March 24, 2020

Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina

Mar 2020

Imagine a river tumbling over a 2.7 km edge of a plateau into a canyon creating the largest waterfalls in the world.  Water flows through hundreds of waterfalls; about 300 during rainy season; and 150 during dry season; in one jump in some places and in a two step stair case in some other places.  Though there are hundreds of falls making up the system, just one waterfall - "Garganta del Diablo" ("Devil's throat" in English) accounts for more than half of all the flow.

Iguazu waterfalls is right at the border between Argentina and Brazil.  One can visit it at the Brazilian side or at the Argentinian side.  Or both.

However, the best view of the falls is from the sky.  One gets a quick insight into the J shape of the cataract with the mild flow at the Lower end (right opposite the resort we stayed at) and the thunderous/copious flow at the Upper end.

Douglas, our Brazilian guide, was brimming with a naughty smile when he said: "As you can see, they got the falls but we got the view".  Yes, 80% of the waterfalls are on the Argentinian side.  But the best views are to be had in the 1.5 km trek at the Brazilian edge of the canyon. The trek is a knee breaker; 284 steps up and down with dozens of twists and turns.  The trek ends at an Observation platfrom built with wood on flowing water to the very edge of the cliff beside the canyon.

Platform at the very edge of cliff on the Brazilian side to look at Garganta del Diablo on Argentine side across the canyon

Halfway through the trek you see the Three Musketeers and part of the Lower end of the falls beyond the rocks.

The Three Musketeers

After a strenuous climb up and down you enter the wooden walkway where you can see the Brazilian side of the falls. At the end of the walkway (right on the edge of the cliff facing the canyon) you get a spectacular view of the Upper end of the falls, including the "Garganta del Diablo" (and its copious flow of water).

Iguazu Waterfalls Upper end, Brazilian side as seen from Wooden trek

Iguazu Falls Upper end.  Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat is at the right edge behind the veil of spray

It is not easy to get close to Garganta del Diablo from ground or from water.  The best way to appreciate it is from the heli.

Iguazu Falls Upper end as seen from a heli ride.  Garganta del Diablo is at top right.

Then Douglas took us on a speed boat ride (from the Brazilian side) on Rio Iguazu for an up, close, and personal view of the scene.  This involved a tram, a 4WD, and a funicular from edge of cliff to pier on the river.  The river that looked so serene when viewed from the trek high up was full of white water rapids with awesome whirlpools and gave us a thrill ride of a life time. 

One could go only up to Three Musketeers.  After that, the river gets far too dangerous for navigation.  At Three Musketeers you have an option to do the wet tour (when you are taken right next to the falls and the sprays drench you in ice cold water) or the dry tour (when you are taken to about 20 m distance and the sprays still drench you if the wind is not in your favour).  We preferred the dry tour and managed to not get too wet.

Speed boat ride on Rio Iguazu.  At Three Musketeers.

And were able to get a water level view of "Garganta del Diablo" from a safe distance.

Upper end and Garganta del Diablo as seen from speedboat

The next day we drove from Foz do Iguacu, the Brazilian town to Puerto Iguazu, the Argentinian town through an almost eventless border crossing.  A train takes one from the entrance to the National Park to the start of a 1 km trek.  The trek is on a wooden platform built across the water to the top of Devil's throat.

It was a sunny day with a mild breeze.  We were standing at the edge of the cliff aside the top of "Garganta del Diablo".  The serene water, that you walked by for a quarter of an hour, suddenly starts flowing downward to the bottom of the canyon with all the speed and ferocity provided by gravity.  Thunderous noise.  The spray rises back from canyon floor to the top of the falls creating spectacular rainbows.  The falls settle down to white water rapids with water bobbing up and down and in high speed whirlpools.  And then, job done, the water becomes a serene river at the canyon floor as it was on top of the plateau.

It is always fun to see Nature at its spectacular best.  Calm.  Powerful.  And calm again.  The size impressed us the most.  About one and a half times the height of Niagara, about thrice its width, and a flow that is comparable in dry season and several times in rainy season.  Iguazu in native language means "Big water".  Big water indeed.

Douglas added a story to end the journey.  Apparently a God fell in love with a local lass.  But the local lass was already in love with a local lad.  The lass eloped with him.  The God got very angry.  The God scratched the earth in anger, and let the river flow with ferocity in chase of the lovers.  The river is still chasing the lovers.  And the ferocity can be seen at the place where water stumbles from the plateau into the canyon over an almost 3 km stretch:  Iguazu Falls.

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