Chasing Waterfalls at Iguazu Falls
I’m not sure what it is about famous waterfalls and international borders, but they seem to be attracted to each other. Last year I spent my January holidays shivering but struck by Niagara Falls, which flows and freezes along the US-Canadian border. This year I migrated south to the steamy jungles of southern Brazil and eastern Argentina, where instead of January icicles and snow piles I encountered the Garden of Eden-esque landscape that encompasses Iguazu Falls, recently named one of the “New 7 Wonders of the Nature.”
With white water rushing like liquid diamonds over emerald cliffs, ringed by rainbows shimmering in the spray, it was impossible not to be impressed.
The difference between the two famous falls is vast. As a Midwesterner who grew up with Niagara Falls only a few hours away, I thought I was prepared for Iguazu—but instead I was stunned by its natural grandeur. Surrounded only by deep jungle and a few unimposing walkways, here the organic landscape dominates and visitors seem as insignificant as ants, easily washed away.
You can visit Iguazu from Argentina, Brazil, or both. To experience both the intensity and immensity of Iguazu’s complex of 275 cascades, it’s preferable to schedule a day for each side. From Argentina you’ll crisscross the falls along a series of trails, weaving from one waterfall to the next. From Brazil you’re treated to a panoramic view of the entire site, which stretches nearly 2 miles across
A favorite fall for many is Devil’s Throat, a horseshoe cascade that gushes rapidly over a 270-foot drop. Accessed from Argentina but viewable from Brazil, this is one of the best places to appreciate Iguazu’s liquid power.
Crossing a boardwalk that spans the surprisingly wide and tranquil Iguazu River toward Devil’s Throat is an experience of anticipation. When I began, I found it hard to believe that the sparkling shallow water was going anywhere, let alone fast, as it looked placid and perfect for a dip. But as I progressed, the river deepened and a plume of mist appeared in the distance. Soon a rumble reached my ears and what looked like a massive whirlpool of downward disappearing water swirled before my eyes
By the time I arrived at the overlook I was dripping both from eagerness and the fall’s spray, which mists the area with a cooling but photographically-frustrating vapor. The rumble now a roar, I gazed down into the abyss of the falls.
According to local Guarani legend, Iguazu Falls was created when a jealous god collapsed the riverbed to prevent the object of his infatuation from escaping downriver with an Indian warrior, the girl's true love. As I leaned over the slick railing, squinting through the spray at the crash of colliding torrents far below, it seemed to me that though the punishment was a bit harsh, it certainly created a spectacular sight.
Thanks to Arian Zweger for the title image of this blog.