For the entire time we’ve been traveling South America, I’ve been looking forward to seeing Iguazu falls. My dad told me about it, and I was surprised to have never heard of it, as I spent my early years being obsessed with waterfalls. It all began, I suppose, when my parents took me to see Niagara at the Imax when I was little, no more than six, I would guess. From then on, the power of waterfalls, and the thrills and dangers of going over them, was a major theme of my play. I took great interest in waterfalls, learning about which was the tallest (Angel Falls, Venezuela at 3212 ft.) and the biggest (Victoria Falls, Africa, at 354 ft. tall and over a mile wide) and where the other impressive waterfalls were. I loved the waterfalls of Yellowstone, particularly the Lower Falls, and the many waterfalls we visited in Stehekin, Washington. Cumberland Falls, in Kentucky, was another favorite of my childhood, which I visited several times, and I also really loved seeing the Rhine Falls in Germany and Trummelbach Falls, in Switzerland.
So to find out that there exists a waterfall to rival them all was quite exciting. It is good that visiting this amazing spectacle of nature fell towards the end of our time in South America, making for an epic climax to our journey.
But the climax would have to wait until after a series of hassles, as is often the case, we’re finding. We left Salto early in the morning, crossing the river to Concordia, Argentina. One there we had to get tickets for an overnight bus, but the only one we could find tickets for wasn’t until nine o’clock. We had been hoping for a seven o’clock. Since it was just past noon, this left us with many hours to wait.
The first two of them were spent at the bus station, first trying to find and purchase tickets, and then (the bulk of the time) trying to get our luggage safely stored. We were told there was only one ticket office that stored bags, but there was nobody there. I waited for half an hour, only to be told that someone would be along soon. Another half hour passed, and I was told five more minutes. After fifteen, a different guy came by and said someone was on the phone, and was coming as soon as she was off, like right now. Another five or ten minutes later, a lady finally appeared to take our bags.
Good grief. With our load lightened, we set out into Concordia to find some food. We still had several hours to burn, so we didn’t rush. We walked about town, and found a decent restaurant, but of course, they were closed until eight.
So instead we went to a verduria (vegetable stand) and a bakery to get some basics for sandwiches, which we ate in the park. I had to walk another mile or two to find ripe avocados, but for me, this was an essential ingredient. It gave me a chance to get further into downtown and take some more pictures, at least.
The park was nice and the weather cool. We climbed a big tree and waited for the sun to start sinking. We then walked back to the bus station to catch our nine o’clock bus. Only it didn’t come at nine. They said it was forty five minutes late. An hour later, they said it would be ten more minutes. More of this. When it finally came, we got aboard and waited for it to leave. Another twenty minutes, at least. It was after eleven when we finally got moving.
Thus, our arrival in Puerto Iguazu the next day was much later than we anticipated. We rented another Airbnb house, and I had told the host that we wanted to check in early, expecting to arrive around nine. It was closer to one when we pulled in, and we took a cab out to the house.
I could write at length about the problems we encountered as we settled into this house, but instead I'll just upload the video I shot after we reached our limit. Suffice it to say, the place was not going to work, so other plans had to be made.
After researching the policy with our current place on Airbnb, I discovered that cancelling outright and going somewhere that night would mean losing all but fifty dollars of what we paid for three nights, whereas leaving early (as in, the next morning) would get me a refund for the nights I didn’t stay. So we stuck it out for one night. The last hour that we were awake we spent hunting mosquitoes in the girls’ room. Eva discovered that one of the windows behind the bunk bed was missing a pane, making it easy for the mosquitoes to get in. So we patched that up with a map and some tape and killed as many of the mosquitoes as we could catch.
I felt bad when I had to break the news to our host. She was clearly disappointed, and I shamefully ducked away as quick as possible after telling her, not wanting to have to explain too much, other than the fact that my wife was unsatisfied and wanted another place.
The next morning we packed it up quick and got a cab, having already booked another place, closer to the center of town. The new host was a very nice guy who welcomed us and showed us in. His apartment was in much better shape, and we were glad to be closer to town. We didn’t plan to go out to the waterfalls until the next day, which was Monday, figuring the crowds would be less than on the weekend, so that gave us a full day to explore Puerto Iguazu. Our host told us about a place to get down to the river, nearby, and I went to go check it out. He said it was less than a kilometer away, but I wasn’t sure how suitable of a spot it would be for the whole family, so I went alone to scout.
I walked to the end of the road and followed the trail he told me about, finding it steep and rocky. It was a long ways down too, with the town being some two hundred feet up off the river, I would guess. I crossed a small creek and came to a beautiful waterfall, which looked so lovely on such a hot day that I had to get in. I didn’t want to get my clothes wet, so I went naked, hoping no one else came along. This was kind of pointless because I put my boxers back on to walk the rest of the way down the creek to the big river below, getting them wet anyway. Then, when I got to the river, I jumped in for a swim, even though the water was brown and not nearly as cool as the creek had been. It was a refreshing dip, but I didn’t think it was a good place to bring the family. At my full speed walk, it had taken me about twenty minutes to reach the spot, which would mean closer to an hour for the full crew, and the worst part of it would be getting back up to the road, on the steep rocky trail. The creek had nice clean water, but it was too shallow and rocky to swim or even sit in really, and the waterfall spot was mostly sharp, wet, slippery rocks in a steep ravine.
