Friday, November 03, 2017

Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side

My original plan for Thursday was to walk around Foz do Iguacu and get a better idea of what the Brazilian city of 260,000 people had to offer, and maybe make a return to a great beer shop called Cerjevario where I had two pints on Wednesday night, and then do the same on the other side of the border in the Argentinean city of Puerto Iguazu so I could have a full day on Friday exploring the side of Iguazu Falls I hadn’t seen yet.

However, a check of the weather forecast revealed rain all day Friday (and as I sit here writing at 2:30 p.m. it’s been coming down in torrential amounts since it first woke me up at 6:30 a.m.), so I changed my plans and left for Argentina on Thursday morning. It was a bit of a complicated procedure, and my lack of knowledge of Portuguese didn’t help, but after taking two buses, having my passport stamped twice, and spending about 2.5 hours and R$5 (about $2.50 Canadian), I found myself at the end of a 15-kilometre journey at the Puerto Iguazu bus station and a short walk (if I’d been given proper directions) from Nomads Hostel, home for the next two nights.

I gained an hour since Brazil and Argentina use different time zones, found a bank to obtain some Argentinean pesos, and was ready to return to the bus station to buy a 150-peso (about $10.50 Canadian) round-trip ticket for the 18-killometre drive to Iguazu National Park.

Unlike the Brazilian side, there’s no shuttle bus to take you in further. You’re ready to go as soon as you enter and pay the 500-peso (about $35 Canadian) admission fee. There are four main trails that go through Atlantic forest, sometimes on the ground and sometimes on elevated catwalks, to take you to various locales and observation points in the park.

I first took the 655-metre Green Trail through rain forest wetland to the Cataratas Train Station, where a small open-air train takes you for a 10-minute, 3,700-metre ride through more forest to the beginning of the 1,100-metre Devil’s Throat Trail. The ecologically friendly-designed train runs on liquefied petroleum gas, travels at a maximum speed of 18 kilometres per hour and can hold 250 people.

An environmentally friendly gangway crosses the Iguazu River, in sight of some of its small islands, until you reach a balcony just a few metres from the largest and most important of the Iguazu Falls: the 80-metre Devil’s Throat. The turbulent water, rock-crashing flow and blowback will spray you with a mist that’s refreshing on a 30-degree Celsius day.

You return along the same route to the Cataratas Train Station, where a short walk takes you to the entrances to both the Upper Trail and the Lower Circuit. I began with the 1,750-metre Upper Trail, which offers panoramic views of a semi-circular chain that begins at Dos Hermanas Waterfalls and goes through Chico, Ramírez, Bosetti, Adán y Eva and Bernabé Méndez waterfalls before ending at the Mbiguá Waterfall lookout.

The gangway then crosses the Superior Iguazú River to reach the edge of the second largest falls of the system, San Martin Waterfall. This balcony provides the best and widest panoramic view of Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side. You can see the Hotel Das Cataratas and elevators on the Brazilian side as well as the Sheraton Hotel, the old water tank tower, balconies of the Upper and Lower trails, San Martin Island and the gangway to Devil’s Throat on the Argentinian side.

The gangway then snakes back through islets and forest back to Cataratas Station. From there, it’s a short walk to the 1,700-metre Lower Circuit.

Footbridges through the forest foliage take you to Dos Hermanas, Chico, Ramírez and finally the bottom of the Bosetti Waterfall. It’s at this point that landlubbers looking for a soaking can venture to the closest point of the observation balcony to feel the immense power of the falls.

You then descend stairs to a short rockier trail that provides more stunning views of both waterfalls and cliffs. This trail also leads you to the embarkation point for a boat ride to San Martin Island. Unfortunately, the last boat leaves at 3:15 p.m. and I arrived 30 minutes later. Had I known that schedule in advance, I would have taken the Lower Circuit first so I could have experienced the steep climb to the top, forest walk and observation point of San Martin Island.

From the same spot where the boats to San Martin Island leave, it’s possible to pay an additional fee to take a jet boat excursion through the rapids and to the base of the Three Musketeers and San Martin falls. I was already pretty wet, and didn’t know if the ride was worth the cost, so I passed on the opportunity.

The final portion of the Lower Circuit takes you through the Lower Iguazú shore and provides access to the Alvar Núñez, Elenita and Lanusse waterfalls before returning you to Dos Hermanas Square. On the walk back to Cataratas Station, I encountered more of the omnipresent quatis as well as a couple of lizards.

I caught the last train to Central Station as the park’s closing time neared. Had I had more time, I would have liked to have taken the 7,000-metre (round-trip) Macuo Trail, which runs through thicker forest and is home to cai monkeys, before ending at the edge of Iguazu Canyon and the Arrechea Waterfall.

Iguazu Falls has been named one of the natural wonders of the world, and viewing them from the Brazilian and Argentinean sides was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll forever cherish. And instead of satiating my life-long desire to see waterfalls, it’s intensified it. 

While South Africa is high on my list of countries to visit, knowing I can include a trip to Victoria Falls as part of that itinerary (while also seeing some friends I made earlier this year) moves it up the pecking order.

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