The Wonder of Iguazú

In February, we visited what is arguably one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders – Iguazú Falls. Our visit marked the perfect end to an amazing journey in South America, filled with wonderful memories and some of the most mind-blowing experiences one could ever hope for. Perhaps the absolute awe of this occasion led us to hibernate in the blog-writing sphere for some time, allowing us to digest all that we have seen, experienced and achieved on this journey. So without further ado, here is our long-awaited last blog for the South American Diaries.
Iguazú Falls is located in the Parque Nacional Iguazú, created in 1934 to help conserve and protect the falls, its natural environment and biodiversity. The park and its 67, 620 hectares was declared a UNESCO Natural Heritage of Humanity site in 1984. It is such a wonder of nature, that early this year (2012), Argentina’s Cataras de Iguazú was named as one of the New7Wonders of the World.

We, like most visitors on the Argentinean side, stayed in Puerto Iguazú, 18 kilometres away from the falls, as our gateway to the falls. Puerto Iguazú has a population of just over 82,000 habitants, most involved in some way or another in tourism. The city’s infrastructure and economy revolves around tourism.

Puerto Iguazú is also home to one other little known tourist attraction – the Casa Ecologica de Botellas (Ecological Bottle House) . The house, made entirely of recycled waste, is the project of one local family that decided to recycle their solid waste instead of taking it to landfill. The project aims to address the four interrelated aspects of the human/environment relationship that most impact this area – ecological, social, cultural and tourism. Incorporating materials made from solid urban waste including glass, plastics, aluminium, tetra packs and PET containers.

We had spent two days in Puerto Iguazú before the big day – our trip to the falls. Leaving the hotel at 6.30am, we thought we would be among the first to see the falls for the day. Turns out everyone has the same idea. The very full bus from the central bus station took us to the gate of the National Park, where we lined up, paid the 100 pesos entry fee and made our way along the sendero to the lower circuit. If you’re feeling particularly lazy, or just hot and bothered, you can take the train to the start of the circuit. If you decide to foot it, watch out for the coatis, roaming the trail, especially if you brought along a picnic lunch.

It truly is a mesmerising place. The sound of water crashing sets the stage for condors, colourful butterflies, rainbows, ocelots, monkeys and exotic-looking birds of many species to name a few.

The falls is where the Iguazú River comes to a crashing end at the Parana plateau. There are a number of islands along the river, which divide the falls into various separate and smaller waterfalls (275, to be exact). Some of them, in our opinion where as beautiful, if not as gigantic as the ‘big one’, the Garganta del Diablo.

The Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat) is the poster boy of waterfalls for the Iguazú complex, and the one most visitors come to see and stand in awe of. People say that, such is the force of the 82-meter-high, 150-meter-wide, and 700-meter-long hulk, that the ions literally send people a little loopy. Most people approaching the falls can be seen giggling like school girls.

Devils aside, there is something inherently beautiful and awe-inspiring about the entire complex that would soften even the hardest of hearts. We just happened to be there on Valentine’s Day, and what a Valentine’s it was to remember! One of the falls, Salto San Martín, is shadowed by a perpetual rainbow, perfectly etched into the foreground. Needless to say it’s the perfect spot for a marriage proposal, which is what we had seemingly interrupted during our visit.

Salto San Martín is visible from Isla San Martín, accessible by a 30 second boat ride, included in the ticket, on the lower circuit. After the island we made our way around the upper circuit, which gives perfect views of the Garganta del Diablo, as well as the Brazilian side.

After all that walking, we made our way back down to the start of the lower circuit, where curiously, but perhaps intelligently, a nurse with a blood-pressure-taking station awaited the arrival of excited but tired visitors. The excitement of the place must have raised ours a little, so we decided it was a good time for a lunch break.

This natural wonder has had a turbulent history. When Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was drawn by the sound of crashing water in 1542, I’m sure he had no idea what awaited him. Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to discover what is now called Iguazu Falls. In fact, Iguazú comes from the Guarani word meaning ‘water’.

The Guarani People believed that god created the falls by slicing the river in rage after a woman called Naipí, whom he had planned to marry, fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe down the river. He thereby condemned them to an eternal fall.

Although Europeans didn’t set sight on the falls until the 16th century, the Guarani (Indigenous People) of the territory covering Misiones occupied the area right up until 1880. In 1881, Corrientes Province sold the land, which has changed hands many times, until it was finally owned by Martín Errecaborde and Company.

The humid sub-tropical climate takes its toll on energy levels by the end of the day. A dip in a natural spring was just what we needed. In what might be considered a controversial decision for any die-hard sight-seer, we decided to skip the train ride up to the complex’ most photographed falls – Garganta del Diablo – in lieu of an hour and a half hour (7km) walk along the Sendero Macuco, through the virgin forest of the Parana jungle, habited by pumas and other perilous wild animals, to the picturesque Arrechea Waterfall.

The gates to the trail near the central train station in Iguazú Park close at 3pm, so although we arrived at the falls complex bright and early, strolling along the two main circuits with enough time to take in the breath-taking sights of the various falls, we still did not have enough time to see everything. Fortunately for those that wish, the entry ticket to the falls is valid for two days because you need it. But for us, time was ticking on the end of our trip, so it was one or the other. For us, it was a good choice.

We may not have seen a puma, or stood in giggling awe of the ‘big one’, but we got to take in the natural beauty of Iguazú in all its glory, as well as a dip at the end of the day. What better way to end Valentine’s Day? Cupid was happy. And, with that, the following day we jumped on our last bus ride, back down to Buenos Aires, for the final leg of the trip and our third season in ‘Mi Buenos Aires Querido’, before heading back to the land Down Under.

Gracias amigos y hasta pronto!


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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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