Argentina - Iguazú Falls
May 22, 2006
|You've heard the expression "good things come to those who wait" right? Well, this statement proved true for me in May because .......
1) Tracy, my American girlfriend, arrived in Buenos Aires (finally!),
2) a child was born, and
3) I got to see Iguazú Falls.
Tracy and I had made plans to meet in Buenos Aires on May 20. I arrived on time. She didn't. Even though by now I know to expect the unexpected with Tracy, I really hadn't expected that she'd spend the first few days of her vacation stuck in Miami airport instead of in BsAs with me. But eventually she arrived and we were able to pack in a couple of fun-filled whirlwind days in the big city.
Being a bit short for time we decided to do an organized one-day city tour which took us, albeit quickly, around the most popular districts of this fantastic city. At least this way Tracy got a little taste of BsAs, and although I had already experienced BsAs in good length a couple of months ago in the midst of their summer, it was interesting to see the city and its inhabitants a little more "bundled up" in the start of their winter season.
We also went to an evening tango show (can anyone possibly visit BsAs without experiencing tango?), spent a couple days shopping (why is it that I bought 2 leather jackets when SHE was supposed to be shopping?), and watched as BsAs got dressed up in flags and banners in anticipation of "25 de Mayo" celebrations (their independence day). Somewhere in the whirlwind I even remember kissing a cute Argentine cop (oh come on, like who isn't a sucker for a nice looking man in uniform?).
After a couple of days in the capital, we were ready to explore northern Argentina. The night before we left, we had the unique experience of hearing (although not actually seeing) a baby being born. I say "we" although in actual fact Tracy somehow managed to sleep through the whole thing! After 3 hours of labor and thankfully not too much screaming, my friends Regula and Pablo, owners of my favorite B&B in BsAs, introduced baby girl "Moira Felicitas" into the world within the comforts of their home and with the assistance of a midwife. I happened to be first photographer onsite and snapped a few pics of baby Moira and proud family just 12 hours after birth. How special it was to share these moments with them, plus I don't think I've ever seen a newborn before that was, well, quite so "new"!
One 17-hour bus trip later and we were in Iguazú Falls, probably one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Argentina, if not South America. I had tried going there a few times in the past but travel plans always changed, so I was really excited to FINALLY be seeing the falls.
Iguazú Falls are a series of around 275 individual cascades and waterfalls spread out in a large horseshoe shape that noisily plummet down 70 meters into a gorge below. They're vastly larger than Niagara Falls in North America, and surpassed only by South Africa's Victoria Falls. It's said that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, upon seeing Iguazú, exclaimed "Oh, poor Niagara!"
The falls basically mark the border between Argentina and Brazil and are encompassed within large nature reserve parks on both sides. The Argentine side holds the majority of the falls and has a more extensive series of paved walking trails for closer examination of the falls, but a more panoramic view of the falls, including a closer view of "Garganta del Diablo" or Devil's Throat (the most impressive and thunderous waterfall), is obtained from the Brazilian side.
We spent long days hiking the trails in order to see the falls from every possible angle, and even took a speedboat along the Devil's canyon for a closer look at Garganta del Diablo. We knew we were going to get wet, but the boat driver seemed to take more than a little delight in "baptizing" us repeatedly under numerous smaller falls. Man, did we get soaked!
The falls themselves were stunning, but what seemed to enhance their beauty were the amazing rainbows that were visible around the falls. They were long and richly hued, and absolutely everywhere!
I also loved the "coati", sort of ring-tailed long-nosed raccoons that congregated around the food vendor areas and cutely begged and sometimes brazenly stole food from the visitors. Anyone holding food was fair game to the coati, and if you heard a shriek and saw a trail of food crumbs, you knew that another coati had successfully bagged someone's lunch!
One day we gave ourselves a real treat and hiked up to the heavy-laden lunch buffet at the Sheraton Iguazú Resort (there's one luxury resort on each side of the falls). My backpacker budget took quite a hit, but then again the food was significantly better than my typical backpacker fare, and the lush subtropical setting, colorful birds, and a great view of the falls right outside our window added considerable value. We were last to leave the restaurant (like, who wants to leave when there's still dessert on the trolley?), we lingered over a nice chat with Ricardo, our waiter who's worked at the hotel for 25 years, and we even scored a private tour of the hotel from him.
Tracy and I spent two days exploring the Argentine side, another day on the Brazilian side, and I think we could've easily spent more days there had our schedule allowed. But Tracy was one of those mere mortals with limited vacation time (ouch, I heard that!), so Dora the Explorer and Jungle Jane hit the travel trail again.