When I was planning the South American leg of my trip, a visit to Iguazú Falls was the only thing I had on my non-negotiable list. Coming off the low of Córdoba, I was excited to get there and shake off any lingering bad feelings.
Getting to Puerto Iguazu involved another long bus ride. I boarded at 1 pm for an arrival around 11 am the following day. As I’ve mentioned before, bus travel in Argentina is pretty plush, and paying the extra $20 or so for a “first class” ticket means traveling in style with a seat that converts to a lie-flat bed, as well as meal service along the way. For most of my life, I’ve been unable to read in a moving vehicle without getting motion sick, but during my time in South America, I’ve made the delightful discovery that I’m now able to read on buses, provided the roads are fairly straight. This makes the long overnighters a much more pleasant and enjoyable experience and I passed the 22 hours without incident. I’d booked a bed at Nomads Hostel Iguazu, just 2 blocks from the bus station, so it was a breeze to get myself there and get checked in. And just in the nick of time, too, as no sooner was I safely into my room than a huge thunderstorm blew in, knocking out the electricity. As I would soon come to know, these short, violent storms (and attendant power outages) are a regular thing in Puerto Iguazú. A lot of places around town had backup generators, though sadly, my hostel was not one of them. Even with the first class bus experience, the sleep quality is still not great, so I took advantage of the power outage to take a little nap. Later that evening, I set out to explore the town and…honestly, there isn’t much too it. I picked up some groceries so that I could make my own lunches to take into the park and called it a night.
The next day I was up early so I could maximize my day at the falls! Parque Nacional de Iguazu is a short 20 min bus ride from town and I arrived just a few minutes after opening. I started out exploring the upper trail, which offers views from above and at level with the falls. There aren’t really words to describe how you feel seeing these amazing waterfalls for the first time. I have a vague memory of visiting Niagara Falls when I was a teenager, but Iguazú (excuse the pun) blows that completely out of the water. There are miles of trails weaving in and around the falls and I spent several happy hours wandering and marveling. The lower circuit trail is even more fantastic, as you get opportunities to get right up close to the base of some of the falls and you can feel the awesome power of all that water, it practically makes your teeth vibrate in your head. Neither photos (or my words) can really convey the magic feeling of seeing it all in person, but I did manage to take some pretty good shots. (I know I always say to check out my full albums on Facebook, but that goes double for this post!)
I took a break for lunch, eating the sandwiches I’d prepared the night before. Iguazu is a nature preserve and a national park, and so there is quite a bit of wildlife all around. The most noticeable (and most aggressive) are the coatis, which look like a sort of raccoon/lemur/anteater hybrid. They are totally adorable, especially the babies, and it was hard to resist the desire to pet them (though rumor has it they bite and scratch, so I kept my distance). They are totally used to being among crowds of people and are constantly looking for the chance to share your meal, sniffing around everyone’s feet and even climbing up on the chairs and tables. There are signs all over saying not to feed them, but I saw one guy toss a piece of bread into the middle of a pack and they went absolutely wild! It was a little scary, to be honest, and I kept safely away from the feeding frenzy.
After lunch, I rode the little Iguazu railroad up to the entrance to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), where three rivers converge and plummet over the cliff. To get to the viewpoint, you need to traverse about a half-mile of metal catwalks over the river, all of which were pretty crowded. The viewpoint itself was pretty mobbed as well, but when you can manage to squeeze your way up to the rail, the sight can still take your breath away.
By the time I got back down, it was getting close to closing time, so I headed back to the bus stop. I made sure to stop by the box office and get my ticket stub stamped, which would allow me to come back the next day for half-off the admission price (which is a little steep, at 260 pesos). I got back to the hostel, really looking forward to taking a shower, only to find that this time, both the power and the water were out! The power came back on fairly quickly, but there was still no water by the time I went to bed that night.
There was water in the morning, but as I planned another full day in the park, there wasn’t much point in showering then. I arrived a bit later this time and set out on the Macuco Trail, where a hike of about 3 km or so brought me to a lovely little waterfall with a swimming pond at the bottom. At the trailhead, I happened to run into Dylan and Ashley, 2 of my Aussie friends from the hostel in Mendoza. They had come early and were just finishing the hike, so we just chatted for a few minutes and then I set out on my own. It was a nice walk through the forest, and in a pleasant contrast to the crowds I’d battled the day before, I encountered almost no one else on the trail. There were a few other groups around when I made it to the waterfall, but still very peaceful and quiet. I couldn’t wait to get into the water, and it felt amazing, especially after the no-water debacle the night before at the hostel. After my swim, I sat in the sun and had some lunch before starting the hike back, where again I hardly saw any other people.
That changed, of course, once in got back to the main area of the park. I still had some time before the park closed for the day, so (after a quick ice-cream break) I decided to go back to the lower trail and revisit my favorite spot where the catwalks go right up next to the falls and you can get drenched in the spray. The sun and the mist kicked up beautiful rainbows in the gorge below, and I got a few more photos with my camera inside a ziploc bag. Too soon, it was time to head back, but I did get to see a whole group of monkeys hanging out in the trees along the path!
Back at the hostel, I headed straight for the shower and just as I was getting in…the power went out again. Not to be denied second time, I turned on my cell phone flashlight, which gave just enough illumination to finish the job.
The next day I was catching yet another overnight bus, this time down to Buenos Aires. It wasn’t till the late afternoon, though, and I had some time to kill during the day after check out, so I decided to walk out to Tres Fronteras, a spot a ways outside of town where the river borders three countries in one spot. The day was wicked hot and the walk ended up being quite a bit further than I had anticipated, but I managed to make it all the way there without melting or dying of heatstroke. Each of the three countries has a marker painted with the colors of their respective flags, so from Argentina’s, I was able to spot the corresponding markers for Paraguay and Brazil. Pretty cool and a nice little excursion to round out my time in Iguazu, which I’m so glad I visited, despite all the technical difficulties with the power and water.
After one last quick shower at the hostel, (where this time I couldn’t get the water to switch from the tub faucet to the showerhead, so I had to take a sit-down shower. If it’s not one thing, it’s another!) it was off to the bus station and onward to Buenos Aires, where I planned to slow down and take a break from it all. See you there!
(Don’t forget to check out — and Like! — my Facebook page for full photo albums from every destination)