Iguazu Falls

We took a weekend jaunt to Iguazu Falls, about an hour and a half plane trip from Buenos Aires. For some reason we can no longer remember, we took at 7:30 a.m. flight. Not knowing how long it would take to get an Uber or what security would be like at the airport (not the big international airport of Ezeiza, but Aeroparque Jorge Newbery), so we got up at 4:30. We were sitting at the gate before 6 a.m. Better early than late! (Susan is being kind. It is my time-based insanity that gets us everywhere early, and I am so grateful that she is willing to go along) At least the coffee was already flowing.

The only hiccup came when our tour guide had us coming in an hour later on a different flight. We finally managed to track down an emergency number and Marcela arrived soon thereafter. I highly recommend getting emergency contact info if you book through an agency. It was Saturday morning, so our regular contact wasn’t working.

We went straight to Iguazu National Park in Argentina. We knew that because of extreme flooding the week before, the bridge to Devil’s Throat washed away. Bummer! However, because the river was so high, the falls were spectacular. Notice how brownish red the water is. The soil is full of iron and the water was carrying a lot of soil.

We also got lucky in that the boat, which had not been operating the previous week, was powering down the river again. We couldn’t go behind the falls, which were flowing with almost 10 times their normal water volume, but we did get a truly fun ride. We opted out of wearing our rain jackets and got plenty soaked! But the other aspect of our luck was the weather. Not a drop of rain fell, and the temperature was about 80, so we certainly did not mind wearing a bit of the Iguazu River.

The park contains several different paths that lead to points overlooking the falls. There’s also a train for those who don’t want to or can’t walk. It wasn’t very strenuous, but there are steps since there is an upper trail and a lower trail. We did the lower trail first; Marcela thought it would be less crowded. Apparently, word got out that lots of water makes for spectacular falls. We liked doing it that way because when we got a wide-angle view, we really understood what we were seeing.

Here are some interesting facts about the falls:

  • Iguazu means big water
  • Eighty percent of the falls are in Argentina
  • There are more than 275 waterfalls, making it the largest waterfall system in the world
  • Heights range from 200-270 feet (Victoria Falls is 354 feet) and they span 1.7 miles
  • When the water level is typical, water falls from Devil’s Throat at 1 million liters per second
  • Iguazu River connects to the Panama River
  • The area has been home to the Guarani tribe for thousands of years

The park contains wildlife such as jaguars and pumas (which we did not see(other than people’s sneakers) ), capybara, monkeys and coatis (which we did see because they love human food), and tons of lizards, birds, and butterflies. The river is home to more than 100 species of fish.

Aside for Shannon (and others who like natural disaster/human stupidity stories): Don’t climb guard rails to take selfies (also lots of signs in Argentina saying don’t put your kids on your shoulders).

The Argentine government, to encourage tourism, has set aside land for eco-friendly hotels. It seemed as though that mostly meant that they cleared a minimum of the jungle and used paper straws. We stayed at La Cantera Lodge, which was perfectly serviceable. The downside to the eco-friendly hotels is that unless you have a car, you’re stuck. We were tired from our long day anyway, so we opted to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. Surprisingly, Steven ordered a slab of meat. Vegetarian options were slim (how much pasta can one eat?), so I tried the river fish, a local delicacy. It tasted like white fish, but the sauce was delicious and it was tender.

Sunday, Marcela picked us up after the breakfast buffet (which reminded us of the ones at U.S. motels minus the waffle maker) and we headed to Brazil. The trick here was to have the Argentine driver get us close to the border where we met the Brazilian driver, who gets treated better in Brazil. The amount of time it takes to cross the border is unpredictable, but tour cars have a special line and the border agents in both countries were amenable. I’m not sure why it takes so long to leave Argentina, but they have their reasons. On the Brazilian side, we had to get out of the car and enter the immigration building to show our passports and proof of Covid vaccination. That took maybe 5 minutes.

Most of the reason to go to Brazil (aside from the fact that Vitor says it is much better than Argentina (Vitor says everything in Brazil is better than Argentina)) is the panoramic view. All but two of the 275 falls (or more because of the flooding) are in Argentina, but especially since we could not see Devil’s Throat from Argentina, it was well worth the short trip to the other side. Plus, we got to get drenched again!

The waiter treated our Quilmes beer like it was a fine champagne.

After we finished at the falls, we had a couple of hours to kill, so we decided to go into the town of Puerto Iguazu in Argentina for lunch and a wander (our two favorite things). Marcela dropped us off and we had a tasty lunch. Steven had another huge hunk of meat and I had a salad. The “downtown” consists of a few restaurants and a shops, some of which were closed because it was A) Sunday and B) siesta time with a temperature of 87 degrees. About a mile from the restaurant, there’s a lookout point over the river from which you can see three countries. Do you know what they are? We’ve already talked about the first two: Argentina and Brazil. The third is Paraguay. Needless to say, if there is a walk, we take it. I was excited to find that Iguazu has also adopted the Insta sign, everyone’s favorite place to pose.

While we waited at the border crossing, Marcela explained to us that depending on politics and economics, the people of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay trade off shopping in duty-free border stores. When we were waiting to enter Brazil, the line of cars waiting to go the other way was long, but when we headed back into Argentina, there was hardly a wait at all. Marcela was very surprised, but you just never know. For those of you who have crossed into or out of Tijuana from California — the Argentina-Brazil border would be a breeze.

Our last stop was back at the hotel, where we changed into warmer and dryer clothes for the trip back south. Our plane arrived back in Buenos Aires pretty much on time, we hopped a cab and were back at our apartment by 10 p.m., just in time for Argentine dinner.

Later in the week if we remember how to edit our GoPro video (where is a 12-year-old tech genius when you need one???), we will post some of the videos..

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