Carrying my wet underwear and shirt, I started for home, wishing I could jump in the waterfall one last time by the time I got back to the road. Puerto Iguazu was hot and very humid. It made me glad to return to air conditioning.
We all went for a walk into town later that day, but there was not much going on. Everything but a few tourist shops was closed. It started raining on us suddenly, and we had to duck into a restaurant and buy pancakes to wait out the rain. The highlight of the day for the girls, I’m sure. I love walking around cities and towns, checking things out, but even I wasn’t too thrilled about our explorations of Puerto Iguazu. Simply not much to see.
We ate dinner at our house that night, and I tried to get everyone to go to bed early. We would leave for the falls early in the morning, hoping to walk out to the big viewpoint, which was fully exposed to the sun, before it got too hot.
We took a cab out to the falls, which cost only two dollars more than the bus would have cost us. This was good, because it got us there right when the park opened, and we got to get on the very first train out to the falls. There are so many waterfalls at Iguazu that there are two train stops to get you to the different sections. Our first stop was the end of the line, Garganta del Diablo. The Devil’s Throat. Lila loved riding on the train, and when we got off and started walking, she refused to go on my back. She really wanted to walk, which is great, though it slowed us down considerably.
We walked on a footbridge that goes out a kilometer over the river, above the falls, the mist soon appearing in the distance. As we got closer, we could hear the roar, which got louder. As soon as I could see the very beginning of the falls on the horizon, I felt a chill. The river just dropped, as if into a huge rapid, and it promised to be an amazing sight. There was so much water!
As we approached and the falls came into better view, my expectations were fully met and exceeded. I got a bit giddy, getting that close to such a powerful force of nature, and I practically ran the last bit to get over to the brink.
The mist from the falls was like rain, and I had to hide my camera under my hat. There was quite a crowd, so sometimes we had to wait a bit to get right up the railing, but every single spot had a spectacular view. All of the sudden, the wide, slow, and peaceful river goes plummeting over a huge cliff in a violent spray of churning white water and cloudy mist. The mist is so heavy that you can’t even see the bottom of the falls… it’s like the water disappears into a white abyss.
Unlike Niagara, this is not just a clean drop. There are numerous falls, even just at this one spot. (There are even more further to one side of the river, which we would visit later.) At the most powerful point, the dropoff makes a semi-circle, close to 270 degrees, with water pouring in from all sides. I can’t describe it well enough, and even all the pictures I took don’t do it justice. It was an amazing feeling to stand so close to this roaring force of nature, and none of us wanted to leave. We stayed for some time, and the girls too were transfixed. We all got soaked, but we didn’t care.
Eventually we decided to move on, going back to the train to visit the second stop. From there we had access to the two main trails, which would provide us views of over ten other major waterfalls. It was a lot of walking, but the sight of such huge and beautiful waterfalls inspires even the most cantankerous of souls, I guess. The girls all did well up until lunch, which we ate after hiking the upper trails, which took us over the brinks of most of the major falls.
The lower trail, I believe, held the more stunning views, though we were usually further away. In some cases we were able to get right up next to the falls where they plunged into the river, and there were several panoramic views with waterfalls lining the cliffs beyond like curtains.
We were disappointed to learn that the ferry to an island with close up views right across from one of the major falls was not running that day. The girls had very much been looking forward to the boat trip, even though it was only a two minute ride across to the island. There were boat tours that take up right into the mist of the falls, but these excursions are not included in the admission, and they don’t take anyone under twelve. This was unwelcome news for Eva, who, for some reason, blamed me for the fat that we couldn’t go on the boat. I explained to her that it wasn’t up to me, but she wouldn’t have it. I was the bad guy, who ruined the whole vacation, and pretty much her whole life.
Preteens are hard, I must say. I’m getting so used to this behavior that I hardly react to it anymore, and I think that makes her even angrier. I enjoyed the rest of the trails and the waterfalls, and by the end of the lower trail, it was clear that the girls were all done for the day. Laura took them back to the entrance of the park to eat ice cream and color in their coloring books while I went back out Garganta del Diablo.
When we went in the morning, the light wasn’t all that great for taking pictures, and I wanted some shots of the falls with the light right on them. So up I went, making great time on the footbridge, but spending lots of time on or waiting for the trains.
When I met back up with the girls Eva was in better spirits, thankfully, and we were all in agreement that it had been a good day. Iguazu was definitely the most amazing place we visited on this whole trip, with Machu Picchu being a close second. Now that we’d seen it, we were ready to head home. It was sweltering hot, and we had done a good bit of walking that day. On the way out we happened upon a whole family of monkeys enjoying life, monkey style. They were obviously used to people, and they came quite close.
We took a bus home, and that evening we went out to eat. I found a buffet that was highly recommended on the internet, and for good reason. The food was excellent, and the well dressed waiters came by frequently to bring us anything we needed or take away plates while we went for seconds. When the bill came, it was no surprise that it was close to double what we usually pay for dinner, though by US standards, it was still a good deal for unlimited food.
We all went to bed well satisfied, ready to set forth again on the next day. Our adventure was almost done. All we had to do was to cross over to Paraguay, stay a couple of nights, and then catch a flight to Acapulco. Should be easy, right? Wrong. Immediately after the most amazing, awe inspiring day on our trip would come the most miserable.
But that, the final chapter of our South America adventure, is a tale for another time. Stay tuned!