We book-ended our visit to the Iguazu falls with a 24 hour delayed flight due to ash clouds at the start, and a missed flight due to incompetence at the end. But between these two events lay one of the most spectacular natural sights we have seen this trip. Up there with the glaciers of Patagonia, as like the glaciers, it brought together beauty, scale and raw natural brute force.
We stayed at the heavenly Hotel Jasy in Argentinian Iguazu. The rooms are like cabins, and ours was two levels, with a double bed for Paola and I on the top level overlooking the bigger room mezzanine style where the four children slept. Small but perfectly formed pool, and a short walk to the centre of the town. The children LOVED it.
This part of our trip was unashamedly about relaxing and slowing the pace with the four kids. Of the 6 days we were there, half of them involved nothing more than chilling out and swimming in the pool (with the exception of the ever-present schoolwork for the boys), and strolling into town for a meal. But the trips we took out… now there was something to expand your heart.
Our first sighting of the falls was the immense spray visible from the plane as we flew in from Buenos Aires. You see a large jungle area, and there like a steaming gash in the middle of it are the falls. You don’t fly in close enough to see the falls themselves, but you do very clearly see the spray rising up out of a break in the forests.
We drove first to the Brazilian side of the falls. Due to a variety of timing issues and delays, we had to see this side pretty quickly. Not an issue, as the best views are from Argentina. But we got our first true panoramic view of the falls from atop a viewing balcony. And it was a breathtaking sight.
While in Brazil, we took in a bird sanctuary with a huge array of different birds and a path for us to walk through amongst them. We got very familiar with a few, to the extent that one was clearly comfortable enough to deliver a fairly substantial payload on my shoulder and neck from close range. Alvaro was in seventh heaven with the toucans, macaws and parrots (and found an eighth in his ice cream later).
Having seen the falls from a distance in the plane, we were inexorably attracted to getting a closer bird’s eye view with a helicopter. As luck would have it, there was a helipad across the road from the aviary! And so we got a ride in a helicopter to ourselves – a benefit of a large family. The boys were bouncing in excitement. A dash below the rotors, with a quick stop for photos, and we were installed and taking off.
We had whizzed across the top of a forest canopy in our zip line experience in Costa Rica, and this helicopter trip did not match that for adrenalin. However, swooping across the top at speed and the tilt as we turn to home in on the falls provides a rush of its own. We flew directly above the falls at a relatively close range in loops (video to be added once I have a working laptop). It was an incredible way to appreciate how long and multi-layered these falls are. It had taken Paola and I 43 years before we got our first real helicopter ride. It took our youngest 3 years.
Having seen them from plane, helicopter and viewing balcony, we embarked a couple of days later at getting up close and personal. The captain of the boat that took us to our closest waterborne view had obviously done this before, as his understanding of the limits of personal space was more Italian than British, albeit applied to a waterfall.
Drenched doesn’t come close. We sprinted at full pelt at the face of our section of the falls, and then teased with repeated approaches and retreats, getting a soaking with each one. It was a game of chicken against the waterfall. Same adrenalin, more fun, and much, much wetter.
We continued along the maze of paths and bridges to see many different views of the various parts of these falls (there are 175 individual falls in this range) until the climax at Devil’s Throat. We approached via a network of stilted pathways, some over forest, others over water, until a long straight walk with the roar of water impatient to make its point at the end.
I’ve been to the Niagara falls, the biggest in the world. But they cannot match this for majesty. These falls are higher, and are made of layer upon layer, of curves and straights, and constrained a multitude of rainbows within this curved stretch which is shaped absolutely like the throat of an enormous beast. I would challenge anyone to write a description that comes close to the beauty and brutality of what we saw. Cameras were frustrating, as no shot was able to capture its drama even in picture form. This was one of those experiences where seeing it live is unlike anything you could feel by reading about it or countless albums. Regardless, here are some of our meagre attempts at canning beauty.
This was a place it was very difficult to leave. The same gravitational pull that thrusts the water down with such graceful violence kept Paola and I there transfixed and unable to pull away. Even the jostle of tourists looking for the perfect photo couldn’t spoil it (though it had a pretty good go at it). I yearned for silence walking back, just to try to take it all in – this needed digesting. But four children don’t give you that privilege.
I can fully understand how these falls came to rate amongst the seven natural wonders of the world. There is so little of this planet that we’ve seen, but to imagine six like these would already be beyond my comprehension. Fully sated, and yet teased by how little time we spent in from of the falls when we felt like we could just sit there for an eternity, we moved on.
To the fiasco of the two Iguazus…