Getting to Iguazú Falls in style

Much to my great dismay we arrived in Iguazú Falls a full hour ahead of schedule.  This meant one hour less on the most luxurious bus I’ve ever been on.  Perhaps I’m being a little facetious, but I’m not kidding about our very enjoyable 17 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú (Bus company: Via Bariloche, Full Cama Service, if anybody is planning a trip).

Each pair of seats was ensconced in its own cubicle, complete with individual television monitors that offered a range of videos and music to entertain, and plush red leather seats that were more comfortable than our Lazy-Boy recliners at home and these seats fully reclined into a perfectly horizontal position.  We were issued cozy fleece blankets and pillows.  The only thing missing was a remote control which really would have been handy when you were fully reclined, but my toes provided a suitable alternative, much to Chris’ amusement.

I’m not sure what you call the guy tending to all our needs; I’ll call him our butler although he looked more like an airline pilot in his smart uniform, but he acted in a very suave manner much like I would imagine a butler would act.  (Maybe I’ve been reading too much fiction lately.)   We knew we were in for a treat when our butler offered us an array of candies as soon as we sat down.  They don’t do that on the buses in Ecuador!

Once we were on the road, dinner was served – salad, bread, and a delicious hot meal (beef casserole with mashed potatoes), and of course dessert.  We had our choice of refreshments including wine.  Coffee and biscuits were served after dinner, followed by a shot of Irish whiskey.  We all slept like babies throughout the night. The next morning we were greeted by our ever friendly and obliging butler who served us coffee and a typical South American breakfast of croissants along with white bread and jam. Doesn’t this sound like a civilized way to travel?  Now do you understand why I didn’t want to get off the bus, especially an hour earlier than scheduled?  I’m sure we are ruined for all future bus travel.  It’s just as well we’re leaving South America soon.

The first thing we noticed about Puerto Iguazú was the heat.  The relentless sun beat down on us without a hint of a breeze to offer any relief.  It was almost unbearable.  We were drenched in sweat when we arrived at our hostel, just a short three block walk from the bus station.  But what a delight to discover our hostel (Garden Stone in case you’re looking for a place in Puerto Iguazú ) had a pool – something that saved us each day.  A funny thing about our hostel:  our room was very small and right next to the office so rather noisy, the bed was terribly uncomfortable, the breakfast was mediocre at best – yet we loved our time there and wished we had booked an extra night or two.

Our hostel felt like a mini resort or a friend’s back yard.

Behind the hostel was a lush, tropical garden, complete with hammocks in the shade, garden chairs, the pool, and a lovely open air, common kitchen and dining area. At the end of each day, guests would hang out around the pool, getting to know each other, sharing where they’ve travelled and where they’re going next. It was here we met Russ who was one year into a two year journey.  He had walked the Camino de Santiago last June – something we are planning to do this June. I had never met anyone who had done this walk before so naturally I peppered him with questions about his experience and am now even keener than ever to do this pilgrimage.  Yet, I still can’t answer the simple question, why?  I just feel I want to, maybe even need to do it.

I digress from the main purpose of our trip to Puerto Iguazú which was, of course, to visit Iguazú Falls, the second largest waterfalls in the world (Victoria Falls in South Africa are the largest and Niagara Falls in Canada are a very distant third).  Declared a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the early 1980′s, these falls are comprised of 275 individual falls spanning three kilometres. cascading up to 70 m into a giant gorge amidst a lush, subtropical rainforest.   Its normal flow is about 1.3 million litres per second.  The falls straddle both Argentina and Brazil; catwalks are built on both sides providing closer (often times mistier and wetter) views of this impressive waterfall. On November 11 of 2011, Iguazú Falls was declared to be one of the seven winners of the New7Wonders of Nature by the New Seven Wonders of the World Foundation.

Igauzu Falls MapMap of the walking trails and boat routes (red dots) on the both sides of the falls.
The island in the middle, San Martin, was closed to the public the day we were
there because a film crew was shooting a movie at that location. 

We spent one day on the Argentine side and one day on the Brazilian side.  We were relieved that our Brazilian Visas passed the scrutiny of the immigration officials.  These were the visas we had obtained in La Paz, Bolivia (doesn’t that seem like ages ago?) and we always wondered, and maybe worried a little if we would have any problems with them since they had been produced so quickly, and in a third world country no less.

Lookout from the Brazilian side of the falls.

Close up of the falls.

Rainbow at Devil’s Throat (La Garganta del Diablo)
as seen from the Argentine side.

An impressive network of walkways often passed right over
the water as it spilled over the very edge of the waterfall. 

The view from the Brazilian side – note that these are just
some of the falls.  It was impossible to capture it all
in a single photo! 

Contrary to what most people say, I think the Brazilian side of the falls was just as stunning as the view from the Argentine side, it just offered a different perpsective.  The Brazilian side offered a panoramic view that helped you appreciate how large these falls were.  From the Argentine side, one feels and hears the thunderous power of the falls more intimately.

Another view from the Brazilian side.

My favourite lookout on the Argentine side.  I felt very small
next to these powerful falls – and I was only standing at the
mid-point – half the falls were still below me. 

Chris and I at the same lookout as above.  Can you believe
we had the lookout to ourselves – well, at least for about
thirty seconds! 

View from the Argentine side from the upper walkway.

A great view from the Brazilian side.  
Devil’s Throat is in the background. 

My favourite view from the Brazilian side plus we got
soaked from the spray which cooled us off nicely. 

Another shot from the Brazilian side.

We succumbed to the lure of a tour offering a grand adventure under the falls.  Very much like the “Maid of the Mist” tour in Niagara Falls, this tour brings you by boat very close to the falls, even dunking you under a few times just for the thrill of it.  This was followed by a quick ride down the river through some fast moving water that they called “exciting rapids” (hardly!) after which we were transported by open truck through eight kilometres of rainforest during which we saw absolutely no wild life, not even a bird (contrary to the brochure’s promises of encounters with exotic wildlife like orangutans).  It was all over in less than an hour.  I think the best part was getting completely drenched and thoroughly cooled off; otherwise, it was really just another cheesy tourist attraction that we got suckered into. When are we going to learn?

No animals on this “jungle tour” which was quite ridiculous
when we encountered wildlife just walking through the park.
A few samples are below.

Video:  Experience the power and force of Iguazú falls with us.


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One Response
  1. Angus says:

    The falls are spectacular. It looks like the end of the world with everthing falling off those cliffs.