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Fortunately, we did not research Iguazύ Falls or we might have discovered our tour involved about eight kilometers walking in one hundred-plus degree heat. Learning about it after we arrived, we broke Rule Four and spent wasted time worrying about it. As Qua Quo, my friend of 55 years, once posted “worry does not solve tomorrow’s problems; it only steals today’s peace of mind.”
Our transfer to the Buenos Aires airport was for one thirty, so I was distressed to leave the hotel in the morning and find police with shields massing on the street. A demonstration was planned at the obelisk which commemorates Argentine independence from Spain. More worry, but by lunchtime the demonstration was called off.
Our flight could not have been better. We went quickly through security, boarded without ceremony and left about twenty minutes early. (When flying out of the country later, ticketing and passport control each took more time than checking in for our local flight.)
Our driver met us along with the two ladies who had been with us on the Buenos Aires day tour. Before taking us to the Orqideas Palace Hotel, he drove us through the small town of Iguazύ to the point where the Iguazύ River meets the Paraná River at the border of three nations: Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. He told us the Paraguay currency was so much stronger than the Argentine, people would drive from Paraguay City across a bridge to Brazil and then across another bridge to Iguazύ just to buy gasoline.
Not having done any research, we expected something like the cities around Niagara Falls. Instead, our hotel was five kilometers outside the small town, and the falls were in a National Park even further away. We would either eat in the hotel or have to take a taxi somewhere. It was just another unfounded worry as we soon found the food and service at the hotel to be fine for our two-night stay.
Early the next morning we were met by Diego, a falls guide and not the Discover Uruguay tour operator. Diego would prove to be one of the best and nicest guides we have ever had. Again, it was a small group, this time with only eleven people.
The park is very well developed with good paved paths, nice facilities, and good trails. Diego found an electric cart for Alie and another couple to take them to a station. He then shepherded us all onto a small train which took us to the second and furthest stop, Devil’s Throat. Facing a walk just over two kilometers on raised steel walkway, we got a wheelchair that had large rubber tires. We were also able to persuade Walter, an 88 year-old World War II veteran from Alaska, to take a chair for his wife Sarah, although it was really he that needed it. Diego saw that neither of them was up to pushing in the heat, so I pushed Sarah for a while until I could persuade Walter to take a seat. Diego pushed Alie, bending over all the time to converse with her as she practiced her Spanish. Because he urged us to get there early, the walk was not crowded. Going back on the walkway, there were already hoards coming out.
In November 2011, the falls were designated as one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of The World.” The falls make sort of a “?” with Devil’s Throat being in the curve. Brazil is on the far bank of the Devil’s Throat and has about twenty percent of the falls, the other eighty percent in Argentina. Several people have told us the view from Brazil is better. However, one is able to get to the base of several cataracts on the Argentinian side. Furthermore, as the U.S. has stringent visa requirements, Brazil requires a $160 visa for U.S. citizens; $320 for a couple (Chile and Argentina have similar but less expensive visa programs). It just didn’t seem worth it for a few hours visit even if we hadn’t just taken a long expensive trip.
The Devil’s Throat is eighty meters high. It is a broad U-shaped waterfall creating the “throat.” Mist and spray ascend high into the sky, and when the wind was blowing our way at the end of the trail, we got wet. Various reports had the temperature between 102 and 110 Fahrenheit during the day, so I don’t think anyone objected to a shower.
As I didn’t have a small plastic bag, I brought a shower cap from the hotel to put my hearing aids in. Later at the base of another falls where the spray was on us, I gave up all sense of proper appearance and put the shower cap on my head held down by a ball cap. I looked stupid, but it worked well.
We stopped occasionally along the trail to look at the birds and coatimundis. Back at the beginning of the Devil’s Throat Trail, Diego summoned a golf cart to take Alie, Walter and Sarah to the next trail where he got another set of wheelchairs. The heat was getting to Walter, however, and he elected not to go out this trail. I have to admit, I was not disappointed. The chairs are rugged but heavy, it was hot, and I was wearing thin. Diego continued to push Alie.
This Upper Trail gave us an excellent view along the long arm of the “?” and as we walked along, we had closer views of several of the smaller waterfalls and the prominent San Martin Island. Many small islands break up the flow of the river. Depending on the height of the water, there can be as few as 150 or as many as 300 separate falls. Diego told us that in 1992 the water was twenty times higher than we were seeing, covering and closing most of the National Park facilities. I suspect at that point, the water merged into just a few cataracts.
We then broke for lunch. There are three restaurants in a central area. We did not feel like an Argentine Barbeque buffet, so we elected sandwiches at one of the others. It was a mistake. Later we learned only the buffet was air conditioned. Despite an occasional breeze, the longer we sat, the hotter we became. Alie was on the verge of heat exhaustion, and it was clear she would only get worse waiting two hours for us to walk to the next cataract. I thought it might be cooler nearer the river, but Diego summoned another cart for her, Walter and Sarah and took them to an air conditioned snack bar at the head of the Lower Trail. We found a seat for one and Diego brought in chairs from outside for the other two. The air-conditioning must have had the temperature down to the high 80s or 90. By the time we returned, however, all were fully recovered.
The Lower Trail took us past the Two Brothers Falls base, past a staircase where four of our party who went on a powered raft to the base of a large falls would join us later, and to the base of another falls where one could walk out into a spray almost as strong as some U.S. bath showers. It felt great.
Once our group was back together again, Diego again got a cart for the three, and we all climbed back up the hill to a parking lot where we were met by our van to take us back to our hotels.
It is impossible to describe the beauty and the power of the falls. TripAdvisor gives it five stars. I’m sure if they had six stars, it would get all six. And Diego would get seven! We are so glad our fears over heat and strain did not keep us away.