My next stop in Brazil was Iguassu Falls, or Foz de Iguasu. The majestic waterfalls that sit right on the intersecting borders of Brazil and Argentina, close to Paraguay. Waterfalls rank top of my must see sights in any country, and Iguassu was no exception. I’ve rafted under, and flown in a helicopter over, Victoria Falls in Africa, and have taken the Maid of the Mist boat under Niagara Falls in Canada, and although both of those waterfalls were quite spectacular, Iguassu Falls was a notch above again.
Iguassu is so much bigger, with 274 more waterfalls besides the main one at the top of the Argentinian side, and I loved it. I stayed at a hostel on the Brazilian side, and although the country has many things going for it, I’d heard the Argentinian side of the falls was better, so I wanted to save a full day for those, and I took a local public bus to the Brazilian side of the falls on my first afternoon.
I managed to navigate my way through two bus rides and a ticket seller – all who spoke little or no English – and found myself dropped off at the start of the walk with a busload of other tourists, all excited to see the falls we could hear from quite a distance away. On rare occasions, a ‘follow the crowd’ mentality will suffice, and this was one of those moments. Once I saw where everyone was headed, I took off at a fast pace to try and put some distance between myself and the crowd, and was rewarded with some stunning scenery (and not so many heads to crop out of photos).
The Brazilian Falls are admired from a distance, until you get to the end of the path where a walkway extends out above the second highest falls. It is then you truly appreciate the thunderous noise of thousands of litres of water gushing over the edge and plummeting many meters below. The spray from the highest falls beside the walkway was heavy enough to thoroughly wet those without raincoats (including me!), and I was pleased I had a waterproof camera so I didn’t have to shield my phone like so many others did.
Having negotiated a ‘better than advertised price’ on the bus transfer from the hostel to the Argentinian Falls, the following day I was dropped off at a less than impressive tickets sales desk, and instructed to return to the bus pick up point seven hours later. Seven hours? I love waterfalls, yet I didn’t think it was possible to spend seven whole hours wandering around a waterfall by myself..
Little did I know there were so many different falls on this side, and that exploring all three paths – lower, middle and upper – in the National Park would actually take the every minute of those seven hours! For anyone visiting the falls with limited time in future, I recommend the lower and the upper paths only. The upper contains a 1km walk out over the flat water plateau, before you reach the gigantic 82m high, 150m wide funnel of water that is the primary waterfall at Iguassu. With a flow rate of 1.756m3/s, it is an amazing sight to see and hear, yet the downside is you’re fighting for elbow room with hundreds of tourists all at once. Obtaining a photo without another person in it proved to be a mission in itself – although one picture a random guy took of me turned out to be very good!
As usual, my head considers everything odd to be interesting, and it crossed my mind that if the platform we all stood on gave way, I don’t believe the combined screaming would be heard above the thunder of millions of litres of water rushing to beat us to the bottom..
The lower falls on the other hand, is the longest, yet it was often tourist free. It leads to the point where you board the boat for a close up view of the falls from beneath them, and get completely soaking wet in the process. Ensure you walk the loop closest to the Brazilian side, for most people seemed to skip that and it was there I found some very friendly butterflies – one who decided to land on my chest and softly tickle me as it pranced towards my shoulder. The beautiful bright blue colour I glanced when its wings opened was magical, and made the effort of craning my neck to film it all the more worthwhile.
Similar to Niagara Falls, the town of Iguassu itself was nothing particularly interesting, and appears to exist primarily to cater for the tourists visiting one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Thankfully unlike Niagara though, there isn’t any gaudy music or amusement park type entertainment at Iguassu.
The town is fairly quiet on the weekend, and the public bus fare is discounted on Sundays – which explained the extra change I got from the ticket seller just before he gleefully watching me struggle and squeeze my way through the turnstile with my backpack. He yelled something in Portuguese, but didn’t move from behind his glass office to help me, and I’m certain that seeing tourists get stuck in his turnstile is the highlight of his shift every day.