After a fairly good night bus ride from Concordia we met our local guide, Eduardo who is taking us around Iguazu.
We jumped into taxis that took us to be stamped out of Argentina. Our driver was brilliant he was blaring out 80s hits on his stereo and was trying to get us to sing and dance along, he was loving it. It pretty much skipped into the immigration office! We then drove across the bridge over the river that separates Argentina and Brazil. The first half of the bridge is blue and white and the second half is yellow and green, marking the boundary. You can also see the triple border when you look upstream, with Paraguay at the confluence. We were treated to full volume Shania Twain all the way!
Due to a strange law regarding transport we then had to get into one set of mini buses to go to the Brazilian border office and then change to another on the other side of the border… We then headed to the hotel in the town of Foz do Iguazu to dump our stuff and head out for the day.
Visiting Iguazu was actually the reason I started looking into trips to South America in the first place and it has been a huge dream of mine to come here for about ten years now, I almost can’t believe it’s really happening!!!
Although I’m now in Brazil, Brazilian facts will be in the next post about Paraty as half of the falls, and therefore this post, are based in Argentina. It is very weird and slightly unsettling to be dealing with Portuguese language though as I felt pretty comfortable that I could get my point across etc. in Spanish.
Iguazu is a series of cataracts, almost 300 separate waterfalls over a length of 2755m. The highest is 80m, called ‘The devils throat’. The falls are both wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara Falls.
The native story explaining the creation of the falls is that a serpent god intended to marry a girl called Naipi who was very beautiful. She ran away with her lover, a mortal man called Caroba. The god chased after them in a rage and collapsed the river in front of them so that their canoe disappeared over the falls. There Naipi became a rock and Caroba became a tree and they were never able to touch one another.
Scientifically, or rather geologically, they formed as a series of basalt flows, you can see the horizontal flow layers vertically stacked. The basalt flows follow a riverbed and where the flows ended the water flows off the end forming the waterfalls. The falls are approximately 150 million years old.
The source is in Paraguay close to the capital, where the Rio Iguaçu flows from Curitiba. The start is around 300m in altitude. The falls then flow out to the Rio Paraná and then into the Rio de la Plata. It’s actually part of one of the few river systems that flow westwards, with a total length of 1200km.
Discovery was by a Spaniard who was trying to get to Paraguay, Juan Alvar Nunez who named them Saltos de Santa Maria. They have since been renamed in the native tongue, Tupi-Guarani, as Iguazu which translates to mean ‘Big Waters’.
The flow rate of the falls seems to be quite variable. In the dry season it can be 300 cu m per second and I’m the wet season it’s 6500 cu m per second. On average its 2500 cu m per second. There have been extreme events though. In 1976 and 2006 they almost dried up. In 1982-1983 the falls where in flood and flow rates reached a whopping 39000 cu m per second! This actually washed away the previous viewing platforms. The average depth of the water here is only 25m, so fairly shallow compared with the Rio Paraná, which reaches 225m depth at this deepest point and has a flow rate of 13000 cu m per second.
The water used to be clear, but unfortunately now is a deep red-brown and had a very high turbidity. This is due to deforestation, when trees are removed the thin tropical soil us destabilised and wishes away in the next rains into the river system. This can be disastrous for the river ecosystems. As a result of the high turbidity fish species can neither navigate properly to nesting grounds, not finding another for nesting or finding food. Sadly the cleared land is usually only useful fir growing crop stir a short option of time as tropical soils are usually thin and leached of nutritional value. Once it’s runs off I the rainy season it’s no longer of any use and yet more land needs clearing… This is totally unsustainable, but is happening all over the world, largely driven by the western world’s greed for cheap pride cats. The wood itself is also cut down and sold off.
The falls form the triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. 30% in Brazil and 70% in Argentina.
The falls are located in national parks on both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, as of 1939 and 1934 respectively. In 1984-1986 the parks became listed as UNESCO Natural Patrimony of the Humanity areas and the parks now comprise one of the largest forest reservations in South America.
On the first day I visited the falls on the Brazilian side. Unfortunately the weather was very overcast, with grey skies and lots of mizzle (miserable drizzle).
There’s a walkway that takes you past viewpoints of the falls on the Argentinian side and San Martin Island, an island located between the falls.
Group waterfall selfie… First view of the falls!
Impressive despite the mizzle…
This the level of daft idiot excited smile I was pulling for three days! I couldn’t believe I was really there, I still don’t a bit actually!!
The path leads to a boardwalk that extends out past the base of the Brazilian falls to views of the ‘Devils Throat’.
It was really impressive, although the weather was a bit of a shame.
Oh yeh I’m really here! Just a bit excited! Woo!
Yup that’s right it’s Iguazu Robyn…
At the end of the walk you go up to the top of the falls in a glass elevator. But again due to the mizzle the views weren’t great. We got really wet from being close to the waterfalls and it was fun to get up close to them. The water seems pretty ferocious and it was hard to see into the devils throat due to the large amount of mist.
The view out across the top of the Brazilian falls.
That night we had dinner in a local restaurant and I had a great fish stew and the local cocktail, caipirinhas, followed by champagne sangria! Some of the others got stuck into beer towers, which seem to be popular over here, but I have always thought are pretty tacky.
The following day we headed off back across the border into Argentina to check out the falls from that side. The park there is far more developed. The weather was also great, with blue skies and fluffy little clouds.
The flow rate of the falls had more than doubled overnight though due to all the rain they had reviewed over the last few days up-catchment. The rate was around 900 cu m per second on the first day but had gone up to 2500 cu m per second that day. On the first day we had been able to see the beach on San Martin Island, but that day it was completely submerged, that’s a rise in water level of over half a metre overnight!
