32 waterfalls where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet.


velvet escape said...

That's a lovely story Kim. The Iguazu Falls are amazing aren't they? :-) I flew in from BA on LAN (a much safer bet than AA). I stayed on the Brazilian side (Foz) and really enjoyed it though Puerto Iguazu was absolutely charming - I spent an hour simply wandering around.
Thanks for sharing!


Kim said...

Thanks Keith! I would have loved to spend more time on the Brazilian side - guess I'll just need to go back! Cheers for your comment :)