Iguazu Falls, Not the Amazon but Just As Impressive
The Boeing 737 began its decent into Puerto Iguazu Aeroporto and from my window seat I had a birds eye view of the vast expanse of rainforest stretching out before me. It was truly humbling and here I will show my ignorance by telling you that as I knew the bottom of Brazil was just across the river somewhere, I did think it was the beginning of the Amazon. As I came to realise, what I was looking at was actually still Argentina and was the Parque de Nacional which surrounds Iguazu Falls. The Amazon is still many hundreds of Kilometres away. This doesn’t take away from the fact that the rainforest, fed by a massive average yearly rainfall of more than 2000mm is immense, dense and very impressive.
Stepping through the aeroplane doors and out onto the exit stairs the steaming heat of the tropics hit me with a bit more force than I had expected. Not quite the wall of heat I have experienced in the past but close. The dark red volcanic earth common in Northern Australia was immediately noticeable. So rich with nutrients that whatever is planted in it grows rampantly but so insidious that the stain paints every surface and crack a rich ochre, far better though than petrochemical black.
The town of Puerto Iguazu, seems to have found renown for its Falls in relatively recent times as the ramshackle appearance of much of the impoverished residential area is intermingled with a range of hotels. The savaging dogs, homes that appear to be about to crumble, derelict cars and ragged children is always an unsettling situation for me. I can’t I help but understand how much of a temptation it must be for the inhabitants to try to take from visitors of richer lands a little more than the actual economy dictates.
Arara Azul, my hotel, sits on the bank (quite literally) of the imposing Piranha River. Verdant green tropical gardens surround a series of rustic cabins, all with their own view of the mighty river. Without the frills of a western resort but a charm all of its own and of course a setting that is the envy of the aforementioned. However, I hadn’t realised it was quite so isolated, so my arrival at the hottest part of the day, with the hotel apparently deserted and an empty stomach didn’t make me quite as positive as I would usually have been.
When a staff member eventually arrive and took me to see my room I felt a little better. The cabin itself was beautiful and clean but the moment I realised there were no mosquito screens on the windows or doors I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Between my own knowledge if Mosquito born diseases and my friends mention of the Japanese encephalitis scare that is currently gripping Bali, it was nearly a recipe for insanity. I could see myself locked up in my room all night with no way of getting fresh air, my worst nightmare come to reality. “ I can’t stay here,” I blurted out. The young guy looked at me mystified. “No screens” I said pointing to the windows while performing very bad charades. Looking straight at me he held my gaze for a few seconds, obviously trying to work out what I was on, before pointing behind his back to something on the wall. “An air conditioner, of course,” I said. Ok so it isn’t the same as having windows open with fresh air coming in but at list I was going to suffocate.
My next biggest problem, that of getting to Iguazu Falls the next day, was solved by a beautiful Argentinean family who I met in the pool not long after their arrival. After a brief and patchy conversation ( they only spoke a few words of English) they extended an offer to go to the falls with them the next day, they even took me to a supermarket on the way home. The kindness of strangers truly astounds me sometimes, humans can be beautiful.
Iguazu Falls itself is worth the expense of getting there. Argentina has done a great job of creating the infrastructure to support a daily intake of 4,00 visitors a day. With three great trails and a free train to help when you are exhausted from all your walking, it is an awesome experience. The pure volume of water thundering over the edge every second is almost mind boggling. The beauty of creation very inspiring.
…. If you are wondering how I finally got some food on my first day, it turns out the local takeaway store delivered but not until I had nearly gnawed my arms off at 7.00pm. So finally after the worst chips I have ever had and a not so good hamburger, I was feeling a lot better!