Claires travel pages
Claires travel pages

Iguazu falls are one of the most spectacular things I saw during my travels. Covering an area more than 3km wide and falling over an 80 m drop in the landscape, these falls are not only wider than Victoria and higher than Niagara, but are also considered to be the most beautiful falls in the world. They sit on the border between Argentina and Brazil, not far from Paraguay. No photograph or description I can show you here will ever do them justice, so my advice is truly, go and see them. The name “Iguaçu”, meaning “Great Waters”, is the name the Tupi-Guarani Indian tribes gave to the falls before the Spaniard Don Alvar Nuñes discovered them in 1541. It was readopted when the Spaniard’s choice of Saltos de Santa Maria fell into disuse. The Unesco declared the Iguaçu falls a World Heritage site in 1986.

April 2003

My first trip to Foz was quite an adventure in itself. In the bus on the way there I met this really nice girl called Fidelina who had a young kid and was married to a guy who looked as if he could be her grandfather. We chatted for most of the 5 hour journey and, when I got to Ciudad del Este (the 2nd largest city in Paraguay, and the worlds 3rd contraband city - that ranges from clothes to money via anything like cars etc...- a place highly unrecommended for little blonde tourists such as me) Fidelina gave me a lift to the border from where I was handed over to the care of a friendly Brazilian soldier... He then found a couple of friendly students who worked in the tourist industry that he knew to take me over the bridge that crosses the river between Brazil and Paraguay. The two were incredibly friendly and funny and we spent a good 1/2-hour sat in traffic lights laughing about all sorts of various cultural differences. They then delivered me to a taxi rank in Foz and found me a nice Spanish-speaking taxi driver who then took me to my hotel, where, after all these long and perilous adventures, I finally met up with my friend Sarah who had been working in Buenos Aires for the past few months. This kind of travelling does not come recommended and I believe that it was a fairly foolish thing to do in an unknown country, especially at night. I really don’t know what possessed me to do this, but luckily it came out ok. It is nice to know that no matter where you go, there are always some friendly helpful honest people who will be willing to help.

On the first day we went over to the argentine side of the falls and spent the day walking round the paths over, under, along and virtually through the falls. We got very wet of course since the amount of spray generated by the falling mass of water is phenomenal and the slightest piece of wind (there was plenty) set it all flying through the air around us! We also went rafting up to the falls and 4x4ing thought the subtropical jungle. It was great fun and really impressive. The rumble of the falls can be heard for miles around and the power of the water falling is spectacular. The guys in the boat had great fun taking us up to virtually under the falls and trying to scare the hell out of us by turning really fast!! As we walked around the park, we saw thousands of amazing butterflies, of all shapes and sizes, and some were at least twice the size of my hand!! We also saw some toucans and some Coatis and a variety of unknown birds, and I was even clever enough to put my hand down of a hairy black and white caterpillar walking along a branch… boy did that sting!!! Needless to say I was absolutely knackered at the end of the day.

On the second day we went to see the falls from the Brazilian side. It was also spectacularly gorgeous and was absolutely full of coatis. We had a long walk in the jungle in the morning, walking right up below the falls from the opposite angle than the previous day. The spray from the falls was incredible and the sun was creating a thousand rainbows around us. Truly magical. In the afternoon we went to see a bird park, where I met loads of Toucans and a wide variety of parrots. Toucans have now become the new love of my life; they are so beautiful, so delicate and so amazing. The colours of their feathers seem unreal, their patterns so perfect, and the colours around their eyes are mesmerizing. The bird park is made of several large cages full of trees and ponds that you can walk around in and allows people to get up close to the animals that live in the wild around the falls area. In one of these giant cages I befriended one very cheeky toucan who started hopping round me, chatting to me and trying to eat my shoe... he also found it very amusing to fly really fast and really close to me to catch my attention (as in a near collision with my face on a couple of occasions).

September 2003

My last trip to Iguazu was in September 2003, on my way back to Asuncion from Brazil. This time I visited the falls with Marcel and Carolien, my two Dutch friends with whom I had been travelling with in Brazil for the previous 3 weeks. We made the most of our few days in the area to visit a number of other things as well as the falls, including the Itaipu dam, currently the largest dam in the world, which stretches between Paraguay and Brazil. This US$18 billion project can produce a mighty 18 million kilowatts, enough electricity to supply the whole of Paraguay and 25% of Brazil’s total energy. The dam was very impressive but the tour that took us round it was fairly disappointing, although it was better than nothing.

The Iguazu falls were, on the other hand, as fantastic as ever and we had another great day visiting the park. We saw many toucans, monkeys and crocodiles as well as the usual thousands of various other birds and butterflies species that hide in the surrounding forests. Our last afternoon in Foz was spent on a nature trail, where we encountered some cheeky monkeys that threw bark down at us from the tops of the trees while we tried to take photos of them. Of course the only Muppet who actually got hit by a monkey was me. Typical! Once again, Iguazu is one of these places I just recommend visiting.

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