Buenos Dias, everyone! I write to you now from the Retiro neighborhood of Buenos Aires. David and I have a cozy little airbnb on the 9th floor of a high rise. A good night’s rest last night was well in order after a long overnight bus ride back from the Misiones province – the roads through the country can be quite bumpy! Anyhow, we’re sitting here on a relaxing, sunny morning having some yogurt and brewing some mate (pronounced MA-tay) and I am just brimming with excitement to share our experience at Iguazu National Park.
***Apologies in advance – this is quite a long post as it is my first one and I feel very strongly about this experience! Future ones will be shorter 🙂
David and I spent 3 days exploring and taking in the park, iconic falls, and nearby Argentine town Puerto Iguazu where we stayed. For those of you that don’t know of Iguazu Falls, I will do my best to convey through words. This place is truly a wonder of the world and should be on every bucket list. In fact, if you google it, Iguazu Falls is listed as one of the “New 7” Wonders of the Natural World. Not sure why it’s “new,” but hey. Iguazu, similar to Niagra, is on a river dividing two countries – Argentina and Brazil. Hundreds of waterfalls formed on a sharp bend in the Iguazu River over the rims of a volcanic basalt plateau. Each one of the individual waterfalls has a name, usually starting with “Salto,” a good way to keep track in a vast amount of area with falling water. I first learned about Iguazu in middle school while doing some random reading about the rainforest (happened more than a few times) and I knew even then that this was a place I had to go to in my lifetime. Our time was more than a visit – it was fully loaded spiritual experience and a fulfilling treat for every physical sense.
Day 1 was on the Argentine side, which has a couple different scenic trails to walk and is a bit bigger than the Brazilian side. We started with the Lower Trail (bottoms of the waterfalls so your view is looking up) and were amazed by even some of the smaller waterfalls – see Salto Lanusse and Salto Alvar Nunez below.
And then turning the corner…the vast beauty was just overwhelming.
We got to go right up to Salto Bossetti, which was gorgeous…and not even the first or second biggest falls! Such an emotional buildup as they just. Kept. Getting. GRANDER!
Midday brought us to the boat tour – HIGHLY recommend, this was way cool. Took a safari vehicle through the jungle to the river a little downstream of the falls, and then got in these badass motor boats (kind of similar to ducks at the Dells) and then proceeded to zoom upstream against the flow of some *considerably sizable* white water rapids. Crazy gnarly.
Best part, of course…going under the waterfalls!!
I think I just kept yelling things like “Viva la agua!” and “Viva los Iguazu!” 😀 After two compete drenchings under one of the biggest falls, I loved that our boat starting a clap and chanting in Spanish for a 3rd go at it! Woot. Refreshing on a hot and humid summer day to say the least, and SUCH and adrenaline rush. Mind you, this was not just being near the mist/spray…the boat actually goes under the falls and you can feel the power of it pounding down as you’re yelling in exuberation.
After the boat ride, we waited in line to take the tram up north to see the largest waterfall. This trail is a raised, metal platform going out over the river to the edge of the appropriately named Garganta del Diablo, or Devil’s Throat.
There were so many paradoxical feelings that, oddly or fittingly, blended harmoniously as I stood in the presence of that sheer power. It’s hard to explain. Is it possible to feel intimidated and courageous at the same time? Is it possible to feel unconquerable, large and on top of the world, but as small and insignificant as an ant? Comforted yet unnerved, shocked yet not at all surprised, spiritually filled yet mentally drained of all thoughts and feelings…it was just you and the waterfall. Tourists all around you, all of them pushing and elbowing to try to get the best selfies…doesn’t matter. I just laugh. Those selfies are an incomplete and shallow reflection of the dimensions that live in a single moment of this earthly paradise. My laughter disappears in the roar of water that surrounds us in 180 degrees and then some.
As I realized I had accomplished a lifelong dream with my soulmate at my side, there were definitely more than a couple joyful tears shed. They, along with the rest of our petty problems, worries, and stress…dissipated into the mist.
