Incredible Iguazú Falls!

When I 15, I went to Niagara Falls and was underwhelmed. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I recall thinking the gardens were pretty and feeling cheated by the falls. I was expecting something  majestic and it looked like a big dam. Decades later, Iguazú Falls provided the majesty I was seeking.

Iguazú Falls is on the border between Argentina and Brazil and is described as the “largest waterfall system in the world,” which I learned is because there are various ways to measure waterfalls in order to maintain bragging rights! We wanted to go to both sides of the falls but didn’t have time to get the required Brazilian visa. While I read posts that said sneaking visa-less over the border in a cab was no big deal, we decided not to become an international incident and stayed in Argentina. Compared with many of our adventures, it was pretty easy to get to the falls – we walked into town from our lovely hotel, the Iguazú Jungle Lodge, and caught a bus to the falls. Once there, it reminded us of the Milwaukee County Zoo – walking paths winding through wooded areas, kiosks and concession stands and even a train to take you to the “Devil’s Throat” to see where about 1/2 of the Iguazú river’s volume crashes over the top of the falls. The Devil’s Throat is 80 meters (262 feet) high and 2,700 meters (8,858 feet, 1-3/4 miles!) in diameter. The entry to the falls had an amusement park feel, but soon we were taken by the natural beauty. I had so much fun the first day and we didn’t get to see every corner of the park, so I decided to return the following day. Matt opted to join me and was glad he did as our first day was overcast and the second day sunny, which gave different perspectives. Plus, it had rained considerably overnight so the falls were noticeably fuller the second day.

First stop both days was the Devil’s Throat. Spectacular!

Devil’s Throat Panorama

Thank goodness that I had to get over my grate phobia in El Calafate, because I really had to get over it to enjoy Iguazú Falls!

On the first day, we had bought tickets for a boat ride under the falls. We lingered at the Devil’s Throat and then needed to scurry around the park to find the boat launch. Somehow we missed a turn and arrived 5 minutes before the boat was leaving. Thankfully, we were obviously not the first clueless tourists and the worker provided us tickets for the following excursion. I had been ambivalent about doing the ride, but it was great fun. You cruise down the river and look at the falls and then suddenly the captain guns the engines and drives you smack into one. Despite the ponchos, there is no escaping the deluge of water. I thought the women who brought swimming goggles were brilliant as I feared my contacts were going to get pushed out of my eyes! When you are on the trip, you feel like you are directly under the falls with the amount of water that crashes down on you, so I was surprised when we watched another boat cruise into the falls and saw that they really just go to the perimeter.

I loved that there were so many waterfalls to see – between 150 and 300 depending on the amount of water flow. Each one was pretty in its own way.

The lush jungle setting made it so much more magical than Niagara and allowed us to see capuchin monkeys, toucans and other birds, coati (raccoon-like creatures that will shamelessly try to steal your food) and butterflies. There were boa constrictor warning signs and jaguars in the park, so I watched for those although I couldn’t decide whether I was disappointed or relieved when we didn’t see any!

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Iguazú Falls is a magical place. It is no wonder that upon seeing it, Eleanor Roosevelt is reported to have said, “Poor Niagara!”

 

Another Sunday, Another Beautiful Walk in the Country

Matt, Mistina and I set off for Llacanora on Sunday afternoon with the goal of finding the waterfalls near the town.  Matt and I had previously embarked on this trip but were sidetracked by the cave art of Callac Puma.  A worthy diversion, but this time we wanted to reach the waterfalls.  Mistina, a teacher from Nebraska, was game to join us and was tasked with keeping us on track to our final destination.  What a great time!  It was about a 5 mile walk on picturesque country roads from our house to the small town of Llacanora.  Once in Llacanora, we saw a sign for the waterfalls, but the directions subsequently became unclear so we kept asking everyone we saw, which included a guy walking down the street, an old lady minding a store, a lady who was actually there to go to the falls for the first time and didn’t know where to go either (we told her once we found out) and a couple of guys getting drunk sitting outside a shop (on our return trip, one guy was passed out and the other had inexplicably removed his shirt). You follow the the road above Llacanora and eventually turn left down an unmarked dirt path.  It’s about another kilometer to the first falls.  We never figured out what is referenced by the 1000 meters on the sign – perhaps the turn off.

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Once on the path, we knew we were on the right track as we passed “tourist restaurants” and knick-knack stores.  Eventually, it became even more obvious due to the amount of other people enjoying a day in the countryside. The paths were well traveled and generally easy to navigate.  We arrived at Hembra Falls and were impressed.

Hembra Falls

Hembra Falls

We kept climbing upward and eventually arrived at the even more spectacular Macho Falls, which are about 30 meters high.  Due to their size, we couldn’t get a photo of the entire falls with our i-phones.

On our way back, we decided to walk on the other side of the river.  We arrived at this aqueduct, which we either needed to cross or go back down and around  to cross the river.  Mistina mustered up her courage and went across.

Brave MistinaI took one step and chickened out.  A man standing below starting shouting up words of encouragement and succeeded in shaming me into crossing.  I started across in a most undignified fashion as my coach yelled specific instructions (in Spanish) to me.  I froze at the wire I had to step over, a maneuver that required me to actually stand up a little.

Pathetic Kerry with Cheerleader

Pathetic Kerry with Cheerleader

Under the direction of my drill sargent, I made it across and then Matt came skipping over.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t skipping, but he certainly had no fear – note that he is walking on the edges of the aqueduct and not with his feet in the middle!

Fearless Matt

Fearless Matt

Matt Crossing

Matt Crossing

We left Llacanora, but not before watching two little kids zoom down a steep hill on a skateboard.  The younger one clearly wanted us as an audience and gave a little wave as they set off and then again upon arriving at the bottom.  Super cute. We headed back on the road to Baños and stopped at one of the restaurants along the way.  These “campestre” or countryside restaurants are very popular and usually open only on the the weekends.  They generally have large grounds with play areas for kids, huge tables set up under multiple pavilions and a nice, family feel.  We chose one that in a valley that had about 50 cars in the parking lot and cheerful music and felt we made the right choice when Matt and Mistina saw several of their students with their families.  We only had one glitch when the waiter tried to seat us in a table off in a alcove.  I think he meant it kindly, but nobody puts these gringos in the corner and we asked to sit with the rest of the clientele, a request that was granted.  Unfortunately, they were out of about half of the items on the menu as we arrived around 3:00, but Misitina had fried trout, Matt had grilled beef and I had a delicious stewed kid (as in baby goat, people!) dish.  We ended our meal with picarones, fried squash/sweet potato doughnuts, and as we had already walked about 7 miles, walked back up to the road and caught a cab home!

Kiddie table

Kiddie table