04.01.2011 - 07.01.2011 34 °C
Iguazu Falls are on the Iguazu River, a tributary of the Pirana River which divides Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The average flow of the river is 1,750 cm per second and we were there in the wet season when the river is running considerably higher than that, so it's no surprise that any waterfall that interrupts the flow would, by definition, be mind blowingly crazy. Rather than one big waterfall Iguazu is a series of 275 waterfalls within the space of 2.7km and bordered by national parks of both Brazil and Argentina. We decided to spend two days at Iguazu after being told by other travellers that to get the full picture you need to visit both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides.
We got off the overnight bus from Florianopolis at around 8:00am, dropped our bags at the hostel, took the local bus to the Brazilian national park entrance and then a second bus within the national park, to the first of a series of lookouts and pathways along the Brazilian side of the falls.
It's a little hard to describe in words what that volume of water looks like catapulting itself off a cliff and into a roiling cauldron below but I have attached heaps of pictures in the gallery and if you are ever in South America it is a must see attraction.
On parts of the walkways you get absolutely drenched and it's impossible to keep the lens clear all the time, so some of the photos have a few water marks. However, in all other ways the spray from the falls is a welcome relief from the 35 degree, 100% humidity jungle and associated mosquitos.
The following day the Argentinian side impressed even more. While the Brazilian side gives you a great overall view of the falls (and some close up action), the Argentinian side is just that much bigger – needing a small train to shift visitors around – and offers up close views of a number of waterfalls that are partially obscured from the Brazilian side.
The first stop on the Argentinian side was the “Gargantua del Diablo” or “Devil's Throat” viewing platform which allows you stand almost on top of the largest of the waterfalls as it plunges beneath your feet. The volume of water and the noise and spray it creates was incredible.
We then moved further down the series of catwalks and suspended walkways to check out some of the other major falls (see photos).
We also grabbed seats on a shotover jet style boat that gets you up close and personal. The best analogy is that the experience was like taking a bath underneath the world's biggest shower head. Jess and I were sitting on the side, at the front of the boat and in some cases were immersed into the edge of the waterfalls. We were unable to open our eyes because of the water or stop laughing – thoroughly recommend!
If you want to get a better understanding of how the falls are laid out I found this map of the Argentinian side on Flickr which is reasonably high quality.
Our bus to the Pantanal (our last Brazilian destination before Bolivia) wasn't scheduled to leave until the following afternoon so we decided to visit Itaipu – the world's largest hydroelectric dam by annual generation. Sited on the Parana River Itaipu was built in the 1970's as part of a joint project between Brazil and Paraguay with construction destroying around 700 sq km of habitat. That said, it supplies 90% of Paraguay's electricity and 20% of Brazils so I don't really know how to balance the obvious benefits against the past environment carnage. Certainly after the video (propaganda) on the tour you leave brainwashed into thinking Itaipu is the greatest and greenest company on the planet.
The damn is a massive structure but unfortunately the slipway was closed on the day we visited (apparently it is only open around 10% of the time) and because of that the tour itself is a little boring. If you are ever in the neighbourhood I wouldn't bother going unless you knew for certain that the slipway was open.
Next update will be from the Pantanal – a vast wetland area in Brazil's southwest on the Border with Bolivia.