Day #11,058: Straight off a wonderful last day in Rio de Janeiro, Mr. M & I landed in Iguazu, the eponymously named gateway to the waterfalls (or ‘cataratas,’ one of my favorite Spanish words because it’s just so fun to say).
The 14 mile-long network of ‘cataratas’ making up Iguazu Falls straddle the border of Brazil and Argentina. Because the Falls are nothing short of spectacular- and also, incidentally, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World- both countries try to lay claim to the best view. Brazil is the best side from which to get a sense of the massive scope of the Falls. And Argentina is the best side for up close & personal catarata viewing. So settle down, kids. You’re both right.
Truth be told, I was feeling Nasty, Capital N. A head cold worsened by the flight’s pressure changes had turned me slightly unpleasant. [Understatement, says Mr. M, the man of few words.] But at one point on the descent I went completely deaf in my right ear… I was concerned to say the least, especially when my hearing didn’t fully return for another week. Nonetheless, traveling takes no prisoners, and we’d planned to view Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side that afternoon.
The tight-lipped gal down at our hotel lobby told us she’d call a cab, which would be there shortly. Perfect! So we waited. And waited. Twenty minutes went by. I got antsy and went to double-check. Yes, yes- the valet told me- only certain taxis will go to the Parque (not true, folks), and one of these “special taxis” needed to come. And oh by the way, did we want a guide, as well?
I was not amused.
Sure enough, a full half hour later when our taxi showed up (we later saw there was a taxi stand directly across the street), the driver was quick to ask if I could speak Spanish and was subsequently incredibly insistent on going with us to the Falls and serving as our (very unnecessary) tour guide. We bid him and his Hard-Sell adieu (and ciao and adios, to cover all our bases) and vowed not to get a taxi from the hotel again.
Once we made it to the entrance of the Brazilian Foz do Iguacu, a double-decker bus took us through the National Park to the start of a ½ mile viewing boardwalk.
I couldn’t believe how extensive the falls were. We’d turn a corner, and there’d be a whole new set of waterfalls!
We haven’t seen Niagara Falls yet, and I worry that we may be going about this Waterfall Thing the wrong way. Eleanor Roosevelt, upon seeing Iguazu, lamented “Poor Niagara.” Has anyone out there seen both? Does Niagara get a bum rap? Mr. M & I were both so amazed by the scope of Iguazu… and unfortunately my pictures do a not-so-great job of capturing this.
The trail ended at the viewing point for La Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat, in Spanish), where half of the rivers combine into one precipitous and thundering drop 350 feet down.
The falls are so powerful that there’s constant mist over the viewing platform; we three- my weathered camera included- battened down our hatches and walked into sideways rain, blustery wind, and some of the most dramatic scenery I’ve seen. It was beautiful.
While much of Brazil enjoys year-round tropical weather, Iguazu and parts south of Sao Paulo actually do experience a mild winter, and this particular day happened to be light on the ‘mild’ and heavy on the ‘winter.’ I was ready to warm up with some chocolate quente (cocoa).
One easy jaywalk from the Brazilian Falls Park entrance is another tourist favorite: Parque das Aves, a zoological park featuring birds from around the world. Sick or no, I don’t miss an opportunity to get up close & personal with animals, and we happily found ourselves among the only visitors willing to brave the weather.
The wonderful thing about zoos outside of the U.S. is that you’re often allowed to get inside various aviaries and enclosures with the animals. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and I’m sure it often is… but it’s neat having that barrier removed.
Sick Me gave out just around the time we were finishing up at Parque das Aves. Sightseeing duties accomplished, it was time to head back to the hotel for a nap.
After I recouped a bit, we wandered down to the super glam-glam 1970’s era sunken lobby (picture smoky mirrored glass, sunken banquet seating, gold accents…).
We had caipirinhas in highball glasses and listened to the bar pianist play a fantastic cover of Adele’s Someone Like You. I felt like some sort of very glamorous- albeit phlegmy- mob boss’s wife and wanted to drape myself over said piano with a cigarette holder for dramatic effect. Mr. M suggested that I decrease my dose of decongestants.
After getting such a grand overview of Iguazu Falls, we were even more excited to view them up close from the Argentinian side the following day. We had no idea just how awesome they’d be.
Details of the Day:
Accommodation: We stayed at the Bourbon Cataratas Resort- a very reasonably priced, swanky-ish hotel that found its style a few decades back and has no intention of changing, thankyouverymuch. Even our room (where we were given two separate beds- very common when traveling South America with two different last names) had elegant touches from a bygone era: underbed “slipper lights,” quilted headboards, and that chainlink chandelier with cord draping down to the electrical outlet that grandparents feature in their wood-paneled dining rooms. The whole effect was kind of marvelous.
Eats: Many hotels in Iguazu offer half-board (breakfast and dinner), which is the way to go if you’re staying outside the city; they’re a great deal, and there aren’t a whole lot of eating choices, anyway. For an extra $20 a person, we got a three-course dinner at their fancy Italian restaurant and breakfast buffet complete with omelet station the next morning. Ba-zing!
Transportation: I loved the hotel, with one caveat: do NOT have them call you a cab. They’re clearly getting kickbacks from tourists who book unnecessary tour guides through their taxi drivers. Instead, walk across the street to the taxi stand and negotiate with the drivers yourself. Easy as pie.
Honestly, though, Iguazu would be the one place we visited in Brazil where I would recommend renting your own car. It’s so easy to drive here- even across the border to Argentina- that we definitely should have done this. Many of the hotels around Iguazu Falls are located along one main artery of a road, making everything extremely straightforward to find. There’s also a bus that trevails the main road, but I was feeling too yucky to stand around in the rain and wait for it.