Tom and I left the fabulous Hotel Belmond just after 7:00 a.m. for our drive across the Brazilian border and over to the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls. The drive to the border was surprisingly quick. Once we arrived at the Brazilian side of the border, we got out of the car, had our passports stamped with an exit visa and we were back on the road in less than five minutes. We then crossed a bridge over the Iguazu River (where we were able to see the junction of the three countries, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay), before pulling up to the Argentina border entry. We handed over our passports and in less than five minutes we were in Argentina. Our driver then stopped at the Argentine Iguazu Falls park entry and paid 1200 pesos for our entry tickets to the park (less than 40 USD for the two of us), before driving Tom and I to the Hotel Melia, where we are spending the nigh. The Hotel Melia is the only hotel inside the Argentine side of the park, and while the hotel was in the park, the Hotel Melia did not have the same privileges as the Hotel Belmond in terms of accessing the park before opening to the public. As a result, Tom and I would be joining the masses in visiting the Argentine side of the falls.
So once we were checked in, Tom and I headed downstairs to take the path to the Cataratas Station where we would take a train through the jungle to Garganta Station and from there walk 1100 metres on walkways over the Upper Iguazu River to Garganta del Diablo (Spanish for Devil’s Throat). We would also be hiking the Upper Circuit and the Lower Circuit. The map attached will give you an idea of the routes we were going to hike on the Argentine side and the falls we would be seeing.
Now when we left Brazil, the weather was overcast, but there was no rain. Unfortunately, our luck with the weather was about to change. By the time Tom and I reached the path to the train station, the skies had opened up and thunder was grumbling in the distance. Ugh. Fortunately, we had rain gear on and it was very warm, but the weather was going to make picture taking difficult.
Anyway, Tom and I walked the short distance to the Cataratas Station and hopped on the second train of the morning (the 9:00 a.m. train) that was just about to leave for Devil’s Throat. We chugged along through the jungle and about ten minutes later we pulled into Garganta Station. By now, the rain was really coming down, and this was going to make walking across the bridges that would take us across the Iguazu River rather difficult. The bridges were made of wrought iron squares connected by strips of metal, and while the wrought iron was not that challenging, we had to avoid stepping on the metal strips that framed each wrought iron plat because the rain had made the metal strips very slippery. One false step and you would either go ass over tea kettle on the walkway or, worse, into the river (and it would not end well).
So Tom and I set out on the walkway, which initially took us over meandering portions of the river and over some small islands in the river. As we walked further and further along the walkway, the river began moving faster and the wind began picking up. By the time we reached the last portion of the walkway, with Devil’s Throat in our sights, the rain was coming at us sideways and I was blinking hard to see. At one point a lightening bolt flashed in front of me followed by a massive clap of thunder that caused me to jump. Yikes. Nothing like hiking across a river on metal platforms in the middle of a thunderstorm.
Anyway, we finally reached Devil’s Throat and the view of Devil’s Throat from the Argentine side was far, far different from the Brazilian side. Of course we were looking at a different portion of Devil’s Throat, but more importantly instead of looking up to Devil’s Throat, we were looking down on the falls and witnessing the truly awe inspiring power of the water flowing over the falls.
I also have to say it was not nearly as nice having to share the viewing platform with a number of other people as opposed to having the viewing platform virtually devoid of people when we were on our private tour on the Brazil side. Nevertheless, we had been lucky to take the early train so it wasn’t overly crowded. That didn’t mean, however, that people weren’t on the platform jockeying for position to take the “perfect” picture. In fact, as I was standing in a corner of the platform taking a video some dumb ass backed right into me and knocked me up against the railing. In fact, rather than edit out the encounter, I left it in so you can hear my not too happy reaction.
As Tom and I stood and admired the falls, I kept trying to take pictures. I had my camera under my rain poncho and developed a technique to capture pictures without rain on my lens. I would pull out the camera, wipe the lens with my t-shirt, snap a couple pictures, clean the lens again and close the camera. I ended up repeating this pattern all day long.
So after being battered by the rains and winds in the middle of the Upper Iguazu River and over Garganta del Diablo, Tom and I decided we had had enough and began the hike back across the river. By now, the masses were descending with their umbrellas and which was making it more and more difficult to walk across the river. We were constantly being bumped by people carrying umbrellas who were not watching where they were going. Ridiculous.
