Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Iguazu Falls

Feeling lazy in the heat of the day I decided to hop in a taxi to take me to the RioViaria bus station, arriving in plenty of time for the first of many long bus rides I will no doubt encounter during this trip. Travelling from Rio in Brazil to Puerto Iguazu in Argentina was to take around 22 hours, but having booked the ticket in advance I got a pretty good deal on the Cama class bus, basically you can just about lay flat, one class shy of the buses where you can lie totally flat.

Getting over the border was easy enough, exit stamp in Argentina took no time and at the Brazilian side there was a little more faff but once everything was x-rayed we were good to go. Feeling pretty refreshed once I got to my hostel I decided to have a wander around the town, the jumping off point to see Iguazu Falls. These are the widest falls in the world at 275m and Iguazu literally means ‘big water’. When you see the falls themselves you can see why.

Getting to them is easy enough .There are two sides to the falls: the Argentinian side which gets you closer to the actual individual waterfalls and the Brazilian side which gives amazing panoramic views of the them.

Argentinian Side

From the bus station in Puerto Iguazu you can just take a 60 pesos round trip to the national park, buses come every 20/30 minutes.. Once in the park, there are three main circuits which are must dos: the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) trail which takes you right up to the biggest section and the centre piece of the falls, the Lower Circuit trail which takes you along the base of some of the falls and the Upper Circuit trail which takes you above a few of the others. Other trails include the Macuco Trail which is a 7km round trip to Salto Arrechea and not half as strenuous as it’s made out to be, and taking a boat trip to San Martin Island, but unfortunately this one was out of commission, probably due to recent rainfall.

Getting there relatively early, the best thing to do is take the train to the Devil’s Throat to try and avoid the big tour groups and later crowds. As you walk along the gangway, you can see the mist rising in the distance and when close enough you can hear the roar of the falls until you approach the site where you are at the end of the walkway looking into the water and getting soaked by the spray. It really is an amazing sight; a huge torrent of water exploding out into the river below, however you have to be quick with photos as the second a good photo opportunity comes, it is gone in the mist and both you and your camera will get wet.

Entrance to Devil's Throat

Approaching the Devil's Throat

Once you have been up and down to the Devil’s Throat, you can take it easy as the trails themselves are long enough not to get too caught up in crowds, only at the bottle neck view points do things start to get a little crowded.

On the Lower trail, you get a good soaking and vantage point around Salto Ramirez and Salto Bossetti, when open you can follow the path down to the dock to take the boat over to San Martin Island, and following the Upper Trail you have great views down into Saltos Dos Hermanos, Chico, Ramirez and Bossetti, culminating with great all round views of falls Mbigua, San Martin and Escondido right at the end of the Upper Trail around Salto Bernabe Mendez.

Lower trail

View of Saltos Adan, Eva and Bossetti

View of San Martin and Escondido

View of San Martin and Escondido

View along Lower Trail

Salto Alvar Nunex
 Upper trail

View over Bernabe Mendez

Above Salto Ramirez

Brazilian Side

This side is easily reached in a couple of ways: take a local bus to the Argentinian border, get it stamped, wait for another bus (if the one you were on left) to get to the Brazil border, get another stamp, get another bus to the park and repeat the process coming back, or sign up for a tour.

Usually I would just go about the cheaper more drawn out route but the tour also included a buffet (which had insane meat options), some time in Ciudad del Este in Paraguay (which ended up being the biggest waste of time ever unless I wanted to buy cheap, knock off goods) and Itaipu Dam (which provided a wonderful tour in Spanish). In conclusion, maybe just going to the Brazilian side of the falls on my own steam would have been a better option.

The Brazilian side of the falls is much smaller than the Argentinian side but it does offer amazing panoramic views. The first view point gives spectacular views of the waterfalls around the Upper Trail on the Argentinian side and the further along ‘The Path of the Falls’ you go, the better they become. The end of the walkway leads into the water and again you are taken into the mist of the falls before heading up to the lookout tower for one more final photo opportunity.

View of Saltos Adan, Eva, Bossetti and Mbigua among others

View of Salto Tres Mosqueteros in the foreground, Salto Rivadavia in the background

Approaching the biggest fall on the Brazilia side

There are less falls on this side but better views of the Argentinian side, whereas the Argentinian side is better for getting up close and personal with the falls. All in all, I would say you have to go to both sides in order to get the most out of this amazing natural experience.

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