Iguazu Falls, Argentina – Rain on the Parade
Cited by the World Heritage Organization as having Outstanding Universal Value, Iguazu Falls was a key destination on our travel adventure. Unfortunately, travel fatigue hit during our visit. And it hit hard.
Thanks to a stockpile of airmiles, we were in the fortunate position of being able to move through Argentina by air, thus saving hours of bus rides and advancing our recently-agreed goal of exiting South America sooner rather than later. So in the relative blink of an eye, we took off from Salta and landed in Puerto Iguazu, the Argentinian gateway to Iguazu National Park.
If you want some stats on Iguazu, check out its listing on Wikipedia. For our purposes, suffice it to say that it is a series of hundreds of waterfalls – some small, some very grand – that lives up to the meaning of its name from the Guarani language: great waters. The falls sit at the border of Argentina and Brazil and can be seen from either side. There is great debate – as ever amongst travelers – as to which side is better. The story goes that you get better close-ups from Argentina, but a better sense of scale (panorama) from Brazil. We planned to visit both sides. In the end, however, we visited only the Argentinian side. So what happened?
We were tired. Not physically tired, but mentally. This was evidenced by the fact that when we arrived at the best viewing point from the Argentinian side, we both felt a bit meh. I think I can safely proffer that this is not the standard reaction to seeing Iguazu Falls in person! Mind you, we had arrived at the same time as throngs of other tourists and, as a result, had to inch our way forward one half-step at a time at each viewing point, where you then had to try your best to as-quickly-as-possible take a photo without other tourists’ cameras, heads, or hands in the way. It was foggy and lightly raining. Oh, and the recent flooding – the likes of which hadn’t been seen in more than 20 years – had knocked out some of the walkways and meant that tourists could not visit the “Paseo Garganta del Diablo” to see the highest and deepest of the falls: the Devil’s Throat. So our timing was a bit off too.
After we ticked off all the main walkways and sites, taking the obligatory pictures en route, we turned toward the park entrance to discuss our “meh” reactions to the falls and our next move. Do we go back to the hostel already? Around this point, the clouds broke apart to reveal a bit of blue sky and golden-rayed sunshine. Hhhmmmm, we came all this way to see the falls and now the weather is improving…..ok, let’s go back and do it all again! So off we went to retrace our steps. Not only did we finally get to see the much-photographed rainbows-over-the-falls action for ourselves, but the tourist density had reduced significantly, so now we could experience the falls with some breathing room. Ahhh….very different from our first go-round! And what a relief to find at least a bit more enthusiasm for this amazing natural phenomenon.
The falls also present an opportunity for wildlife photography, as coatis, monkeys, colorful birds, and even guinea pigs (yay, not on a kebab stick!) all reside in the park. Well, “wildlife” in scare quotes really, as it seems the coatis and monkeys in Iguazu National Park are more like a roving gang who may attack people in a quest for human food. Signs with gory imagery warn you off feeding them. Alrighty then!
The next day we had planned to visit the Brazilian side, but when we awoke to find the sky spewing out millions of raindrops and in further consideration of our reaction the previous morning, we decided to skip it and “go back some day”. So yeah, we were too lazy/tired/apathetic/you-name-it to make the journey across the border to see one of the most amazing views on the planet. It is conceivable that years down the road when we reflect on this decision we might decide it deserves a d’oh (or 32).
The skies eventually let up, so we took the opportunity to dash across the street to a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation project. The tour was in Spanish and, whilst our comprehension skills have improved tremendously through our travels, each country has a different accent and that of our guide proved outside our attention-span, so we straggled behind and looked at the animals, not knowing who or what we were seeing but, of course, saying “hola” to them all. As you do.
We left Iguazu looking forward to crashing for 5 days in Buenos Aires at an Airbnb flat we rented. Clearly we were in need of some home comforts and, more importantly, time to retrieve some sense of curiosity and wonder about the things we’ve been seeing and doing. We seem to have lost that along the way. Oh, and in anticipation of our arrival in Buenos Aires, it was clear we also needed to find further enthusiasm for football (aka soccer): While we were in Iguazu, Argentina won their semi-final match and were on their way to the World Cup Final. Yay?