Carolyn Broadwell - Travel Tidbits - Dec 2003 - Jun 2004

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Iguazu Falls - Argentine side

Two hundred and seventy-five waterfalls, spread across more than two kilometers, according to my guidebook! And when Eleanor Roosevelt saw them, she said "Poor Niagara!"

Well, nothing that I've read anywhere can actually give you an idea of what these falls in the Parque Nacional de Iguazu actually are, and I doubt that I can find any words that will do better. I can say that I came here in 1986, was terribly impressed, and felt strongly enough about it to come back now. And I have not been at all disappointed so far. I haven't been to the Brazilian side yet this trip; I'm probably going to do that tomorrow or the day after. The Brazilian side is where I began last time, and it is famous for having by far the better over-all view of the falls - an impressive place to start - but I decided against it this time. This side - Argentina - has more intimate views, and especially is noted for its access to the "Garganta del Diablo" or Throat of the Devil. That is a very large sort of rounded gorge that is cut back into the wall of the falls, and through which pours an incredible volume of water. Awesome to see, to hear, to feel, to experience! And to get to it, you walk over more than a kilometer of catwalks over the widening river (which is preparing to cascade over a wall) dotted with small islets, to a platform that hovers just to the side of the gorge! When I was last here, the catwalks were sort of funky; now they are multiples of the same size welded rectangles of expanded steel that are laid in a metal framework for the walking surface, with smooth round wooden rails to hold on to on top, all properly placed in foundations on the islets or in the river. It's quite sophisticated, and really makes for a very nice walking experience. The old catwalks had been washed away in a flood, and these new ones are only three years old. As I understand it with my limited Spanish, this is the third set. These seem designed to withstand more force than the old ones, and also to be replaced as areas rust or wear away.

And besides that access to the Devil's Throat, there are now two other major circuits to gain access to some of the other 275 falls, walking through the jungle, with amazing views both from the top and below the falls. There is a lot of small jungle wildlife; I saw monkeys, coaties, lots of birds, beetles of amazing forms and colors, centipedes, lizards of various sizes, and millions of butterlies and too many ants, and bees, which tried to eat my sandwich...The catwalks are particularly nice, in that you are almost never on the ground itself, and feel that you are not imposing on nature, but hovering above, and observing it only.

Which of course is not the case...there are thousands of visitors, and it is quite amazing how well designed it all is to have the least impact on the environment and to prevent the hoardes of people from roaming just anywhere...

As in most of the developed world, the visitors want their needs met when and where they wish, and there are fast food places strategically placed, as well as sanitarios or baños (WCs or toilets) conveniently located. And all clean as can be! There are also Guaranï Indians in and around the area, with craft products laid out on the ground to sell. That is the most "commercial" aspect of the whole experience, but certainly within keeping for the area, as they were the early inhabitants before colonization, and still live here.

After I've seen the other side, I'll see if there is anything significant to add to this. For now, I'm off to collect laundry, get my hair trimmed, return to the falls for another look (1/2 price the second day), and eat at the vegetarian restaurant in the Park.



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