Monday, January 17, 2011

Big Water - the Iguazu Falls

In the 1986 movie classic The Mission, the story of the redemption of Captain Rodrigo Mendoza (played by Robert de Nero) was set to take place above an incredible waterfall.  An early scene of the movie shown on the movie poster at the right depicts the episode when Guarani people tied a priest to a cross and threw him over the falls to his death.   The fall is the mighty Iguazu Falls as the native Guarani people called it – the Big (-guazu) Water (I-).

Picture in your head that you traverse north and northwest along Rio de Plata (the Silver River) from Buenos Aires, you will reach one of its two primary sources - Paraná River which, at ~3,000 miles long, is one of the longest rivers in the world.  A few miles before you reach Itaipu Dam of Brazil and Paraguay, the largest hydroelectric power station in the world for now (China’s Three Gorges Dam will exceed it when the planned turbines are all completed), you can bank east at where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet and get onto Iguazu River, an 800+ miles long east-west tributary.  It will not take long before you see the mist and then hear the roaring of Iguazu Falls where Iguazu River drops suddenly from a plateau of 360 ft high.

Iguazu Falls is actually consisted of a bundle of 275 falls of various sizes and heights along a 1.7 miles wide irregular cross-section of the Iguazu River between Brazil (at north) and Argentina.  It is no doubtedly one of the most scenic waterfalls in the world and is also one of the 28 finalists in the ongoing competition for the titles of the New 7 Wonders of Nature of the World.  While there are many famous waterfalls with their own attractions, it is useful to highlight some of the obvious attributes, short of visiting them all in person.   Iguazu Falls is not the highest waterfall of the world.  For that, you need to travel to Venezuela to see the Angle Fall at a height of 3,200+ ft.  Iguazu Falls does not have the highest average flow rate either, the popular Niagra Falls at the U.S. and Canada border tops it with 85,000/292,000 (vs. 61,000/452,000) cubic feet per second in average and max recorded, respectively according to the World Waterfalls Database .  However, with its 1.7 miles of width and 275 falls, it is most scenic and offers so much nuances that one can easily spend two full days to enjoy the walks and distinct views of it.  Better yet, you can also get soaked in it, literally.

With two thirds of falls on the Argentina territory, there are several walkways on Argentina side that bring you different vintage points close to the falls.  The largest falls of all, Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo) never disappoints.   With the mist from the volumes of water falling at high rate, one can
Devil's Throat
easily mistaken being transported into landscape paintings of traditional Chinese painters.  The next largest, San Martin Falls and Bosetti Falls are as popular that can be reached through the upper circuit.  By the way, San Martin is José de San Martín, a name and statue that you would find in many places of southern South America including Peru, Chile and Argentina for his contributions and military leadership in the independence of these countries from Spain.  

Bosetti Falls
San Martin Falls
If you are venturous, don’t miss the speed boat ride to the falls reacheable via the lower circuit walkway.  In addition to some quick turns and the sceneries of the falls from the river, the boat takes you into the edge of the San Martin Falls and let you enjoy being showered by a powerful waterfall for some brief moment (sorry, can’t do it with boat ride from Brazil side since this falls is only accessible from Argentina).  On the way back to the Sheraton Hotel in the park (expensive but worth every cent of it) from the dock by a 4x4 truck through the rain forest, we saw a pair of wild toucans in their hallmark of colorful big bills on a tree top at a distance.  What a beauty!
A pair of wild toucans

Devil's Falls at Sunrise from Sheraton Hotel
Crossing the border by car to Brazil, one can take additional and different views of Iguazu Falls. The one kilometer long walkways along the Iguazu river in the National Park offers views of the falls on Argentina side.  The walkway ends with acclamation below Devil’s Throat.   You then realize how much water there really is since the view from Argentina side was from the top.  One angle of
the falls we did not explore was from the air; there are helicopter tours offered at the Brazil side.  The real regret is that we did not have a chance to taste the golden Dorado from the river.  A favorite of fly fishing sportsmen, Dorado is so flavorful that I still remember it from my first visit of Iguazu 16 years ago! 

Well, time to continue on to Rio de Janeiro of Brazil.   Talk to you soon!

No comments: