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Iguazu Falls

ARGENTINA | Monday, 17 November 2008 | Views [3197] | Comments [2]

It was only a five hour bus ride from San Ignacio to Iguazu but it was jammers when it came along so we were wedged between the toilet and the stairs for a good part of it. My solution (as I already mentioned in the Paraguay entry) was to write the blog on the new PC while Claire managed to get a seat soon enough thanks to a polite Argentinian man. Close to Puerto Iguazu, the town beside the falls on the Argentinian side, enough people got off to allow us both to sit down.

I say the Argentinian side because the falls are the border between Argentina and Brazil and the Paraguayan border is just above them, so they don't get to make any tourist dollars from them, unlucky from them. They do on the other hand have a duty free city to make up for that fact but as we had already got the t-shirt (actually the jeans and the laptop) from Encarnacion, visiting Ciudad del Este was not part of the plan.

Puerto Iguazu reminded us a little of Aguas Calientes, the town nestling under Maccu Picchu in that its sole function seems to be to provide for (and extract funds from) the gazillion tourists a year who visit the falls. As such, there wasn't much to do when we arrived but check into the hostel and wander around and find a bite to eat.

Up the next morning after a bad night's sleep – seemingly unbelievably we had not stayed in a hostel dorm (that had other people in it) at all throughout the trip and it was a little bit strange to have other people getting into their beds after our lights out. To be fair they were very quiet and the sleeplessness was more to do with the heat and strange dreams than anything. I dreamt I was working for Alan Sugar as an apprentice, who had to risk assess a warehouse in Liverpool before a hurricane hit. Bizarre...

After breakfast we got the local bus out to the national park and once there remembered the whole pushy tourist feeling as we queued up for our tickets. The pricing structure they use is quite good. Free if you have “different abilities” or are over 70, $7 if you live in the town, 15 of you live in the state, 20 if you are from Argentina, 30 if you're from Brazil, Chile or Paraguay (Mercosur) and finally 60 if you're from anywhere else.

The falls themselves can be viewed from a number of different points – they're so enormous you can't see them all from one point. Some fantastic facts – I means water in Guarani and Guazu means big. It receives the water from some 30 rivers which fall over a 74m precipice in 275 separate falls at a rate of 1750 cubic meters per second. Apprantley when Eleanor Roosevelt visited them she remarked “Poor Niagra”.It really is an amazing site to behold.

Keen to avoid the crowds (and there are literally thousands of people jostling for that perfect snap) we followed the advice of a park ranger who told us to avoid the big one – the devils throat until lunch. So we wandered around the upper circuit, where you can get an excellent overview, almost alone, before heading down to the lower circuit, we you can awe at the power and get wet if you want. Hopefully the pictures speak for themselves but it was literally breathtaking.

Just as it hit lunchtime we got the little train up to the biggest set of falls and again we had it almost to ourselves for about 10 minutes before the groups caught up with us (we pretty much jogged the 1km of river bridges to get to it from the train!). It was hard to make out the falls themselves as they create so much spray and amazing to see the river “suicide” swallows swoop in and out of the waters toing and froing from their nests.

Unfortunatlely one of the walks, on San Martin Island, was closed due to high river levels AND we couldn't do it so we went for a longer nature walk instead during the afternoon. This took us 3km along a jungle track to a natural pool carved out by a 20m waterfall in which you're allowed swim. It was great to cool off and mess about in the fresh water and I was really glad that we had learnt so much about the jungle from Manu in Peru that we were able to appreciate it unaccompanied, So much so in fact that we pretty much only whispered the whole way back and saw quite a lot of as yet unidentified large tailless mammals .... we heard a lot of other groups on the way and going back lon before we saw them – I suspect they frightened any wildlife off before being able to see it. We even saw some wild guinea pigs at the train station back at the park ... I think we're both glad we didn't end up eating cuy in Peru as they are very cute...

We got back to the town at about 6 and after a very full day in the park we were pooped, both struggling to make it through dinner awake and looking forward to a good sleep, which I got but it was Claire's turn to have some strange dreams this time – she had to give my mother a guinea pig to mind, which would probably be ok except for the fact that it only spoke Spanish, was a bit choosy and had to be hand fed!

We were pretty much done with Iguazu and decided to move over to the Brazilian side to see about making the very long bus trip to Rio de Janeiro. There was no availability in on the Argentine side for 2 days.

The border crossing was hassle free, and it was a little disappointing that they did not ask for the yellow fever vaccinations we had paid so much for back home, specifically so we could get into Brazil. Its good we're vaccinated all the same, We got into the centre of Foz do Iguacu, a much bigger town which seems to not really have that much to do with the falls at all.

Once again it was quite remarkable the difference a few miles makes as the people, buildings and general style of the place was quite distinct from Argnetina. It's a lot more organised and affluent and certainly more together and less scary than I remember it being 10 years ago. It's also a lot more expensive. We're practically back on UK prices in terms of transport and food. Let's see about accommodation in Rio!

We got to the long distance bus station and bought ourselves some tickets for 6pm, arriving at 5pm the following day, This was longer than any flight I knew of! This left us just enough time to go and see, in contrast to one of the natural wonders of the world, one of the modern wonders of the world: Itaipu dam and power station, the largest single power station in the world.

Some more fabulous facts: It dammed the 10th biggest river in the world by volume, the Paraná and was a joint venture between the Brazilian and Paraguayan governments, the river forming the border between the 2 countries. They started in 1974 and only finished this year, despite the pace of construction being the equivalent to building a 20 storey building every 55 minutes! The amount of concrete used was 15 times than that used in the Eurotunnel. It created a reservoir that displaced thousands of people and is visible from space. It generates 14000 Mwh of electricity through 20 generators of which Paraguay uses 5% and sells 45% back to Brazil. In total this supplies 100% of Paraguay's electricity and 25% of Brazil's. Hopefully this can convey some of the size of this thing to you as I know the pictures don't do it justice. One fact really gets me though – one of the generators (and there are 20) has the same capacity as 50% of the entire Iguazu falls – so in one of those white metal cylinders, half of all of the falls is going through every second.

The mind boggles – ok mine did, I'm not so sure Claire found it quite so interesting ... in fact there were a few blokes eagerly taking photos and reading specifications while slightly bored but tolerant other halves feigned smiles for the photos and interest at the next engineering fact... The the end of the day I think we both though it was interesting contrast the awesome beauty and the functional value of ultimately the same thing on consecutive days – river water.

As we had quite lengthy waits for buses and at the border we were pushing it for time so we got back to town and jumped in a taxi to the bus station in order to board our home for the next 23 hours – seats 15 and 16 on the 18.00 from Foz do Iguazu to Rio de Janeiro.!

Tags: brazil, dam, hyderoelectric, power station, waterfalls




wonderful stuff - keep it coming. high fun all the way

  jack Nov 22, 2008 1:32 AM


ok good

  Mr. Nick Matyas Jan 8, 2010 9:03 AM

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