Iguazu Falls. The most beautiful thing in the world according to Bill Clinton. And the man has good taste, does he not? Especially in women…
It’s more than a waterfall. It’s more than a hundred waterfalls, actually. There are butterflies. There are beaches. Islands. Speed boats. Reptiles. And there are millions of gallons of water, spilling immaculately into a bubbling cauldron of inconceivable size.
I journeyed a long way to get to the falls, close to 100 hours by bus, and the drawn out anticipation didn’t stop there. I arrived at the park only to be herded onto a small, open air train that would take us to the top of the falls. They are known on the Argentinean side as Las Cataratas de Iguazu.
We caught the train, but no glimpse of the falls. A metallic walkway continued from the end of the train tracks. Our eager footfalls clanged along it.
It didn’t take us long to find ourselves strangers to land. At first we only crossed the odd stream, but little by little the landscape opened up to a vast expanse of shallow water. The water stretched out in all directions, lake-like. Except that it retained the shallowness of a modest jungle stream and a calm that belied oblivion to the chaos ahead. Tropical birds flitted back and forth, approaching tourists less than tentatively for a tithe of their lunches. A wise but desperate turtle struggled valiantly against an invisible current, away from the falls. We quickened our step, encouraged by the first whisper of the roaring falls ahead.
Iguazu offers one of nature’s most spectacular vistas and in addition it offers the fun of Splash Mountain. The Devil’s Throat is the number one attraction that flows, and falls, directly between Brazil and Argentina. The commotion of the Falls creates a convection current that sends a ceaseless spray of water up onto the lookout point. I was drenched before I had managed to snap a handful of photos. And I stood well above the falls.
Iguazu could poetically be described as the kitchen sink of the Gods. It has it all. It’s basin shape is what makes it truly unique. The water flows over a sharp, rocky ledge that extends in a semi-circle more than a kilometer. Thick bushels of grass of the size and vibrant color you would expect in the land of the Lorax drape like a shimmering carpet over parts of the falls. The water finds an infinitiy of ways to lower its gravitational potential. At some points, the water will spout over the edge in a trumpeting symphony of thin streams. At others it somersaults over itself from ledge to ledge, making its tortuous way down to the rapids below. And at the busiest junctures it charges over en masse: a tumbling cavalry charge, a churning immensity, a foaming show stopper.
We also took a speed boat under one of the lesser (but still epic) waterfalls. Un ducha de verdad, yelled the tour guide over the roaring motor and water. A big-time shower. I clung to the seat ahead of me and my waterproof camera bag as the boat surged forward. The white spray enveloped us and suddenly I found myself bombarded, pillaged, from all directions by the world’s biggest Super Soaker. It was senseless to yell out in surprise or glee – the only thing awaiting such responses was a mouthful of Iguazu.
Otra vez! We cried after the engine cut and we drifted back to relative safety. Encore! And so we lurched forward once again into the tumult.
It was rather much for the eyes to swallow. We sat down on the beach for a packed lunch of Oreos and Milenesa Sandwiches (a thin strip of breaded beef) to dry off.
It’s a shame there is nothing like Iguazu left to discover in this world. It would be a priceless experience to have the place to myself for an afternoon, to swim alone through the rapids, to climb the slick faces of rock, to close my eyes and be submerged in the roar of the falls.
To get a peak at what Iguazu is like, rent the Mission. This Hollywood flick features Jeremy Irons as a Jesuit missionary, climbing up Iguazu to spread the word of God to savage natives. Or save the $4.95 and just check out my humble photos.