We spent three wonderful days in Puerto Iguazu on the Argentenian side of Iguazu Falls on the river that doubles as the Brazil/Argentinian border. We didn ´t originally intend to spend three days, but a little relaxation was in order, and what better place to do it than in a town where we can actually afford wine AND cheese on our very meager budget!
The falls were incredible. There are three different places to visit, and about 300 falls, only about 25 of which are noteworthy. We visited the star of the show, Garganta del Diablo (Devil ´s Throat), first. If this sounds familiar, it ´s because I wrote about this place in my travel journal last year. And if you would have asked me then if I ´d be back almost exactly a year later, I would have put money on “no.” But, there ´s no way anyone (Pat) should ever get so close and not see it. It ´s one of the seven natural wonders of the world! They ´re bigger than Niagra!
Anyway, first to the show-stopper. You have to see it in person to understand the sheer force of that much water and the optical illusion that turns your knees to jelly. The Devil ´s Throat is a giant horseshoe, and you get to stand on a platform at one end of the horse shoe looking straight into and up at the heart of the falls. So, for nearly 270 degrees, water is raging all around you, and your equilibrium turns to mush. It ´s so cool. And we saw a caiman! (like a croco-gator)
Next we headed to the “lower circuit,” a trail that passes several waterfalls and leads you down a lush cliffside to the water where a free boat ferries you to an island. On the island, there are more trails to hike, and more waterfalls to see. Not so crowded, and an excellent beach (but no swimming! too dangerous…). Finally we hiked the “upper circuit,” a shorter trail that stretched across the tops of all the falls, giving you a bird ´s eye view of the whole canyon and the Brazilian National Park, as well as making your stomach churn as you lean out over giant waterfalls.
Something I hadn ´t done on my last visit was hike the nature trail. We saved it for last, hoping to see more wildlife at the days end. According to all the warning signs about not feeding animals, etc., we had potential to see several birds, monkeys, coatis, and jaguars! Quite hopeful, we set off, only to realize we had another couple (also fast paced hikers) on the trail behind us yakking away. Didn ´t they read the signs about enjoying the silence of nature!?
Luckily, we mangaed to distance ourselves a little, and startled a bird. It sounded like a helicopter taking off, and I looked up just in time to see my first-ever toucan! WOW! So cool!
Toucans have been part of my fairy-tale world since I was a little girl, and I finally got to see one!
A few mintues later, as we were making our way down the tunnel (they called it a trail) that had been hacked out of the vegetation, a rodent about the size of a small dog (that actually looks more like a brown, hairy, piglet) charged out of the forest in front of us and took off running down the trail. Five minutes later, we happened upon two young men taking photos of the tree tops. As we got closer we could hear something thrashing around somewhere in the thick brush, and finally realized MONKEYS were eating and dropping the leftovers to the ground! They were so cute!! And strangely had no interest in us or the theoretical treats the signs told us not to offer. Usually in a place like that, the animals practically crawl down your shirt to find food.
This is the closest picture I could find to the monkeys we saw. Ours had the same face, but more gray, instead of b/w.
Around the next corner in the trail, two more capybaras (the dog-pig-rodents) came running out of the dense foilage about 20 yards ahead of us. But this time, they started charging us! No, I am not normally afraid of a small-dog sized animal, but when you ´re trapped in a tunnel of vegetation so thick that you couldn ´t see someone standing more than four feet away, and don ´t possess one of the “wedge shaped bodies usesful for dashing through the thick understory,” you might freak out, too. I practically crawled on top of Pat as I wished desperately that I was wearing shoes more suitable for kicking. Pretty funny in retrospect.
One of the capybara… theyre crazy!
No jaguars, and only slightly-more-curious monkeys for the trip back to the visitor ´s center, where we caught one of the last busses back to town. The game between Argentina and Mexico (for the World Cup second round) was on T.V., so of course the town was dead. We dropped ourselves into seats at a recently vacated table in a pizza joint, and enjoyed some ice-cold beer until the game ended and the pizza-making started again. I thought the Brazilians were crazy about soccer, but Argentina ´s enthusiasm has to be unmatched. Seriously, I have never seen so much clapping, screaming, singing, and jumping around. I ´d love to see what happens when they actually score! We missed the goals, but Argentina won the game, which meant rounds of the national anthem, lots of chants and clapping, plenty of fireworks and honking cars in the streets, and ear-to-ear smiles all around.
All the rest of our time in Puerto Iguazu was spent drinking wine ($2/bottle!), eating cheese, playing cards, reading, napping, and internet-ing. Now THAT ´s vacation! It was also quite nice to be in a place where I could communicate, and where we don ´t avoid complicated situations (like eating at regional restaurant with regional ways of serving) because we ´ll have to spend another thirty minutes hungry and figuring out what ´s going on.
About the journal entry title… something funny I noticed while walking around the streets of Puerto Iguazu where everyone rides around on motorcycles/dirt bikes. I must preface by saying that I am one of those people who likes the smells of things like gasoline, finger-nail polish, rubber cement, etc. And right now you are either thinking, “me, too!” or “seriously? gross.” Yes I know it kills brain cells, etc, and no, I don ´t run around with a scratch-and-sniff gasoline sticker on my wrist, but I like those kinds of smells! That being said, I also like the smell of two-cycle engine exhaust (lawn-mowers, speed-boat motors, four-wheelers, dirt-bikes, etc.) My redneck moment came when yet another dirt bike zoomed by and I had a sudden longing for summers at the lake water-skiing and four-wheeling trips to the mountains. For several mintues, I longed to be in Wyoming enoying this time of year. And then I realized… you might be a redneck if, the smell of two-cycle exhaust reminds you of summer!