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Published: April 14th 2006
Our trip to the Falls began on the Paraguayan side of the border. After breakfast at the hotel (Austria, there are a number of German owned/themed hotels in Paraguay), a breakfast somewhat smaller than the “needs to be seen to be believed” promises of the guidebook, we went to exchange some American dollars for the Brazilian Reals we would need on the other side of the border. Having crossed the bridge the previous evening we were aware that the Falls were not close by in Foz do Iguaçu, so we decided to take a cab.
The cab driver spoke Spanish with a Portuguese accent (Portuguese being the language of Brazil), but the languages are not that different, so Paul and Rosa were pretty certain of the price he quoted, Seis (6) Reals. If you’re thinking this price is too good to be true, at the exchange rate of 2.2 Reals per Dollar (under $3.00), it was. Even as a per person charge, that was a great deal, or so we thought.
It was about 17 kilometers from the bridge to the falls, a nice ride through the Brazilian countryside. At the visitor center where you pay admission you are
supposed to board a bus for the falls, but our ever helpful taxi driver said he could take us down the road after we got our tickets. The girl behind the counter charged us for the bus ride, and claimed she couldn’t remove the charge once it was made, so we paid for that and then skipped the bus to take our cab.
The Falls of Iguassu (Iguassu, a word spelled any number of ways, is a Guaraní word meaning Great Waters) is a series of over 200 waterfalls, covering an area over two and a half kilometers wide on the border of Brazil and Argentina. There are few words to do them justice, and even the photographs provide only a glimpse of what it was like to see them. Our first view of some of the lesser falls was spectacular enough, but when we reached the walkway that extends over toward the largest of the falls, the Gargantua del Diablo (Throat of the Devil), we were truly overwhelmed. Of course the crowds were crushing and the constant spray of water was getting my digital camera wetter than I would have liked, but the experience of the falls was
Our cab driver, still with us and masquerading as the friendliest most helpful cab driver in South America, suggested we take one of boat tours that ran up under the falls. Although the tour was $70.00 American (about 3 weeks salary for Rosa) we figured that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity (especially since I was not likely to get down to this part of South America again). Our driver said he would wait, and the total price he quoted for the whole cab ride was 30 Reals at this point, still a great deal.
The tour started on a vehicle very similar to the trackless trains Paul and I used to drive when we worked together at the Norfolk Botanical Garden (NBG). We received a brief tour through the sub-tropical forest of southern Brazil (not to be confused with the tropical rainforests that cover the Amazon region) that ended with a 600 meter hike through more forest to the boats. The large inflatable rafts held about 25, but moved much faster than the steel tour barges we used at the NBG.
We were given plastic bags to put our valuables in, including my
digital camera, but I had opportunities as the tour progressed to take it out for pictures. The guides told us when to put our cameras away for the rough parts of the rapids beneath the falls and our actual ride under some of the falls. I got some water in my eyes under the falls, so I didn’t see much on the last half of the tour, but it was still a spectacular ride.
But we weren’t done with our day in Brazil just yet, and certainly not done with our ever helpful cab driver.
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