Published: November 16th 2009October 29th 2009
Iguaçu, a spectacular mass of overwhelmingly beautiful waterfalls, apparently created by a God in a rage after his betrothed took off with some other bloke in a canoe. Pretty furius, the God spliced the river in half, condemning them to fall forever. Or something like that. We entered first on the Brazilian side, where the 275 separate falls combine into one seeming whole of thundering water. The sound and the spray reach you long before your first - genuinely heart-fluttery, sharp intake of breath - sight of them. Amazing. And the impact, somewhat bizarre; groups of people racing through the footpaths, laughing their socks off for no apparent reason. Or strings of folk marching along in song. All rather odd. But incredible.
And after a night in Brazil we headed to see the Argentinian share of the spectacle, and Iguaçu became Iguazu. The specialness of this side being that you are able to wander much more into the actual falls, enjoying the individual cascading paths of water that make up the dramatic whole. Blue skies, beautiful rainbows, and water everywhere. And of course about a million tourists, using cameras like weapons, to slightly interrupt the dreaminess of it all.
And from here we headed to Ibera National Park, a much more serene place, but where water was still the central attraction. The promise of giant rodents, ancient reptiles and funny monkeys was enough to make the several day journey (as a result of bad weather and poor roads) worth it. The only access to the adjoining village was via a 'temporary bridge' (it's been temporary since 1972) and once there many of the homes became huts, the main form of transport was horse, and the sheep and cows outnumbered the folk. Despite the glamour of Argentina's big cities, you really don't have to travel that far (in distance at least, if not in time) to see that much of the country still struggles.
The rain continued relentlessly on our arrival, which meant that although we couldn't really see the animals we could most certainly hear them. The frogs in particular were having a fine time, apparently making the most of the soggy conditions to try their luck on the love front. But the weather brightened, and the frogs went quiet. And we were able to enjoy the village, as well as the wetlands.
The arrival on
the Brazillian side had a strangley intoxicating effect. As the bus weaved its way through the rain forest, people just started to get giddy, the film cameras were out, one man started to film the people on the bus, someone pointed out that he had a likeness to Diego Marradona and the bus erupted into fits of singing and laughter followed by chants, the Diego lookalike was loving it waving his arms whilst continuing to film the uproar. Then the bus stop and the resulting stampeed began. The low guttural grumble had by this time grown loud, its deep bass riverberating inside our chests, the first whisps of spray drifting above the trees. Our first wildlife spot, the infamous Coati made its appearance, first impressions were of a cute mischeavious little bandit, later this would change. We followed the path surrounded by deep vegetation, full of all the different shades of green, then the first glimpses of the falls, the more we walked the more impressive the views, the louder the noise, the more awe inspiring the unfolding scene. It all sounds a bit corny, but the vast vista of charging water is impossible to describe, its effects on all
our senses almost overwhelming.
The following day, and the Argentinian side, this time we were in amongst the towering falls surrounded by the immensity of water, and often completely soaked by a change in wind direction bringing huge gusts of spray billowing over us. The park is a warren of trails and paths leading to various view points and out almost right underneath the falls. The rainforest was full of life, from lizards, to brightly coloured birds, the occasional Capybara (world's largest rodent), sometimes large cat footprints, but our favourite was the Toucan, whose massive brightly coloured beak always brought a smile. The Couti finally showed its darkside, raiding bins, intimidating people into leaving their food, usually in proper bandit style by surrounding their victims then all leaping at the food from different directions, sharp claws and teeth, snapping and scratching.
Then onto Ibera, and into Gaucho country. Shrines often appearing at the side of the road covered in red flags like monuments to communism turned out to be for Guacho Gill, a legendary man who is said to have performed a miracle, a man who represented the poor and disenfranchised. The Gaucho, a south american cowboy, he wears bombachas
(loose fitting trousers), carries a Facon (a large knife), all supported by a large belt, usually seen on horseback, appearing proud, resisting corruption. However they seemed a friendly bunch, especially in Ibera, who also supported a large population of the other national symbol, the Hornero (ovenbird) who builds nests out of clay, that look suprisingly like the local clay ovens. The National Park's real strength was however the wildlife; the Caymen, Capybara, deer, otters, Anacondas. And thousands of birds including the Southern Screamer, that sounds a little like a dog being stood on! The most amazing thing is the proximity, a short walk and there they were. Howler Monkeys...howling! Herds of Capybara mooching around, totally disintrested in our passing, or the evil grin of the Caymen. The skies seemed vast, reflected in the surface of the sea-like lake. Even the bus journey to and from the park revealed Rheas (large flightless birds), Plains Vizcachas, with their black mustashes, and burrowing owls.
There are more photos below