When my parents began to plan their own trip to South America, the one destination my mother was absolutely set on was the Iguazu Falls, the national park which transcends not two, but three country borders. At first, I wasn’t totally enamoured with the idea. By that point, I’d come up with other ideas for my travels that were my priority.
However, once I arrived in Rio, the new friends I was making were beginning to take weekends to travel. Every other weekend, I was hearing rave reviews of many places, such as São Paulo, Porto Alegre…however, the one that always stood out was Foz do Iguaçu, the town on the Brazilian side of the Iguassu Falls National Park. I was being told of Ice Bars, incredible waterfalls spanning miles and awesome boat trips on the river. So, with all the advice in hand, I revised my travel plans and fit the falls into my schedule.
Fast forward to our last day in the North, my parents and I boarding our flight to Iguaçu, where I would leave them for a week and a half for my own travels with a friend from Rio. I arrived at my hostel and had a quick drink with my friend before settling down for the night, knowing my sole full day at the falls would be spent on the Argentinian side. I’d heard that it was overwhelmingly the more popular, so it was probably the right choice. My friend had already had a dander over to the Paraguayan side, stating it to be ‘tacky’ and ‘unnecessary’ – he didn’t even take advantage of the cheap prices on brands and alcohol. A shame, really, but sometimes these things don’t work out the way we hope. Brazil’s side, to my knowledge, was a little more low-key and there was far less to do, so it was clear that if I was only going to be there one day the Argentinian side was the one to go for.
And so, cue a minibus taking us over the border the next morning, a rather happy, gruff Argentinian man driving it and forcing me to practice my broken Spanish – my language has greatly improved being in La Paz, so fortunately that’s sorted – and lots of suncream being applied at the entrance to the park. I have only managed to have one bad sunburn in the entirety of my stay in South America, and let me tell you, friends, I most certainly intend to keep it that way.
The park was rather touristy, with a visitors’ centre and many blatantly overpriced gift shops, so instead of succumbing to my need for souvenirs I continued and we went in search of the first trail. Sure enough, we found it, leading us to views we, quite frankly, were not prepared for.
One cannot really understand the sheer size of these waterfalls until visiting the park. They simply continue on forever, as if they only end at the horizon, and it seems baffling that people are able to travel the entire stretch in one day. Of course, that is not the only view which strikes you; it also hits you hard when you are next to one, the water falling quicker than your brain can process and the sound deafening you with every second. Every viewpoint provided a new, wonderful angle of these incredible feats of nature. It floored me with every step I took.
After a quick lunch of Argentinian empanadas and copious amounts of water, we set off for our afternoon’s plans – the boat trip. A simple, ride on the river to see the falls from yet another different angle? Seems pretty relaxing and beautiful, am I right?
Twas not the case, my friends. My amigo was most definitely prepared for the occasion, donning swimming trunks and forgoing a shirt lest it get too soaked. I, however, was in decidedly cotton shorts and a white tank top. I cannot stress this enough, people; this is not the right attire for a boat ride.
If any of you have seen, I have uploaded a video on youtube of my adventures in Brazil, and needless to say, about halfway through you see how incredible it is to go almost into the waterfall. The spray hits you hard; it really is a wall of water. I will put the link to the video on the end of this post, for those who haven’t seen it – it’s my first venture into editing video and I really gave it my best shot.
After drying off as best we could, we headed up to the Devil’s Throat at the end of the park, where the waterfalls begin. It’s earned this name because of the sheer amount of water pouring into one space, so much so the water’s surface cannot even be seen; the spray whitens the entire expanse, and it’s common to see a rainbow peeking out from the white cloud below.
I returned to the Brazilian side of the park, popping into my parents’ hotel to see them one last time before my travels began. As my friend and I relaxed poolside, played a couple of games of Brazilian snooker and enjoyed a drink, I couldn’t help but wonder what would come next on our adventure. It was the moment I’d been waiting for, doing the class student backpack tour, and somehow I knew it was going to turn out to be very special.
In other news, as of February 17th, I have officially achieved dream #020 of living in a different country for over six months. They may be two different countries, but it counts, I promise…
Tune in next time for the stories of our trips to Porto Alegre, in the south of Brazil, and Florianopolis, where Brazilians take their holidays.