We finally reached the train station and waited about 15 minutes for the train which took us back to the Cataratas Station. The wait, fortunately, allowed us to stand in front of a fan and dry off a bit before taking the train to the station. Once we reached the station, we walked a few hundred metres before turning onto the path that led to the Upper Circuit. Now the Upper Circuit took us above the falls that we could see from the Brazilian side. Unfortunately, the Upper Circuit was absolutely mobbed with people.
Tom and I made our way along the 1550 metre circuit, dodging people and rain and water pouring off the trees. As we hiked across the walkways we were always careful to avoid the metal strips, but every now and then I would step on one and feel the slight slip as I stepped.
And as we walked, I found the views interesting from the Upper Circuit, but for the most part we were looking down on the falls. I after seeing more and more of these views, I had to admit to myself that I preferred to look at the falls as opposed to looking down on the falls. Sure it is pretty cool to see the rushing water slip over the edge and gush down to the river below, but there is something much prettier, in my opinion, to see the water straight on as it flows down.
Anyway, we ended up hiking all the way to the end of the circuit, which took us out and over the Upper Iguazu River again resulting in the same kind of weather pattern as we experienced crossing to see Devil’s Throat: massive winds and sideways rain. Fortunately, the thunder and lightening had subsided.
Once we reached the end of the Upper Circuit, we doubled back and then were directed by signs to the “exit” trail through the rain forest (apparently aptly named) and away from the river and the falls. We saw a few capuchin monkeys along the way, but kept moving.
We ended up back at Cataratas Station and then began the walk to the Lower Circuit. Now Tom and I had a decision to make. At this point, we were soaked and began contemplating going back to the hotel and waiting out the weather. However, we figured if the rain didn’t stop we would only end up with more wet clothes so we pushed on to the Lower Circuit climbing down a series of staircases to reach the beginning of the trail, which would take us 1400 metres around the lower portion of the park.
Now we found the Lower Circuit absolutely wonderful. There were hardly any people on the Lower Circuit and the views were absolutely fantastic. We could see down to the river where we had been in the boat the day before and we could see Lanusse Falls and Álvar Núñez Falls, which were the falls we had been in and under on the boat.
As we walked we had the freedom to stop and take pictures without umbrellas and elbows banging into us. And there were little hidden waterfalls all over the place that were not visible from the Brazil side. There were also little bridges built over the small tributaries that allowed us to move closer to the smaller waterfalls.
And as we were nearing what what we thought was the end of the Lower Circuit, we turned a small corner and all of a sudden … holy cow. We were able to view full on all of the falls we had been walking over on the Upper Circuit, but best of all was that we were able to get up close and personal to Bosetti Falls (see the map). The full on power and spray from the falls kept me on my toes as I tried to take one good picture. And by now, more poor t-shirt was soaked through from being used as a lens cleaner. I was even reaching around to the back of my shirt and trying to pull it around to find one last square of dry cloth.
As we were standing there, we ran into a British couple and we agreed to take each other’s pictures right in front of the massive waterfall. At this point there was no one else around except for one other couple who were taking their own picture. We decided to wait until they were done, but for some reason they kept checking and rechecking their pictures and suddenly a group of people just descended and jumped in front of us and started posing for pictures. Inconsiderate jackasses!
So we waited about ten minutes in the rain for them to finally leave, but the wait was worth it as we finally got a picture with no one around in front of the massive Bosetti Falls (albeit with lots of rain on the lens).
Anyway, we began what turned out to be a short walk back to the entrance and a quick 5 minute walk back to the hotel. Tom and I had conquered both sides of Iguazu Falls despite the crappy weather today. After seeing both sides, I have to say I still liked the Brazilian side better. Maybe it was the fact we had the park all to ourselves yesterday morning or maybe it was because the weather was better. I did enjoy the Lower Circuit a lot, but I have to give the nod to Brazil. Simply a better experience in my opinion.
So now Iguazu Falls is behind us. Next up, Tom and I fly tomorrow to Salta in Northern Argentina for a week in the Puna region of the Argentine Andes. Let’s hope for better weather!