A day at the Iguazú Falls   Leave a comment

The famous Falls of the River Iguazú define the border between Argentina and Brazil and can be visited from both countries. Two thirds of the waterfalls lie in Argentine territory where a well-developed infrastructure gives access to the majority of the 275 falls.

The previous day I had already ridden to the entrance of the national park to see if I could catch a glimpse of the waterfalls, but the only road available took me to a big gate where I was told that the entrance fee was AR$ 85.00 (at that time approx. £15.00), they would only be open for another hour and I should rather come back in the morning, preferably by public transport, as they couldn’t guarantee the safety of my bike in their car park. I agreed, it would also be much nicer to walk about in civilian clothes than in motorcycle boots and my relatively heavy suit.

So after a delicious breakfast in the campsite’s restaurant, I just stepped outside to the bus stop and caught one of the colectivos that run every 30 minutes between Puerto Iguazú and the national park for AR$ 5.00 (£0.90). The park is open daily from 8.00 to 18.00 (8.00 to 19.00 hrs from 1 Apr to 31 Aug) and the South American Handbook 2010 stated that the entrance fee can be paid either in Argentinean pesos, Brazilian reais or US$. Relying on this information, I had already reduced the amount of Argentinean cash to just a few pesos, as I was leaving Argentina the next day and could pay campsite and food with my credit card.

But – when I finally reached the top of the queue, the guy at the ticket counter told me that they would only accept Argentinean pesos – no US Dollars, no plastic, which was all I had. Mmm, what can I do? There was a cash point inside the park and the rangers even let me in. Unfortunately the machine was out-of-order… Arrrgh, I had made such an effort to get up early and be here at 8.00 but now it meant that I had to go back to either the campsite to change money there or even to Puerto Iguazú to find another ATM. Hang on, didn’t I see a MasterCard sign on the door of a souvenir shop? Could I buy something and have some cash back? No problem, señora, but you have to spend at least AR$ 40.00. Mumble, mumble, mumble, alright then. So I bought postcards for AR$ 40.00 (which I had to do anyway at some point…) and received my AR$ 85.00 for the entrance ticket. Phew. In.

Due to my little mishap the previous day and all the limping around at speed, my foot had started to hurt again, and so I went into the visitor centre to enquire about the best routes through the park that were accessible for the handicapped. I was expecting some rough directions or scribbling in my map from the friendly advisor but no – he made a phone call and two minutes later a sort of electro mobile stood in front of the building, ready to chauffeur me to the station from which the train leaves for the waterfalls. Not that I really felt that bad but what a superb service! I chatted with my driver about self-inflicted injuries, our beloved hobbies – in his case it was football that had given him a damaged knee – and what a wonderful workplace he had.

The ecological forest train took us to the Estación Cataratas first, from where the Upper and the Lower Circuits start, but I wanted to see the largest of the falls, the Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat, before it got too crowded. From the Garganta station a one-kilometre catwalk leads to the park’s centre piece – you can already spot the spray in the distance.

The national park is home to an abundance of wildlife – which can easily be watched from the walk-way

Plush-crested jay

Getting closer…

Of course, everyone who was on the train had overtaken me by now – but there it must be:

The Devil’s Throat – La Garganta del Diablo!

The mandatory tourist shot…

And then I was just standing there, looking at the overwhelming power and beauty of the waterfalls and the tears were running down my face. How lucky was I to be here and see this wonder of nature with my own eyes…

A heron on the way back to the train station.

I have to say that the park’s infrastructure is well-developed – each train is used to its full capacity (and they run every 30 minutes), access to the facilities like bathrooms and restaurants is nicely organised and sign-posted, but you also pay for it. Not only the hefty entrance fee, but for some strange reason I had forgotten to take water with me and had to hand over AR$ 12.00 (US$ 3.50) for a half-litre bottle! So if you go to the Iguazú Falls yourself, bring your own supplies…

After returning to the Estación Cataratas I first walked the Upper Circuit (Circuito Superior) which takes you along the top of the waterfalls.

Just see the tiny people at the bottom to get a sense of the scale.

And the wildlife…

The flora isn’t bad either.

The butterflies seem to be used to humans around here.

On the way to the Lower Circuit (Circuito Inferior) I came across these little fellows – Coaties:

They are not shy…

… and for the protection of both visitors and animals, feeding the latter is strictly forbidden (as you can see in the third pictogram).

Then the stairs went down, down, down…

Along more waterfalls…

From the bottom you can spot the Garganta del Diablo in the distance – and the walk-way on the Brazilian side…

The crowd had spread out by now and I had the place almost to myself.

… and the butterflies, of course.

Then I reached the platform that you have seen earlier from the Upper Circuit.

I carried on to the riverbank and the jetty for the boats that take you to the Isla San Martín, an island that lies right in the middle of the action.

Unfortunately and due to the low water level, the recommended tours were suspended for the day but I’m not sure if I had met all the criteria anyway…

It was nearing closing time when I made my way uphill to the train station again. I had been limping about for at least seven kilometres and ten hours that day but the pain was only a small price to pay for this awesome experience.

If you ever get the chance to visit the Cataratas del Iguazú then go. If you don’t – well, then you will have to make it happen one day…

Posted 17 February 2011 by Pumpy in Argentina

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