Let me paint you a word picture. It’s one of those days where the sun peeks out for brief minutes at a time before the clouds cover it up again (my Haligonian friends know this kind of day well). You walk along a sturdy bridge suspended over a scene that looks torn from Heart of Darkness. Suddenly some spray splashes against your face. It feels like rain but the sky is bright. You walk a little further, more spray. Trees are scattered in the water on both sides and arch over the bridge. In the distance you see some umbrellas. A roaring noise grows and grows. Then you spot it, rushing water on the right, a waterfall careening over the edge. Immediately you’re hit in the face with a massive splash. The fog clears and you see more falling water than your eyes can register at once. You’re getting wetter, trying to take as many photos as possible before your camera lens is completely covered in droplets. You keep trying to dry it off on your shirt, your shorts, but you soon realize that your clothes are soaked through, your hair is dripping and you suddenly remember that you don’t have a towel and the sun isn’t going to dry you off from behind a cloud. Laughing, you bound back across the bridge to safety away from the spray, but not before spotting a wall of waterfalls opposite you, bursting out of the rock and fading away into the mist below.
This was how I spent my birthday.
Iguazu Falls is, quite rightly, one of the wonders of the world. At 2.7 kilometers long, it extends along the Argentina-Brazil border. Although referred to as one entity, the Falls are actually divided by a number of small islands. Each fall ranges from 60 to 82m high.
The largest fall is Devil’s Throat or Garganta del Diablo, my description of which began this post. Google tells me that Devil’s Throat is 82m high, 150m wide and 700m long. When you’re standing at the tip, the view is almost overwhelming. Mist obscures at least half of the fall and although you’re aware of how fast and how much water is flowing, it almost looks like it’s moving in slow motion.
Because Canadians have to pay a fee to enter Brazil and I thought the country would be too much for me to attempt on this trip, I only saw the Falls from the Argentinian side. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has said that they prefer the Argentinian side, but that the Brazilian side does offer you a better panoramic view. Most agree that the best way to see the Falls is to start with the Brazilian side, cross the border and spend the next day wandering around the Argentinian side. And there’s a lot to wander around!
Besides Devil’s Throat, there are two walking paths that lead you through the maze of falls, at some points raising you above them and at other times landing you right at their base. If you’re in the mood to chase a leprechaun, you’ll find quite a few rainbows scattered above the water, backdropped by so many mountains and trees that you’ll feel you’re in Jurassic Park. Although I didn’t personally see any dinosaurs, there is a ton of other wildlife, in particular the very curious (and quite adorable) coati. Coatis travel in packs so get ready to see whole families of them wrestling, playing, looking for food and checking out the tourists.
If you get tired of walking, you also have the option to take a boat tour of the Falls. I’ve been told that the slow boat is quite boring, but if you want a thrill, the speedboat is fantastic; it takes you right into the spray. You will scream, you will laugh, you will shut your eyes (it will make no difference), you will get absolutely soaked, you will have the best time. I definitely recommend wearing a bathing suit for this one and maybe even bringing along a pair of goggles. Also, if you don’t have a GoPro or a waterproof camera, don’t bother with it.
I have to say, of all the ways to spend a birthday, soaking up some of the world’s natural beauty (see what I did there?) has to be top of the list. Thanks to everyone who made this day one in a million!