Hiking back to the bus stop, David and I felt like we were 10 feet tall and couldn’t stop chattering about it all. And day 2 just continued to amaze. This time, we went to the Brazilian side which was in Portugese, so it is spelled Iguacu instead (pronounced like an s, ig-GUA-su). While being a bit smaller, the Brazil scenic path held a whole different perspective that was equally as breathtaking. We even were pleasantly surprised to discover a whole new set of waterfalls that we hadn’t even been able to see from Argentina! It really is just so damn big that you have to go to both countries to be able to see everything.
While our first day at the falls was marked by exuberance and excitement of seeing it for the first time, our second day I was struck with the longevity and constant nature of the whole thing. Tumultuous, flowing water for longer than humans have been recording history. As we walked and took in the different perspectives, I found myself more at peace than I remember feeling in a long time. No matter how you looked at it, considered it, approached it, the consistency of the beauty and might was awe-inspiring. Getting to walk down into the gorge to get a view of Garganta del Diablo from the North and from the bottom perspective was another blessing, as we were able to walk out on the Brazilian catwalk amongst yet more displays of cascading water. It’s overwhelming in the best sense of overwhelming.
Below: Our picturesque sack lunch spot in Brazil. Not too shabby ❤
Our third and final day at Iguazu took us back to the Argentine side, as we still had 2 trails left we hadn’t yet completed. First, the Upper Trail with all the incredible views of the cliff dropoffs and the steep plunges! Terrifying and thrilling all at once.
Last, a slight change of pace: Macuco Trail, a 7 km hiking trail through the jungle to access a single, hidden waterfall that you could only see by making the trek. What a cool way to end our time there!
The last kilometer was filled with steep stairs, tiny passageways through boulders that only one person at a time could fit through, and then you are rewarded by an incredibly tall waterfall with a wading pool at the bottom. It sparkled in the sunlight with rainbows everywhere. And of course…we both had to climb up the rocks and stand underneath it. Salto Arrechea, folks!
What an truly awesome experience across the board. I close my eyes and can still recall the feeling of the most powerful falls in my chest. I can hear the sound of the tiniest water trickle mixed with the whip of the wind, the cries of the birds, all woven into the deepest and most resonant thundering roar. I remember the crisp taste of the mist and the slightly warmer, organic smell of the jungle air. A feast of the senses, indeed.
We *almost* didn’t want to leave. I think there’s a part of me that never will.
So glad we decided to kick off our trip with a BANG! This is what I like to call a life high, and we will be riding that high for a long while. And then some.
- ****Side note on the wildlife, if you’re interested: Everywhere we went in the park, the wildlife was just splendid. If you’re interested in pictures of these, check out our photos tab.
- Coati (pronounced KWA-ti) – fascinating creatures that we though looked like a blend of a raccoon and anteater. They walk amongst people without a care, looking for food scraps and minding their business. We did see one steal a gal’s purse, though, and she ran after it yelling before some guy trapped it. Sneaky little devils.
- Uruguayan Coral Snake off the side of the path, and long, thin, bright green snake I caught a glimpse of but was gone before we could grab a picture.
- Birds, birds, birds! Black and blue, tiny green, thrushes that nest under the cascading water, vultures, herons and kingfishers, etc. The only one we were disappointed to not see was the toucan grande with the iconic orange bill. Fingers crossed for next jungle visit.
- MONKEYS! Mono cai monkeys are common here, and it was such a joy to watch them play in the trees and on the ground. First thing in the morning, a monkey ran across our path, jumped up and opened the supposedly monkey-proof trash can, grabbed two banana peels and ran off! Then another monkey stole one of the banana peels. Love it.
- Butterflies of every color of the rainbow in beautiful bunches unexpectedly as you turn a corner of a path. Our favorite is the large, elusive cerulean one we kept seeing which I orginally thought was a blue morpho but now I’m thinking is a blue ulysses? Not sure.
- The SPIDERS! There were orb web weavers everywhere, suspended in magnificently detailed orbs over waterfalls and streams. While often overhead, I never once felt creeped out because they never showed interest in dropping on our heads. They just sat there, patient as can be and striking for our photos.
- Black and white tegu lizard – this thing was robust! And the smaller, quicker lizards basking on rocks in the sun
- Omg, the TREES! Incredible. I was baffled. I didn’t know ANY of them! I would write so much more about the trees but this post has already rambled on long enough. Thanks for sticking with me and reading till the end! So many mysteries still to solve, so many species to identify, so many adventures to come. Game on.