So as you might have noticed, I’ve been putting off writing my blog for a little bit. No, it wasn’t because I had a bunch of classes to go to (in fact, the majority of my classes were cancelled this week) or because I was extremely busy with homework (although I am catching up after my trips). It’s simply because I’ve been struggling, fighting, picking my brain for a way I can possibly describe how beautiful and powerful it was to see Iguazú Falls this past weekend. And no, I still haven’t found the magic way to describe them. Words, pictures, even video will not do the falls justice. But it was still definitely an experience worth sharing.
We got to Puerto Iguazú on Friday afternoon, after a 20-hour bus ride. My body absolutely hated me for being cramped in yet another bus for such an extended period of time. But despite my sore muscles, as we were pulling in, I felt like I was already in paradise. Compared to Puerto Madryn, and especially Buenos Aires, there was so much more vegetation. It just felt warm, Latin American-I could see miles (or kilometers here) of lush green trees, the bright red dirt of the roads and a cloudless blue sky. And just when I felt like I couldn’t get more relaxed, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” came on my iPod. I felt a silly grin spreading across my face, so I propped my feet up and stared out the window and knew it was the start to a good weekend.
That afternoon we decided to explore the town, and ended up making our way over to Las Tres Fronteras (The Three Borders), where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. Looking out across the river, you could see the monuments peaking through the trees that matched Argentina’s, painted in each country’s colors respectively. While I was impressed to see the skyscrapers of Punta Este in Paraguay in the distance, I couldn’t believe how close I was to Brazil. Only a narrow river separated me from the country with Christ the Redeemer’s Statue, Rio de Janeiro, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Only across the river they were looking out to the Argentine side, expressing their awe at the view in a completely different language. Brazil seemed so close, yet at the same time, another world away. And at that moment, completely fascinated at the proximity of Brazil, I realized I needed to go, that perhaps it was my next big adventure. And I promised myself that at least at some point in my lifetime, I would make it happen.
The next day we woke up early to go to Iguazú Falls. We stared by taking the Paseo Superior (Upper Trail) to see the falls. Walking in the rainforest vegetation, hearing the mysterious calls of tropical animals, I felt so alive. What really got me was the smell. Away from the smog of the city, it felt so clean, so fresh just to breath. I was reminded of walking through the “Tropics Trail” at the Minnesota Zoo as a kid, and it only made me feel all of that child-like joy more profoundly as we walked along the path.
It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. There were coatis too. These are raccoon-like animals that live in the tropical regions of South and Central America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coati). I couldn’t believe how fierce they were. As we walked along the path, they followed us, sniffing and clawing at our bags for food. And later as we tried to eat lunch, they came dangerously close, snarling and attacking each other to try to get our crumbs. To reinforce my anxiety about these animals, signs lined the paths warning about coati’s aggression and showing graphic pictures of open wounds from a coati scratch.
Luckily, we made it to the upper lookout of the falls alive. I was so incredibly impressed. “Wow. Wow. Just wow,” were the only words I could find to say. Looking down from the falls, you could see the water violently rushing over the cliff and cascading below. The noise was numbing, breathtaking and soothing, all at once. What was more impressive was that the seemingly peaceful river on the right side of the bridge turned into the world’s most massive waterfalls on the left.
Little did I know that it was only going to get better. We continued from the Upper Trail down to the Paseo Inferior (Lower Trail). Trudging up and down countless steps, we finally arrived to a full, panoramic lookout of the falls. To the left you could see Brazil, and the impressive Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) in the distance. To the right, the Argentine falls furiously flowed, surrounding the Isla San Martín (San Martin Island) in the center. I took so many pictures, hoping to capture the beauty I was seeing. But no matter how many I took, none of the pictures could do it justice.
We continued lower, stopping at a lookout directly in front of one of the falls. Although it was crowded with people, I was so close to the waterfall that I could feel the spray and smell the freshness of the water, and we had to shout to be heard over its massive roar. As we descended lower and lower, I kept thinking it couldn’t get any better. “No, I’m serious this time,” I would say, “This is my favorite spot.” But with each step lower, I was stunned by the new view of the falls.
Finally, we reached the bottom of the trail, where we boarded a boat to the Isla San Martín. On the island, we hiked 700 meters (about half a mile) up a treacherously steep set of stairs until we found ourselves at the lookout right next to the Argentine falls. I found myself absolutely speechless. It was such a sensory experience-watching the water aggressively plunge over the cliff, hearing its continuous, deafening roar, smelling the pure freshness of thousands of gallons of water, and feeling the mist coating my skin- that I found myself overwhelmed and silenced by its beauty. We stood in front of the falls for close to an hour, at first snapping picture after picture, trying to record this breathtaking experience. But finally we just stood watching, completely and utterly mesmerized.
And (warning, here it gets pretty deep and a little cheesy) standing there, in front of the world’s biggest waterfalls, completely overwhelmed and awestruck by what I was seeing, I couldn’t help but think about man and God. Okay, keep in mind, I haven’t exactly been the most religious person during college-I certainly fell off of the going to weekly church bandwagon after freshman year. But there was something about seeing so much power, natural power, that made me think that no matter how many iPhones we create, no matter how many people we send to the moon, no matter how much man creates and conquers, there is nothing that can compare with the beauty and power that can be found in nature. And in that moment, I’d never felt so lucky to be alive.
That night, I lay in the hammock outside of our hostel, listening to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” and staring at the moon. I felt so connected to the earth, thankful, and yet so incredibly homesick. There was something about seeing something so amazing and moving and not being able to share it with my family and my hometown friends.
The next day we decided to return to the park. We had a late start, and finally managed to make our way to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) around lunchtime. Again, I was absolutely blown away. As we did with the San Martin Island lookout, we sat in front of the falls, speechless, captivated by the water. I actually stared at the falls so long that when I looked away, the land around it appeared to be slowly moving down. Wanting to spend more time in front of the falls, we decided to eat our lunches from the lookout. I joked, “Peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches in front of the world’s biggest waterfall. Can it get much better than this?”
We decided to end our trip with watching the sunrise where we had started-Las Tres Fronteras. Even though we were groggy and tired, we hauled ourselves out of bed and made the trek to the border. It was 100% worth it. Watching the sunshine reflect on the river separating Brazil and Argentina was, for me, a perfectly peaceful way to end a nature-filled weekend.
So, read this blog, take a look at my pictures, and perhaps watch a video or two I recorded of the falls. But just know, that no matter how many different adjectives I can use to describe them-powerful, breathtaking, inspiring, overwhelming-that words truly cannot describe this experience.
From your speechless traveler,