My travel plans typically have long, complex backstories. Sometimes the destination makes the plan, and other times, the planning brings about the destination. As was the case of the Argentina visa for a trip to the Cataratas del Iguazú. I spent many hours with their online system and the helpful helpless officer. Right when I decided to give up, the visa snuck into my mailbox. Then it was Souvik’s turn, and when his arrived, we found a tiny window to be able to travel together. The only downside was that we had no time to get a Brazilian visa to hop over for half a day to the other side.
While we were holidaying in Iguazú, back home in India, a number of our family and friends were caught amid torrential rains and floods for over a month. I didn’t want to add to their distress by posting pictures of gushing water. The situation is better now, and I’ve shrugged off my inertia.
The largest waterfall system in the world, the Iguazú Falls is also the natural international border between Argentina and Brazil. Aerial photos of the cataratas look like a crack in the earth and the water gushing in.
We arrived in the town of Puerto Iguazú and took the slow shuttle to our hotel, past all the others in that town which had only the one reason for its existence. Ours was called American Portal del Iguazu, located at the point of the three frontiers. What a thrill to stand in a spot in Argentina, and look out at Brazil and Paraguay!
By the time we settled in, showered, and got ready to step out, the hotel advised us that it was a little late in the afternoon, and that the train service within the national park would stop soon, so there was no point in going until the next day. My philosophy is, why mope at the hotel when you can do it on site, and who knows what might happen! So we made our way to the ticket counter, where they said we had enough time for one circuit.
The Iguazu Falls are part of a large national park shared between Brazil and Argentina. There are different tours and activities on each side (website: https://iguazufalls.com). The Argentinian side of the Cataratas have a number of different self-guided walking trails that take you through the forest to arrive at the falls. The train, while it is a fun feature of the park and free, as we learned the following day, is not necessary. It is possible to walk all the way, possibly faster than the train ride (with all the waiting at the station).
It started to drizzle as we began our Upper Circuit walk, and the place was mostly empty of people. Along the track, we saw these weird rat-like animals, and remembered the signs we’d seen on the road wondering what they could be. “Coati” I blurted like a crossword solution that clicked in my brain! One coati is strange, two of them are cute, but when an entire family of ratty coatis stops to sniff your bag, it gets a little scary.
The track is well designed, through trees at first, with some glimpses of gentle water. Then you hear the roar of the cascades, minutes before you catch the first sight of the falls.
It is tempting to stop there for more than a few minutes but there are grander sights just up ahead.
As you walk further, you find yourself above the water, over the stream right before it hurtles down, generating great clouds of mist and spray. The scene is hypnotic.
All the falls have names; some of the big ones are Dos Hermanas and Adam & Eve. We probably lingered a shade too long, and had to trot back after the final vista point at the Salto San Martin – the 2nd largest waterfall of all. The return journey is quieter, with no
attractions distractions, enabling us to get back to base pronto. We were among the last to leave, but did remember to validate our tickets for a 50% discounted entry fee for the next day. We got on the shuttle bus that dropped us in the centre of town, and had a leisurely dinner with a delicious Malbec at Aqva.
I wanted to be back early the next morning, but remembered that Souvik was trying to have a vacay, so he got to sleep in. We made it to the park gates by 9 am, and found busloads of people at the ticket lines. Early would have been such a good policy! Thought we’d start with the greatest attraction – Garganta del Diablo – the Devil’s Throat. We walked to the train station, and by the time we got to the 2nd stop, we realised that walking would have been better, what with changing trains, queues and all those crowds.
For some reason, the materos (special coca tea cups with steel straws) drew our attention, because they were cutesy cups accompanied by hot water thermoses in the arms of every self-respecting Argentinian man! We giggled over a matero-sporting-spotting game for the entire weekend to amuse ourselves.
I’m saving the Garganta del Diablo photos for the end, so fast-forward to our second walk. We followed the track on the Lower Circuit, looking at the falls from a different point of view.
The highlight of the Lower Circuit was the Salto Bossetti, where you can catch the full effect of the spray.
The sight of the cascades was as hypnotic as before. It is a thrill to watch the water gush down endlessly. I wouldn’t have moved forward if there weren’t hordes of people wanting our spot.
To get to the Devil’s Throat, we had to walk about a kilometre through the trail, stopping to admire some of the local fauna – lots of coatis and some friendly jays. Though the park rangers did their best to dissuade people, there are always too many idiots who insist on feeding the wild creatures. The birds are gorgeous. And brave. Their activity of choice (or necessity) is flying straight into the waterfall.
And the Garganta? What a spectacle. You have to shout to be heard over the roar, and not be foolish with the selfie-taking, lest that precious phone gets swallowed up by the Devil!
If you’re wondering why it all looks monotonous, it’s because the sun stayed away, dashing my hopes of rainbow spotting over the spray.
We spotted toucans on our way out. Like a little bonus at the end of our adventure. And what an oxygenating, rejuvenating weekend it was!