Cedric in the South

A blog about my South American adventure

V. Iguazú Falls

Day 8
October 1, 2013
Puerto Iguazú
We woke up early this morning, around 6am. After a quick breakfast of bread and coffee we headed for the shuttle that would take us to Cataratas del Iguazú, the National Park that is home to the majestic falls. The forty minute shuttle ride went by in a flash as we talked excitedly about what we were going to see. We arrived to a small crowd gathering outside the park entrance. Shortly after buying our tickets the gates opened. I walked through the turnstyle, unaware that I was about to have one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
The majority of the crowd was heading in one direction. We looked at the map and found out they were going to see the waterfall known as Garganta del Diablo, or the Devil's Throat. A park employee noticed us looking at our map and came over to ask if we needed help. He recommended that instead of going straight for the main attraction, as everyone else was doing, we would have a much better time if we started at the southern end of the park. He explained that doing it this way would give us the best views of the falls with respect to the sun.
So we split from the crowd and started down a long, wooden walkway that wound around the face of a steep cliff. Before long, we were at the first waterfall of the day. It was incredible. The air was full of mist as the water crashed onto the rocks of the cliff face. Our walkway turned into a bridge that crossed in front of the waterfall. We got absolutely soaked walking across that bridge, but it didn't matter because if you stood in the middle and looked down you could see the most spectacular rainbow. I stood there for a long time, completely immersed in the roaring thunder and stinging spray, awed by this immaculate marriage of power and beauty.
Atish and I at the first waterfall — photo by Mark Masih
We continued down our path excitedly. Before long, we started to hear the roar of another waterfall up ahead. We knew that we weren't far from the giant waterfalls the park is famous for so we picked up our pace, hoping that the time had finally come. All of sudden, Atish pointed through the trees ahead. I followed his gaze and my jaw dropped.
There are no words to describe the immensity of this natural wonder. A monolithic column of water shot into the air, propelled upward by the driving downward force of thousands of gallons of water cascading over the edge every second. Even from such a great distance the sound filled the air. What it must have been like to discover these falls for the first time. Just the sight of them exudes a sense of perilous power.
The incredible falls — photo by Atish Mistry
We spent the entire day in the shadow of these monstrous phenomena. It is truly humbling to stand on the precipice of instant death. It makes you feel small and unimportant, a microscopic pockmark on the face of a cosmic being. The park has bridges that cross over the very edge of the falls. I could have stood on those bridges for hours just taking it all in.
The Edge — photo by Atish Mistry
Of all the waterfalls we saw, however, the most incredible was the Garganta del Diablo, the biggest waterfall in the park. Getting there starts with a very unassuming sign noting the walkway that leads to the fall. This walkway connects a couple small islands over a long expanse of deceptively calm water. The only indications of the impending torrent are a few ripples in the water and a pervasive drone that echos in your eardrums. As you get closer, the first thing you see is what looks like a cloud hanging low over the water. Closer still and the drone becomes a rumble. Even closer and you start to feel a mist hitting your face. Then you're there. Right on top of it. You're on a deck right on the edge, staring into a gaping chasm that looks like a giant reached down and took a scoop out of the planet. Rushing into this chasm is the contents of an entire lake. The water is hitting the bottom so hard that it creates this ubiquitous, opaque cloud of spray filling the entire hole and shooting high into the air. Every once in a while the wind blows this column of water towards the deck and creates a sudden, instant downpour. Right away you realize why it's called "The Devil's Throat."
Sign for "The Devil's Throat" — photo by Atish Mistry
The water is deceptively calm before the falls — photo by Atish Mistry
The Devil's Throat — photo by Spouse of Leonard G. (Wikipedia)
Throughout our time at the park we also saw a ton of interesting wildlife. There were birds, lizards, insects and monkeys. There were also these small furry animals called coatis. Apparently, coatis are considered a pest in this area. They swarm over all the paths and there are hordes of them in the rest areas where people are eating. They are pretty bold, too. They'll climb up onto your table and try to steal your food right from your plate.
A beautiful bird we spotted through the trees — photo by Atish Mistry
I'm surprised Atish noticed this lizard with such good camouflage — photo by Atish Mistry
A butterfly drinking from a puddle — photo by Atish Mistry
Monkeys in the trees — photo by Atish Mistry
A coati — photo by Atish Mistry
At one point, while we were passing a group of small children, we noticed one of the coatis sneaking up on a kid that was carrying a bag of potato chips. Before we could say anything it had ripped the bag out of the kid's hands and scurried away to devour it with the other coatis down the path. All of a sudden, a group of monkeys descended from the trees and started attacking the coatis! One of the monkeys grabbed the bag and hurried into a tree. A few of the more daring coaties tried to follow the monkey up the tree, only to be swatted down back to the ground. We stopped to watch this battle of the species so different from anything we had seen back home. After some time they finished the chips and dispersed. A few remaining crumbs on the ground were the only evidence of the fierce battle for food.
A monkey facing off against a group of coatis — photo by Atish Mistry
There is so much more to say but I'm exhausted from this long and exciting day and I really need to get to bed. Tomorrow morning we have a 22 hour bus trip West to Salta and on to the next leg of our journey. Today, however, is a day I'm going to remember for the rest of my life.
Mark and I posing for a picture — photo by Atish Mistry

Next Chapter:

VI. Salta