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Published: December 20th 2011
A first glimpse of the falls
On my return from Patagonia I stopped overnight in Buenos Aires for one last taste of Porteño living, (ie. another juicy steak in San Telmo and a beer at Plaza Dorrego with Andrew, an Aussie I'd worked with at Pisco) before heading to the far north eastern corner of the country and Puerto Iguazú. Puerto Iguazú is the departure point for trips to the Iguazú Falls which straddle the Brazilian and Argentine border, a site which is on the verge of being voted one of the Seven New Wonders of the Natural World!
When I saw the Pailon del Diablo waterfall in Ecuador (see blog no.3 from Baños) it was, at that time, the most spectacular waterfall I had seen. I was blown away by its ferocity and the sheer volume of water it spewed out over the rock face. To compare the Pailon del Diablo with the Iguazú Falls, however, would be to compare the Hoover Dam to turning on the tap! On the trail through the dense forest which surrounds the falls on the Argentine side, the first I was aware of the falls was a gentle rumbling, like a never ending goods train trundling past, which gradually
The Brazilian side
got louder and louder until it turned into a thunderous roar. The trees opened up and laid bare the immensity of the Iguazú Falls. As well as spending a full day walking around the waterfalls, I was lucky that my trip coincided with a full moon and so that night I took the 'Full Moon' trek to the Gargantua del Diablo (Devil's Throat). Seeing the falls at night was an increbile experience as, although the natural light of the moon gave sufficient light to appreciate the falls, it was still dark enough that you had to use the rest of your senses to gain a full appreciation of the experience. The crashing of the water and the feel of the spray was even more intense than in broad daylight. There is not really much more I can say to do the falls justice so I'm best just letting the photos do the talking!
After a spectacular two days around Iguazú, I headed north into Brazil for my final four days in South America and Rio de Janeiro!
When I was around 15 years old, a poster hung on my bedroom wall of the Rio de Janeiro skyline taken
from behind the Christ the Redeemer statue. I was enchanted by the cityscape of a bustling metropolis untidily laid out, snaking around the countless hills - carpeted with their dense forests - the many islands scattered around the bay and, of course, the beaches! Now I'm no beach bum and lying on a sun kissed beach for two weeks certainly isn't my idea of a holiday but, for me, Rio is different. Up there with Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Patagonia and all the other dreams and ambitions that had come to fruition during my time in South America, was my dream to play football on the beach in Rio with the iconic Sugar Loaf mountain in the background.
As I took my first steps on the Copacabana beach, I felt the same exhilerating feeling I had felt as I watched the cloud disperse and reveal the wonder of Machu Picchu, as I watched the sun go down over Lake Titicaca. The feeling of finally living, breathing, smelling and tasting places which, until very recently, had just been points on a map or 2D photos on a page.
With only four days to spend in Rio, I had nowhere
near enough time to get to know the whole city but I certainly got a great taste of it. The city has a fantastic vibe centered around its beaches where locals and tourists congregate en masse to relax, surf, play beach volleyball, footvolley or listen to the live music in the local samba bars. On my last night, while walking off my overindulgence at the dinner table, I stumbled across a fantastic little samba bar. The bar itself was little more than a hole in the wall with around 12 middle aged men crowded around the table, with their guitars of all shapes and sizes, strumming to the samba beats. With little room left in the bar, the watching crowd had spilled out onto the pavement and no-one seemed to mind the rain though, as I was to soon discover, the main event hadn't yet started. A small chap swaggered into the bar sporting a trilby hat and the musicians hastily made space for him at their table. To pull off a look like that, I thought, this guy must be good! He removed his hat to reveal a face that was no more than thirteen years old and proceeded
The force of nature!
to light up the bar with his guitar skills and his singing. He had a fantastic presence about him and he had his mum beaming with pride and the rest of the musicians drooling over his talent. I spent a fantastic couple of hours listening to the samba sounds and marvelling at the little lad's talent!
I had my final day in South America nicely mapped out. I would spend the morning atop Corcovado admiring the cityscape that had adorned my bedroom wall for years and then trot down to the beach for the game of football that would be my parting shot in South America. Due to a combination of factors, namely, my lackadaisical planning, general "faffing aboot" and the galling lack of signage for the furnicular railway to one of the most visited tourist sights on planet earth, meant that my morning didn't go quite according to plan! In short, the relaxing morning turned into a mad dash just to make the view at Corcovado at all and ended with me carting my 25kg backpack across the city and sweating off about a stone and a half in weight along the way. As I have said, the
statue of Christ the Redeemer is one of the most visited tourist sites in the world and as such, it was rather congested at the top. As you can imagine, the presence of a mad Scotsman with a 25kg bag the size of a baby elephant strapped to his back I was, in the words of Billy Connolly, "about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit!" The view, however, was spectacular and the moment was a fantastic culmination of my journey around South America. My time on the continent was fast drawing to a close as my flight was due to depart in 5 hours time and I still hadn't had my game of football on the beach!
If I rushed down to Flamengo beach and found myself a ball, I might just have time to salvage the one ambition I had yet to realise on my travels. I arrived on the beach as the light was fading and there were only a few people left playing. I dumped my bags and begged one of the locals to let me join in and by means of an exchange in pidgin English and even worse Portuguese, I convinced him
Approaching The Devil's Throat
to take a photo of me with Sugar Loaf mountain in the background...mission accomplished! At the very death I'd realised my ambition and I skipped off to the airport thoroughly delighted with myself...this time tomorrow I'd be back home to Largs and Ma's mince n' tatties!
Gracias Latinoamérica...quién te quita lo bailado?
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