Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 21st – Chasing Rainbows at Iguassu

The falls didn't disappoint – the whole day was just one breathtaking view after another. Every time you thought it couldn't get any better, it did.

We started early and walked from the hotel to explore the views on the Brazilian side. This view would have been worth the trip alone, but when we were told that this was just 17% of the falls that we were seeing, it scarcely seemed possible that they could be so big. As we walked along the paths down to the bottom of the falls, the most commonly used expression was a less-than-imaginative "wow", but words really can't do justice to the enormity and majesty of this natural wonder.

The whole vista seemed like something from a fantasy film, it didn't seem possible that there were this many different thundering waterfalls (over 300 separate falls in the same set-piece), or that they were that tall (80 metres high), or that there was such a high volume of water crashing down in front of us (our guide said that there was 1.6 million gallons of water passing per second).

In the morning sunshine, there were so many colourful rainbows reflected in the spray that gave the falls a magical air; and when we walked down to the observation point at the bottom of the falls, there was even a totally round rainbow – quite unbelievable. As the temperature rose, it was nice to be cooled by the spray blowing across us, although not so easy to keep the camera lens dry – a small price to pay, and pictures can't capture the spectacle either.

After this, we got the coach across the Argentine border, to see them from the other side, and to see if the guide was right in telling us they were even more spectacular from that side. He was right – from Argentina, you could see the full massive expanse of waterfalls, although the sheer number of other tourists jostling on the viewing platforms did occasionally threaten to spoil the experience just a little.

We trekked over the walkways to the awesome "Devil's Throat" section – the largest and most breathtakingly violent section of the falls, where an enormous volume of water is funnelled into a thundering, crashing, almost deafening torrent, that you could almost feel as it smashed into the rocks 80 metres below. The plume of spray spewed upwards into a huge cloud that hung over the observation point about twice the height of the falls.
It was a totally exhilarating experience to stand next to such a potent natural force and be drenched by its power – an experience that made you feel tiny by comparison. As we walked back along the river above the falls, you couldn't help be struck by just how peaceful the gentle flow of water was here, just a hundred metres from the utter aquatic mayhem and watery carnage going on below.

Refreshed by lunch, we went on another trek around the falls, to get further perspectives on the full extent of Iguassu. We passed waterfall after cascading waterfall, each one, on its own would have been a major set-piece at any other sight – here they were just minor parts of a mighty ensemble. Those in our party who'd been to the Niagara Falls and Victoria Falls, said that both of them pale by comparison to Iguassu. "After you've seen this, I wouldn't bother going to another waterfall", advised one waterfall afficianado.

As the temperature rose to the late 30s Celsius, you just longed to cool off in the pools at the bottom of the torrents, but instead we settled for the beautiful pool at the hotel and sipped on our refreshing caipirinhas, as we reflected on a fantastic day at one of the world's great natural sights. We'd been drenched by the water and drained by the heat, but it was a day that none of us will forget.

I'm sure that I overuse the word awesome a lot, but Iguassu really does fill you with awe – pure, fantastic sensory overload.