Big Water (Brazil & Argentina)

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July 7th 2023
Published: July 23rd 2023
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(Day 372 on the road) Iguazu. Big Water. What a fitting name for this fantastical natural wonder.

Like the Atacama Desert in Chile, I had visited Iguazu Falls over 20 years ago. I do have faint memories and thus kind of knew what to expect. Yet it still blew me away. The falls are located on the border of Brazil and Argentina, and - like most visitors - I visited them on both sides of the border. They are both distinctively different, and I liked both sides a lot.

I had entered Brazil on foot from Paraguay across the friendship bridge, and settled into a small private apartment in the town of Foz do Iguazu, about an hour drive north of the actual waterfalls. Leaving Spanish speaking countries behind after a year now felt strange, and it was somewhat challenging to communicate in Brazil. My Spanish is bad enough as it is, but my Portuguese is non-existent. Luckily, in the border region to Paraguay and Argentina, many people spoke Spanish, and some even spoke English. And I have to admit that for the month I was going to spend in Brazil, I didn't make a big effort to pick up Portuguese. I simply spoke my limited Spanish (and sometimes English), and mostly it worked rather well.

About the actual Iguazu falls, writing about them is tough - and I am not Hemingway. It is one of those places which you simply have to experience for yourself if you get the chance in life. You can read travel magazines, get the facts off Wikipedia, and look at pictures, but nothing prepares you for the sheer power of the water. Both the Brazilian and the Argentinians have done an excellent job in making sure you get really close to the falls. On the Brazilian side, you get right to the bottom of a place they call the Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish), the biggest concentration of waterfalls at Iguazu. And on the Argentinian side they have built a long walkway across the river(s) right to the top of it. If you wanted to, you could simply climb the fence, jump right into the very heart of the massive falls, and be done with it all. Both places are simply spectacular.

On the Brazilian side of the falls, I had a very special encounter: About 10 months ago, at Ciudad Perdida in the Columbia jungle, I had spotted a butterfly with the number 89 on its small wings. And now, at Iguazu, I stumbled across its smaller cousin, the number 88. I managed to get a few great shots, and somehow it completely made my day. The massive falls, the special No 88 butterfly, the cute South African coatis - I was walking around with simply the biggest smile the whole day.

In fact, the true star of the park however seemed to be these (yet apparently very aggressive) South American coatis. They especially loved the areas around the cafeterias in the National Park, and over the years they must have lost all fear of humans; they were roaming around freely. The funniest of these encounters was when about eight of them walked towards me on a bridge across one of the big rivers, completely unfazed by all the people walking around them.

After two days at the waterfalls on both sides of the border, I also spent a day touring the Itaipu dam, once the biggest dam in the world (now number 2). Pretty impressive. Yet another highlight for me was somewhat unexpected: A fantastic bird park I visited on my way to the airport (for my flight to Rio de Janeiro), the Parque das Aves. Another traveller I had met many months ago had recommended the park to me (in Peru or Bolivia, I can't remember), so I went. And I was really happy I did. Different from your average zoo were the birds are in their separate space, here most birds were in huge, walk-through enclosures, and you could get fairly close to them. The only other time I have ever seen something like this was many years in Malaysia. I was very happy I had my good (zoom) camera, and managed to take some stunning pictures.

Unfortunately, I only had one hour, as my flight to Rio was leaving soon, so it was very rushed. I could have easily spent three hours in this beautiful place. Ah well - if there is one thing I have learned on this trip: You simply cannot have it all. I was very happy to have seen it.

My route in Brazil (so far): Iguazu.

Next stop: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).

To view my photos, have a look at


23rd July 2023

Enjoying the Ride With You
Great stuff. A pleasant read while traveling myself.. I am currently in Bozcaada Turkey. I noted in your previous journey that you had been to Mongolia. Would you go back? I have never been but I think it just rose to the top of my bucket list. Happy travels. Kolay Gelsin. Mike Richards
28th July 2023

That coatis is cool!
We've seen a lot of nice waterfalls in our travels but have not made it to this one. Lovely. The bird park sounds fantastic.

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