For much of the last 200 miles to the very northern tip of Argentina I was muttering under my helmet that these falls better bloody be worth it. Well, I eventually made it and my mood was immediately lightened when I checked into my swanky accommodation. A log cabin with two bedrooms, kitchen, it’s own patio with BBQ, amazing river view, swimming pool, and even my own banana tree (Day-o….daaaaaaay-o…). Not bad for £25 a night!
You may have already seen these amazing falls on the big screen, as they feature prominently in the 1986 film The Mission. The falls themselves are part of a much larger national park that works hard to preserve the flora and fauna of the largest protected subtropical rainforest in the world. Roadsigns warn approaching motorists to be wary of a variety of animals crossing the road. A jaguar would be my top pick, though I expect they know to stay well away from the road by now.
The whole visitor experience of the park and falls is top drawer. Organised, welcoming, clean, safe, well staffed, informative, reasonably priced. I doubt we would be able to make such a top job of it in the UK. Just one example is the tourist train that chugs up the hill to give visitors access to the walking trails. Upon entering the park there’s a little booth where visitors retrieve their (free) train ticket. At first I was cursing another short queue, what’s the point of issuing another ticket? Surely everyone who visits will use the train anyway? When I arrived at train departure area it became clear, a sign reminded people that there’s no need to queue since they already have a ticket for a specific train departure time. What a great idea! It means that people can sit around where they want, grab a cup of coffee until their timed departure. How much better than being corralled like sheep at Alton Towers.
I took the packed train to the top and started to stride out along the steel gantries that hover above the forest floor and earily slow moving water above the falls. A real feat of engineering, these walkways position the visitors in just the right vantage points to see the best of the park and the falls. Of course the falls are amazing. You’d expect me to say that right? Even the heaving throngs of tourists couldn’t put a dampener on that breathtaking view. Actually, the damping spray blowing off the falls onto the visitors was very welcome too.
The unexpected bonus to my visit was to walk some interesting paths through the forest itself. I saw some beautifully colorful butterflies, enormous spider webs, birds I’d never seen before and heard noises I’d never heard before. Remarkable. There was also a large group (apparently there’s no collective noun sadly) of my now-favourite bird, the condor. Gliding effortlessly on the thermals above the falls with wingspans getting up to ten feet they look majestic and timeless. Disappointingly I also saw some perched in a tree for the first time, their magestic power transformed into the hunchbacked, foreskinned neck of a vulture, my awe stunted somewhat. But not enough to put me off a new condor inspired tattoo idea that I’m starting to mull over.
In the back streets of Iguazu town itself, far from the tourist trail I was lucky enough to stumble across some more amazing street art which is fast becoming a real delight of this whole trip. It appears that the artists were all working to the same theme, which to my mind speaks to the challenges of maintaining the balance of nature, indigenous peoples and the impact of the west – that’s my take anyway, what’s yours? Comments below please 🙂