After a brief return from Patagonia to Buenos Aires, our 21st Century magic carpet was anxious to keep moving north to see the magnificent Iguazú Falls spanning the borders of Argentina and Brazil. This massive series of falls is second only to Victoria Falls (Zambia, Africa) in size and, as Eleanor Roosevelt was credited with saying when she saw the Iguazú Falls, “Poor Niagara.”
Before starting our two-day excursion to Iguazú Falls, we traveled by four-wheel jeep to Yacutinga Lodge. It is located in a wildlife reserve, deep in the pristine part of the Misiones jungle, almost entirely surrounded by the upper Iguazú River. This was a magical place where nature guided the construction of a beautiful lodge and small guest cabins. Materials collected from the site, such as rocks and fallen trees, were included in the design, strengthening their conservation philosophy.
We hiked, swam in a pool surrounded by tropical flora and fauna, kayaked on the Iguazu River and ”planted” fallen orchids by tying them to trees while learning about the symbiotic relationships in a sub-tropical preserve. A farewell empanada, warm from the oven, was our farewell gift from Yacutinga Lodge, sending us on our way to view the mighty Iguazú Falls.
Our first glimpse of Iguazú Falls was from the Brazil side. Let me tell you that getting a Visa to enter Brazil for only a few hours was nothing short of a marathon (a nod to the upcoming Olympics). It took more than two months, lots of money and the use of an outside processing company. BUT it was worth it as the view was breathtaking. Brazil and Argentina have both done a marvelous job of managing their national parks, which includes the falls, in order to enhance the visitor experience. There are metal catwalks that keep slippage to a minimum, and many well-placed platforms and walks that allow unrestricted views of the falls.
- The Iguazú National Park was established in 1934 and was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984; the Brazilian side was awarded World Heritage Site status in 1987
- There are 275 separate falls, the source being the Iguazú River
- The Iguazú Falls is second only to Victoria Falls in size
- The altitude of the Iguazú Falls ranges from 197-269 feet
- The Union Falls section is the largest cataract at Iguazú Falls
- A Spanish explorer, Álvaro Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, was the first European to view these spectacular falls in 1541
- On November 11, 2011, Iguazú Falls became one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature
A deck constructed over the river provided a perfect overlook to view the magnificent Garganta del Diablo, “the Devil’s Throat,” which is the apex of a huge volume of water rushing over a collection of nearly 300 individual waterfalls, some 1.7 miles wide, and up to 270 feet high. As we watched, the water roared over the edge sending spray in every direction.
It was an amazing experience that permeated our bodies in both sight and sound in a very visceral way. It was hot and humid but a myriad of trees and heavy mist from the falls provided a respite as we traversed the catwalks. We spent several hours walking and taking in the sights at every twist in the path. Butterflies displaying every hue of the rainbow were everywhere and they landed regularly on our glistening shoulders. It was hard to draw ourselves away as the day drew to a close.
We returned to our bus to travel only 30 minutes or so to cross the border back into Argentina and our hotel, Portal del Iguazú. A few of us jumped in the pool before a great dinner. The next day we got up early to beat the bulk of the crowds and access the first tram ride that brought us to the easterly side of Devil’s Throat for a completely different perspective on this UNESCO World Heritage Site. After exiting the tram we had several choices of pathways that led us to various vistas. We saw so many different kinds of birds, monkeys, and even an alligator, lounging in the brush along the river’s edge.
The highlight of the day was a “Mr. Toad’s” wild motorboat ride through several rapids, and then, not just to face a tremendous wall of water, but slipping underneath the roaring San Martin Falls. We were, of course, wearing life jackets but had to remove all items that might be washed away such as glasses, flip flops, hats, cameras, etc. that were all packed away in a dry bag. The boat crew took great pleasure in soaking us to the bone more than few times! The captain held the boat steady right under the falls…WOW. It was the perfect ending to our Iguazú Falls experience.
As our magic carpet continues to transport us around the globe, it’s hard not to realize how much there is to learn, see and do. I can hardly wait to share my Thailand and Cambodia adventure in my next installment!
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. – Saint Augustine