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Published: October 30th 2009
Rainbow over Iguazu
with Isla San Martin in the background
Though not quite the end of our trip yet, there was one last place on our must-see list before leaving this incredible country. However, getting there would involve another long distance journey on another bus (this one would take 17 hours). So, with the scars of our recent experience getting to El Calafate still fresh in our minds (see blog entry The Journey from Hell to the Magical Land of the Glaciers
), we decided to make it as painless as possible by treating ourselves to a pair of Cama Suite bus tickets.
The bus left Buenos Aires shortly after 7pm on Monday evening and as we rolled north, we enjoyed all the comforts of 1st class bus travel. Our seats were fully reclining (to 180 degrees), we had our own personal DVD screen and we enjoyed canapes before dinner, wine with dinner and champagne after dinner. This was definitely the way to go! And all for the princely sum of about 35 euro....
The following morning, we awoke to see that the landscape had changed remarkably from what we had experienced so far. Instead of the usual barren desert plains outside our bus window, we passed lush greenery, tall trees and red iron-rich soil. We had reached the subtropical
province of Misiones in the far northeast corner of Argentina. Around lunchtime, the bus pulled up to the platform in Puerto Iguazu.
Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
As we jumped off the bus, a blast of heat hit us. It was a gloriously sunny day in Puerto Iguazu and the temperature was around 29C. After checking into our hostel across the road, we quickly shed our winter clothes, put on some T-shirts and shorts and headed out into the sunshine to enjoy a few beers. It was strange to put on sun screen and insect repellant for the first time since we left Australia over 3.5 months earlier! But we were delighted to have an opportunity to enjoy some heat and sunshine before our trip came to an end and we had to return to rainy Dublin!
Situated on the border with both Brazil and Paraguay, Puerto Iguazu is surrounded by rivers and jungle and is only 17km away from the spectacular Iguazu Falls. Regarded as one of the highlights of South America, Iguazu Falls lies within UNESCO world heritage national park and consists of a system of over 275 distinct waterfalls spanning more than a mile and a half
The platform comes within touching distance of this huge wall of water
(2.5km) of river. In the language of the indigenous Guarani people, their name means "Big Water" (an apt description given that Iguazu has the highest annual flow of any waterfall in the world).
We decided to visit the Argentinean side of the Falls first, so we got up bright and early the following morning in the hopes of arriving there before the rest of the masses. As we approached the entrance to the national park, we came upon a protest blocking the roadway. Initially, this threatened to have disastrous consequences - so far in our travels through Argentina we had been lucky that we hadn't been adversely affected by any protests, but we had heard tales from others of being held up for several hours while protests blocked the roads. Thankfully though, the national park workers who were protesting at Iguazu allowed all vehicles to pass once they had conveyed their message to a local news crew about an hour later. We found out from fliers they distributed that they had wanted to highlight the exploitation involved in "black market labour" where employees earn low wages, work long hours and have no rights or benefits as they are paid
A bird commonly seen at Iguazu Falls
under the table (apparently this is quite a big problem in Argentina), so most of our group were supportive and quite happy to wait out the protest.
Parque Nacional Iguazú
Once inside the park, we made our way to the Lower Trail and followed the walkways down steps past some small waterfalls before rounding a bend to see the most amazing sight! A huge curtain of water was stretched out before us and through the rising mist, rainbows formed arcs against the backdrop of San Martin island. Between the palm trees, the brilliant blue sky and the crashing white water, it really was the most beautiful natural scenery. When the the sun is out, this must be the closest place on earth to the mythical Garden of Eden.
A little further down the trail, we reached Bossetti waterfall where the platform stretches out to within touching distance of a huge wall of water and in the trees above, we managed to spot some chestnut-eared araçarí toucans with their colourful beaks. As we continued along the trail, we crossed a bridge in front of Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters) waterfalls and as we stopped to take a photo, we noticed
a strange-looking animal on the walkway ahead of us. Suddenly, about 15 of them came creeping out of the bushes at the side of the trail completely blocking the path. There was no escaping them, so we decided to hold our ground, stay still and show no fear! Thankfully, they all just went about their business and completely ignored us. It turns out they were coatis, a type of raccoon commonly seen in South America, though apparently they can become quite aggressive if fed by tourists.
After leaving the Lower Trail, we took the eco-train to the start point of the trail to the Devil's Throat, the biggest single waterfall at Iguazu. As the train chugged through the jungle, we could hear monkeys in the trees alongside us, though unfortunately we didn't manage to spot any. The trail to the Devil's Throat stretches for over 1km along walkways over the Rio Iguazu and we were amazed by how calm the river's waters are right up until the point where the earth suddenly collapses and the water plummets into a steep canyon below. From the platform directly overlooking "the throat", you can watch the water pouring into it from three
sides, almost in slow motion, before it stretches and then breaks into millions of drops as it falls down into the gorge. The impact creates such a huge amount of spray that it's impossible to see the bottom, but the deafening roar is indicative of the turmoil that must be taking place. Standing there amidst the thunder and the spray witnessing the unbelievable power of this force of nature was an incredible experience.
To cap off our trip to the Falls, we decided to take a jet boat ride into them! So, we donned our life jackets and waterproof ponchos and in the space of around 12 minutes, we were taken into the spray of the 2 biggest waterfalls. The water poured down on us so hard that we couldn't breathe and needless to say, we both got absolutely drenched. It was great fun and a thrilling way to experience the power of these magnificent falls!
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