Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 290: Iguazu Falls

We awoke at dawn to a chorus of exotic birds above our room. There was a bit of grumbling over yet another early 'get up and go' morning, but when we remembered what was on the daily agenda, we jumped out of bed to get started. Managing to get on the second bus of the day into the park, we enjoyed the views out the window as the early morning sun hit the dense jungle on either side of the road.

The bus dropped us off at the main park gates and within minutes we'd sped walked our way past our fellow passengers and the tour groups that had started to gather. Through the gates were paved pathways, gift shops, restaurants, and information booths, which we blew past in an attempt to reach the falls and have them to ourselves. It felt like a zoo but without any animals.

We reached the turn-off and chose to view the Upper Falls first to get a sense of their scale. We could already hear the thundering of them in the distance and see puffs of mist collecting above the treetops. A grated catwalk led us through the trees a few feet above the ground and to a first look-out. Water tumbled just under our feet and we craned our necks to look over the cliff to the rocks below. A little further, we had the same look at the second of the twin falls and as Erin leaned over the edge, Craig let out a gasp. "Erin," he exclaimed, "Look up!" She followed his gaze across the trees in front of them and got her first glimpse of Iguazu stretching out ahead of us.

This was the beginning of a half-hour viewing that took us along a series of pathways closer and closer to the main U of Igauzu. The water cascaded down below and in front of us, the spray being corralled away thanks to an auspicious wind, and to make the experience even more unbelievable, we were alone the entire time. Only when we retraced our steps back to the beginning did we see another tourist.

We had seen many pictures of Iguazu, and heard stories from countless friends and family members, but the magnitude of seeing it in person was flooring. There was a sense of hunger for more, our eyes insatiably searching the horizon for new views.

Following recommendations from Kristen and John, we next took the train up and along the Parana River, watching the surprisingly calm waters lazily bubble their way towards the top of the cliffs. Another high-speed 1 km stroll found us ahead of our trainmates to maximize the solitude of one of the most impressive sections of Iguazu: the Devil's Throat. La Garganta del Diablo is the deepest U of the falls, where water plummets from the highest point into a deep chasm along the Brazilian side. With water falling in a near 300 degrees towards the rocks below, the mist created is enough to soak the crowd ooh-ing and aww-ing above.

Dripping wet and thoroughly thrilled, we returned via the train to our starting point, but this time chose the Lower Falls pathway. As impressive as the expanse of the Upper Falls and the power of the Garganta del Diablo was, the Lower Falls showcased Iguazu's beauty. From here, we could appreciate the way the water fell from above to a second level, to the river below. Framed by jungle, Iguazu was quite a sight.

After walking the Lower Falls catwalks, there was only one adventure left to be had. We boarded a boat to take us up close and personal to the individual falls. First, the boats approached close enough to feel their power but far enough back to be able to take pictures. Then we returned to each side to really see, and feel, what they were like! Tonnes of water pummelled us from above as we went right under.

Our expectations had been high, but they were very much exceeded. In an attempt to ease ourselves away from the amazing views, we lunched at a lookout of the Lower Falls, then wandered back to the top for one last view from above. We got to relive the experience through other tourists' eyes as they got their first look at the wall of water.

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