The Big Water: the Iguazu Falls

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June 30th 2015
Published: June 30th 2015
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Upon seeing the Iguazu Falls for the first time, Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed “Poor Niagara”! Iguazu is wider than the Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara. Yet when we were children, we learnt all about Niagara and Victoria in school, but we had never heard of Iguazu, which, incredibly, only became a World Heritage Site in the 1980s. When one reads things like this quote, from a former US First Lady, one becomes afraid of disappointment, as we were a bit disappointed with Machu Picchu after all the hype. “Poor Niagara”? Surely not! We visited Niagara many years ago, in 1981, and it has remained to this day, the most outstanding natural world wonder that we have ever seen. Going on the little “Maid of the Mist” boat to the foot of Niagara is an unforgettable experience. Never been beaten; until now! We have to say that dear Eleanor was right. As magnificent as Niagara indeed is, it doesn´t compare to the glory of Iguazu. This is surely THE Wonder of the World! This isn´t just Mother Nature wearing her best frock. This is her in her ball gown!

In 1542, a Spanish pioneer traveller, making his way through the jungle from the Atlantic coast to Asunción in Paraguay, one Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, discovered the falls, naming them the Holy Mary Waterfalls, Las Cataratas de Santa Maria. The Guarani Indians (who of course already knew they were there) called them Yguasu, “y” meaning “water” and “guasu” meaning “big”. Big Water. Good name for them, because they are certainly big! The Guarani community still live by the falls today, on the Argentinian side, where we shall be going tomorrow. They make and sell handicrafts there and purchases benefit poorer members of the community, by a sort of cooperative system, so we shall probably buy some souvenirs when we get there.

The basaltic rock canyon where the waters of the Rio Iguazu fall, formed over a period of millions of years, divides the Upper Iguazu from the Lower Iguazu, which, twenty kilometres further on, joins the Rio Paraná (which we stayed beside back in February, in Uruguay). Where the two rivers meet, is the point where three countries meet, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Before reaching the falls, these waters of the Iguazu have travelled
1,320 kilometres from the Serra do Mar, Curitiba. We only travelled 650 kilometres from Curitiba, but our bus didn´t meander about quite as much as the Iguazu does!

The Iguazu Falls, which form the boundary between Brazil and Argentina, comprise 275 distinct waterfalls, the largest being the “Devil´s Throat” which falls 85 metres down to a long narrow u-shaped chasm, 150 metres wide and 700 metres long. Awesome! The falls are spread along a 2.7 kilometre ridge through pristine rainforest, so throughout the trails and walkways on both sides, one enjoys tumbling water and lush vegetation. It is majestic, humbling and spiritual. A tonic to the soul. After the initial “Wow!” and “Oh My God!” exclamations, in different languages, mostly Spanish and Portuguese, many people just stand in awed silence and simply absorb it all. At one point, one is surrounded on 260 degrees by waterfalls, on a narrow walkway that extends out to the edge of several of them, affording views up to three big ones, the Devil´s Throat and two other tumbling water giants. We shot some great video, so that when we get back home we can re-live the noise and power of the
falls. Most of the photos in this blog, however, are of falls each side of the Devil’s Throat, which we could only shoot from a distance. When we get to the Argentinian side of it, we shall get more close up shots.

We found it very hard to come away, but after six hours of walking, standing, experiencing all of this splendour, we dragged ourselves back to the park bus to take us back to the entrance of the National Park. So, we have done the Brazilian side! We still have all of the Argentinian side to hike and we also plan to take a boat ride on the lower river as well.

Yesterday we were so lucky with the weather, with plenty of sunshine, so that our photos show some of the many rainbows seen at the falls. Today it is raining and set in for the day. Tomorrow, we check out and go to Argentina for about a week, returning here towards the end of next week, for our flights back to Spain via Rio on 11th July.

Eighty percent of the falls are on the Argentinian side, so
there are lots of rainforest trails to enjoy. We may once again see monkeys and birdlife, but although they are here, we don´t expect to see any pumas or jaguars! We saw lots of “Quatis” yesterday at the falls and thousands of brightly coloured butterflies. The Quatis are another species of the possum family, with striped tails. They are omnivores, raid litter bins and try to steal people´s packed lunches!

Yesterday´s visit to the falls was a special day to remember and being here in Iguazu is such a wonderful finale to our Brazilian adventure! We still have many places on earth on our “bucket list”. In 2017 we are going to visit the Caribbean again, with our sons and daughters-in-law, as well as taking our caravan and Mutley our dog, to the Italian Lakes, and hopefully in the future we shall get to Canada, China and go on an African Safari. Who knows? However, if for whatever reason we do not get to do these trips, then at least we shall always be able to smile and quietly say to ourselves “…but we have been to Iguazu. We have seen The Big Water!”

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