Published: February 18th 2007October 4th 2006
My second weekend off i ventured up to the north-eastern tip of Argentina to visit the Iguazu Falls. They might not technically be the tallest or the most powerful waterfalls in the world (Niagra and Victoria take those honours), but my god they're spectacular. One of my favourite places in Argentina. I'd seen them in photos and stuff, but still the first sight of them in real life completely knocks you for six. The constant roar of the water, and their immense power and size, and surreal jungle-paradise look of them, amazed me everytime I saw them.
I spent my weekend at the falls with Isabel and Amber, friends from the Spanish school in Cordoba, and had a fantastic time. We stayed in a little family hostel in the town of Puerto Iguazu, which the guidebooks delight in describing as 'woodsy'. They were right, its steets were filled with trees, greenery and friendly people. And it was a nice surprise to discover that tho Puerto Iguazu is right next door to one of Argentina's most popular attractions, and it undoubtedly gets a hefty amount of tourist traffic, the place felt like a proper normal, living, working, town, and not overly
If only the same could be said for the national park which houses Argentina's side of the falls...My first impression was of a tacky disneyland style park. There was a little train to ferry people between the various main sites, and it played piped 'sounds of the jungle' style music - completely drowning out the sound of the real birds in the forest it drove through. Bus loads full of foreign tourists rocked up throughout the morning, and whisked everyone round in name-tagged guided groups. I think most people do the falls in just one day, which is a shame. Issy (who arrived 2 days before me) set a park record i think by turning up 4 days in a row- by the fourth day all the attendants knew us!
I'd managed to negotiate 2 extra days off, which was lucky as Iguazu was 2 bus journeys and 15 hours away from the ranch. Friday night we all went into town to celebrate Natalie's last day. My cunning plan was to not stay out too late Friday, so I could spend Saturday day travelling up and arrive in time for dinner and drinks with Issy and Amber. Unfortunately
things didn't go to plan. It was my first night out in 4 weeks, and it ended with Tim walking me back to the hotel at 4.30am (after which Tim went back to the club and continued partying with the others till it shut at 6-proper hard core!). I woke up at 8.30, pannicking cos i'd slept through my alarm and missed my bus. Doh! The next bus was in a couple of hours, and it took me to Corrientes (the capital city of the province) from there I'd assumed it would be easy to get a bus to Iguazu. Sadly no. There were about 6 buses to Iguazu, but all leaving between midnight and 1am. Way to go on the timetabling guys! So I had to kill a whole day waiting around for this bus, hungover, hungry and desperate for some sleep. I went to an internet cafe and luckily James was online for me to talk to (and stayed up for 6 hours talking to me until 4am - thank you!!) When I finally arrived in Iguazu it was dismal and raining, but my first sight of the waterfalls made up for everything.
The falls are formed
by the River Iguazu which comes down from Brazil. Most of the Iguazu plunges over at the Gargantum Diablo (devil's throat) but the rest of the river turns 90 degrees and continues along parallel to the cliff face, pouring over the edge in a wide series of waterfalls. Most of the Cataratas are on the Argentinean side, and we spent most of our time wandering around the Argentinean park, which, despite its tacky entrance, is actually really good, and filled with jungle walks (great for spotting Toucans-if you're lucky!) and hidden waterfalls. It also has a little ferry that takes you over to San Martin Island, which seperates the gargantum diablo from the other falls. From the island you can get really close to the big falls (see the last photo of me and the Salto San Martin), and it's home to a colony of vultures. One of the best bits is a speed boat ride that takes you right up to the base of some of the big falls. The spray was crazy, I couldn't see a thing just solid white all around me, and I was soaked through when I got off. But that was ok cos by
then the sun had finally come out, and we dried off sunbathing on the island's beach. (A word of warning, don't remove your trousers whilst sunbathing unless you're prepared for stares, waves, and thumbs-ups from the ferry guys waiting just offshore!).
On the third day we popped over the Border to Brazil to see what it was like from that side, and renew our visas (one night in a different country gets you another 3months when you come back into Argentina.) And in a word, what it was like on the Brazillian side, was crap. I didn't like the city. Everything was over-priced, the banks were useless and it was impossible to withdraw money, the bus terminal was ridiculously confusing, and after Argentina it all just felt a bit unfriendly and slightly scary. The one highlight was spotting a transvestite hooker on the corner of the highstreet!
The Brazilian park wasn't as good as the Argentinian side, but it gave you a great overview of the whole river and falls. Me and Issy met a group of kids on a school trip, and some of them insisted on having photos taken with us, so we felt like mini-celebrities for
And then all too soon the weekend was over and I had to get on the bus back to the ranch.
There are more photos below