This is probably the 100th time I attempt to write this post. I apologize for my delay in sharing the South America adventure. Life somehow got in the way, and again, writing was put at the bottom of my priorities. But worry not, because my resolution for 2015 is to change that.
It seems like yesterday that I roamed South America 🙂 Picking up where I left of, here comes Iguassu falls!
Located at the border between Argentina and Brazil, these falls are one of the jewels of South America and cannot be missed when travelling in either Argentina or Brazil. We arrived on the Argentinian side by boat via Paraguay. It was adventurous but so worth it.
The falls were discovered by the Spanish in 1541 but the name of it is derived from the local tribe Guarani’s language meaning “big water”. And of course, like any other great place in South America it comes with a local legend. According to the Guarani, a beautiful maiden named Naipí was supposed to be offered as sacrifice to the Serpent God who lived in the river. But her mortal lover Taruba decides to kidnap her. Angry that he didn’t get his maiden, the god created the falls to separate them. The full story here.
The area of the falls usually has great weather, but we were a little bit on the unlucky side because the three days we spent in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina were overcast and fairly cold. I guess we complained too much about the heat in Asuncion. But even with a bad weather, the falls don’t fail to mesmerize.
Cataratas Iguazu National Park
The falls can be accessed both from Brazil and Argentina through the national parks created by each country. The Brazil side has a front view of the falls, however Argentina has the paths around the falls and more side views. This is why many people prefer the Argentinian side. For those who feel adventurous, there is a hotel in the middle of the park allowing people to stay there after closing. Our budgets weren’t that adventurous so we stayed at a hostel located between Puerto Iguazu town and the falls.
To get to the falls we hopped on a bus that dropped us off right at the entrance. Since our tummies were already feeling the lunch munchies we decided first to eat. The park has an all you can eat grill restaurant, and what better way to satisfy our increasing hunger? Although the price of the meal was outrageous when first entering the restaurant, we were able to get some intel about a large discount. At a kiosk not to far from there, they are giving discount coupons for anyone who asks. And that is exactly what we did. Long live the Argentinean grill and its accompanying wine!
The national park has a few trails that go around the falls and let you explore not only the gorgeous views but also it’s fauna. In addition, there are boat tours to the San Martin Island. Due to the unfortunate weather we had, the boat tour was closed. I guess we had to leave something to do next time, right?
To start our tour we decided to head over to the Garganta del Diablo, the highest point of the trails from where you can see the entire span of the falls. To get there, one must take a lovely train that takes you through the wildness all the way up. So we boarded it, and off we went.
Gargana del Diablo
Once the train dropped us off in the station we still had a little bit of walking to do to get to the magnificent views. We followed the trail on suspended rails enjoying what the river had to offer.
After 20 minutes we reached our destination and our breaths were instantly taken away. Even with the not so wonderful weather, the beauty of the falling water gave us shivers. It’s hard to explain in words how such beauty made me feel. The pictures probably don’t do it justice either, but it’s as close as I could get to bring those feelings home with me.
After the upper view of the falls we continued our adventure through the lower trail. Off we went again on the train and then we followed the path that would take us to the second breathtaking view of the falls. As incredible as Gargana del Diablo was, the lower path views are not far behind. From Gargana we saw the falls on the Brazil side, but from here we saw them on the Argentina side. And of course, we got a very pretty view of the San Martin Island as well 🙂
The super cool part of the lower trail though, is that they bring you so close to the falling water that you get soaking wet. We obviously bared the cold and we went as close as the trail let us. And it was so much fun!
Many people we met on the way to the falls got us very excited for the fauna. “You will get to see tons of butterflies, and monkeys, and crocodiles, and birds!” they said. Well, we mostly failed on that because we didn’t find any monkeys (although we looked for them thoroughly!).
We only found one butterfly…
… one tiny version of a crocodile surrounded by all kinds of coins…
… a few colourful birds that stole our crackers before we got to pet them….
… a pack of coatis (distant cousins of racoons)…
… a guinea pig (?) …
… and a bigger bird, which I can’t really say what it was…
As I said before, I guess we had to leave stuff for exploring next time.
Before we left Iguassu we had the opportunity to also visit La Aripuca. This small park has a very large significance for the Guarani community as it is used to explain some of the local culture, the ecology of the forest which includes very old trees, and it is also a place where you can get unique handmade souvenirs. The pictures I have below are of an oversized “aripuca”, a type of animal trap used by the natives. The interesting part about it is that it was built with wood from 28 different native species of trees. The size of logs is impressive indeed, but it’s purpose is to spiral awareness and discussion around the alarming rates of deforestation that the Misiones forest is experiencing. The cruel reality is that the ecosystem surrounding Iguazu falls is in danger. This was something that both the national park and this small park are constantly bringing to the attention of tourists.
With the risk of sounding like a preacher, I think we should all take the time at least once in a while to think about what a wonderful world we live in and about how much we need to protect it. We all live busy lives and it’s hard to stop from our daily routines that take over all our time, just to think about something that is so far away. But if we don’t then we are missing out. Because no matter how much we ignore our inner voices, they will always tell us that true peace and happiness come from nature and all the gifts it has given us. Nothing compares with hearing the sound of water falling hundreds of meters down, with the shaking leaves of trees being swept by the wind, or with the colourfulness of the animals hiding behind the green of the forest. Maybe we should all acknowledge that this nature was our home once, and although we don’t live there anymore, we did leave a piece of our souls within it.