A mini track takes you from the park entrance over to a walkway that extends out to the devils throat. The devils throat is 1100m and is the widest fall.
I love a good mini train and it was good fun, yes I know I am a super mega geek! Embrace it!
The views from the end of the platform were just mind-blowing, totally utterly insane. Easily the most impressive thing I have ever seen! Due to the higher than usual amount of water the falls were all raging and the amount of spray coming up from the base would totally envelope you. It would come up in plumes, almost like eruptions. I got pretty soaked but it was totally worth it was just totally utterly amazing, to the point that there just aren’t words to adequately describe it.
Getting a light shower…
The mist rising up from the base of the falls looks like it’s erupting.
On the way back along the walkway there was some cool wildlife around too..
Pretty, but also slightly evil looking birds.
This Cayman was happily swimming about just under the walkway… Waiting for lunch to fall in I reckon!
From there the train took us back to walk the upper trail. The trail takes you along the tops of the waterfalls with amazing view is across and around the falls.
Since the sun had come out we had great rainbows.
Bad waterfall selfie posing… Had to be done on both sides 🙂
We stopped for a quick lunch of empanadas before heading off to jump in a 4WD truck to take us down to the river.
The 4WD took us through the forrest. The Forrest here is sub-tropical, but also semi-deciduous as it actually has seasons. The Forrest is home to a really wide range of flora and fauna. There are pumas, tapirs, wild pigs, snakes and monkeys. They have two different types of monkey here, cappuccino monkeys, names for their white face and brown bodies and also Howler monkeys. Howler monkeys don’t like to have other animals around them and throw their own shit to deter other creatures from getting close to them. The local name for howler monkeys is a Caraya, which is used to describe people when they are being grumpy. They have five varieties of coral snake, not all of which are venomous, you have to count the number of black striped to know if it’s venomous or not, including on its belly… I think I’ll be OK taking the avoidance approach. Snakes here also live up in the trees so they can drop down on you, eek! The forest is also home to protected palms. Hare ting palm hearts is illegal here as they are the only source of food during winter time for Tapirs, who are scavengers.
All around the parks you can also see small creatures that look like a cross between a raccoon, a ring tailed lemur and an any eater, they are called Coatis and they will come after you if you have any food on you, including jumping up onto you to get at it! Courtney got taken by surprise by one that stole her tasty treat… Although there are signs everywhere warning you about them.
Watch out he’s coming for you…
We walked down river and jumped into a large speed boat that took us up closer to the waterfalls, it’s completely awe inspiring being close to the base of them, you can really feel the power. The boats then took us closer to them, into the spray so we got showered by the falls. It was pretty fun, but also fairly cold! Due to the high water levels they couldn’t safely get that close, as when flows are lower they will actually take you underneath the falls.
I’m not sure I could have physically worn anymore waterproof clothing!
The walk back takes you along a lower level trail with amazing views of the falls. A large rainbow had come out across the falls and you could see it all the way around, it was stunning.
Panoramic view from the lower trail.
We then walked out of the park and headed home to Brazil.
That night a few of us went for cocktails, mojitos and then to a restaurant called Mega Pizza, which was frankly just mega! Bask lol the waiters just keep coming round with trays and trays full of different pizzas, chicken and chips and keep feeding you! They have over 45 varieties of pizza and even desert pizzas. I managed about four savoury and four sweet before I burst. Michael was definitely the champion pizza eating and ate about 20 slices!!!
I had never tried a desert pizza before, they had chocolate ones, strawberry ones, a piña and cinnamon one and many more… They were actually quite good, although the chocolate ones were just a bit like eating Nutella on thin bread!
They even give you ice cream to take away with you at the end. All for the amazing price of 14 Reales, or $7! Craziness! It was a pretty hilarious night and we all rolled home with overly full tummies that night.
On or final day in town the group split up. Some people went to visit a market just over the border in Paraguay. Apparently you don’t have to cross a formal border to get into Paraguay here, the bus drivers just have to give a list of names to a warden in a town square! It seems a bit dodgy really, especially as people from some of the counties in our group actually need visas to visit Paraguay and there’s no requirement to show your passport or anything. If you got stopped by the police it might be an interesting experience!
I wasn’t that interested in the market as it was mainly an electronics market, so I passed up on that and wandered around the shops at Puerto Iguazu and bought some presents for people.
That afternoon I went out to the local airfield to go on a helicopter tour over the falls. Four of us went so we had a helicopter to ourselves, which was nice.
The days was pretty clear and the views were crazy. There was a small fluffy cloud over the falls and the amount of mist coming up out from the base of the falls made them visible from a fair distance. It alps made it appear as though The falls were erupting, it was pretty cool. It’s fair to say that I absolutely loved it and wanted to go again immediately! Definitely one if the coolest things I’ve done.
View down the a Rio Paraná.
Aerial view of the Argentinian side of the falls.
Definitely my best picture! Looking down over the falls, the combination of cloud and mist makes it look like its erupting. I love the pattern if the flowing water too,
Another aerial view looking over towards to Argentinian side of the falls.
Safely back on solid ground.
Overall this has just been a total dream come true. I have been walking around with the hugest grin on my face for three solid days, like a kid whose birthday and Christmas has all come at once! Although now this dream has come true I’m going to have to start work on the next one…
It’s been a really special few days, although in some ways slightly tinged with sadness as I’m now coming to the end of my trip, it seemed like such a far off goal when I started my trip 11 weeks ago!
That night I caught an overnight bus to São Paolo, which was pretty gross. I only had a two hour stopover in the bus station as I’m by-passing the city and heading on to Paraty, only another six hour bus ride away… That will only be a 24 hour journey, yuck! Hopefully I’ll be getting some warmer weather from now on too, as it’s been fairly arctic recently!