A week before a planned trip back to the US to tie up a couple of loose ends (because making a big move like this isn’t easy), I’d booked a mini-tour to Puerto Iguazú in the northern part of Argentina. At the junction of Brasil, Paraguay and Argentina, it’s home to the Cataratas del Iguazú, or Iguaçu in Portuguese.
Each of the countries has its own international airport, all in a relatively small area in the Amazon jungle. You have the option of booking a tour to the Argentina side of the falls, the Brazilian side, or both.
Because of my short timeframe (and a couple of Uruguayan holidays with Embassy closures), I didn’t have time to obtain the entry visa for Brazil. Not sure precisely how different it would have been, but I was happy to settle for the Argentina side only and use a couple of extra days for regular tourist things outside the Park.
Day One – the wildlife refuge
I toured the Güira-oga Animal Sanctuary, a terrific program that rehabilitates wildlife – birds and animals – that have been injured by interactions with humans: caught in electrical wires, hit by cars, poaching. Their goal is to release them back into the wild, whenever possible. Those animals are not on public view, to keep them acclimated to their native habitat.
The birds, monkeys, big cats and some others that we saw on about a 2-mile walk were those that could not be returned to the wild because of their injuries. They serve as education ambassadors, with the guides explaining their natural behaviors and telling us about the dangers of encroaching human population. Our group, perhaps 8 or 10 of us, walked on a wooden pathway raised a couple feet above the jungle floor, winding past cages. Great visit. I loved this.
That same day, my driver took me to a couple other places, including the overlook point where you can see all three countries without even turning your head. Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina. The notion of it twists your mind around.
The viewpoint is a little bit upriver from the falls, and that would be the next day’s trip.
Iguazú Falls National Park
Warm and humid, as you’d expect in the jungle. I used bug spray liberally, as I’d already discovered in the previous weeks that I’m allergic to mosquitos. Eeek! I overheard many other tourists complaining about getting bitten, but the spray kept me safe that day.
A huge park, designed for lots of tourists. There are walkways, a tram-style train and gift shops. Only a few places to eat and fewer restrooms, it is a natural park and refuge rather than an entertainment complex. There were many walking options to see the falls from above, from below and every which way.
I took the tram as far as possible, then walked a couple of kilometres to see the Garganta del Diablo – the Devil’s Throat. Walkways were relatively flat here, extending across quiet parts of feeder streams. Plenty of birds and plenty of tourists, too.
The emotional impact of seeing the falls is hard to overstate. I wasn’t prepared for the rush, the thrill of connecting with natural forces. The spray carried by the breeze got everyone pretty well soaked but I wouldn’t have missed it.
Totally worth wrecking my knee with all the walking. I opted not to go down the many, many stairs to see the falls from river level, but instead, sat out the next few hours. Bought several bottles of water, a floppy-brimmed hat and some sunglasses. Walked around a bit and watched herds of coatis ambush the tourists, begging for french fries. Sat on a bench and watched people, looked at the trees and flowers and simply enjoyed my low-key life.
And checked to make sure I had the waterproof housing on my camera. Yes, I did.