The short flight from Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguaçu is a breeze! Settling into our hotel, I am raring to set off immediately for the world famous Iguaçu Falls, but common sense prevails - tomorrow being soon enough to witness one of the
"New Seven Wonders of Nature".
We still have time today to check out our 'hood in
Foz do Iguaçu, Portuguese for mouth of Iguaçu, a city of about 265,000 in Paraná State on the Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls. The other city straddling Iguazú is Puerto Iguazú on the border of Argentina. The falls can also be accessed out of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.
Up the next morning with the
Great Dusky Swifts (birds that often nest behind the falls), we board local bus #120 to Parque Nacional do Iguaçu. Armed with a Visitor's Center map of the expansive park, we catch a shuttle to "The Path of the Falls" and begin our walk along a 1,200 metre trail with its great overview.
The scope of the falls is sense-shattering! Iguaçu means "big water" in the Tupi-Guarani tribal language, and one cannot dispute this nomenclature! Volcanic eruptions eons ago left a mammoth crack splitting the Iguaçu River into upper and lower levels; thus turning 2.7 kilometres of the river into plunging and crashing cascades that divide into 275 different falls!
The mist is thick along the trail, I eventually don my disposable rain cape, but husband Rick braves the vapours in soaked dignity. On our non-falls side is a jungle of foliage rife with wildlife. Seeing a teenager start munching a chocolate bar, I sure hope the scent doesn't stir up a
coatis. I guess he missed the warning signage of food, prompting an attack by these raccoon-like critters.
The thunderous sound of roiling water intensifies with each step. Mother Nature's grand finale comes into view; the deafening thrashing spectacle of Devil's Throat! Our mouths gape in awe; it is like a zillion giant taps cranked to full force! In numerical terms, the U-shaped Devil's Throat is the fall's longest drop at 82m high, 150m wide and 700m long!
I glance at Rick and shout, "Well, here goes!" He follows me onto the walkway extending along the face of Devil's Throat. The wall of vapour adds a phantom-like quality. We fight for balance against the sudden voluminous sheets of water hurled across the boardwalk - each wallop leaves us giddy and breathless. Tromping along in water-logged shoes, Rick's clothes plastered to his body, rivets of water finding ways to penetrate my plastic cape, we work our way out to the furthest point and back - a wild experience worth every tumultuous moment!
After a stop for a much appreciated coffee and snack at one of the park's cafes, it is back to the Visitor's Center to load up on some amazing facts about Iguaçu National Park's ecosystem. Within the stunning flora/fauna biodiversity, many species are on the endangered list, such as
the jaguar and puma. It was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, a designation shared with
Iguazú National Park in Argentina and covering a protected area of over 600,000 hectares; the countries jointly responsible for its preservation.
Back in Foz do Iguaçu (Foz for locals), a city tour peaks our interest. With Oziel at the wheel, and our guide Andre, who flips between
Portuguese, Spanish and English with informative tidbits and humorous quips, we know we are in for a good time. Stops are made at St. John Baptist, the city's oldest church, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque, and the Chinese Buddhist Temple Complex.
At the "The Landmark of the Three Frontiers," Andre announces, "This area is undergoing upgrades and is not accessible." All we can fashion is a shoulder shrug, as the van's TV screen displays the three stone obelisks raised in 1903 to commemorate the ties between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The obelisk's colours represent national colours - Brazil (yellow and green), Argentina (blue and white), Paraguay (red, white, blue) and are located near the meeting point of the three countries and where the two rivers, the Paraná and Iguaçu converge.
A fine end to our tour is a drive over the Tancredo Neves Bridge, better known as the Fraternity Bridge between Brazil and Argentina on the Iguaçu River, with the colours of the painted concrete edge along the bridge changing mid-way for each of these countries.
Another famous bridge is the Friendship Bridge spanning the Paraná River that connects Brazil to Paraguay, and we cannot resist whizzing over it. A passport is all we need, and a taxi to transport us to and from Ciudad del Este. We can now personally vouch for the city's reputation of being a hectic but exciting tax-free shopping centre for contraband and cheap electronic goods…and a great lunch spot.
Our Foz visit was interesting and fun but foremost and most incredibly - we felt the cooling spray of the spectacular Iguaçu Falls on our faces and our bucket list gets another check mark!
Irene Butler is an award winning writer and author of
"Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps" on Kindle. Her articles have appeared in national and international publications. She and her husband Rick explore the world for six or more months of every year.
Noteworthy info for visiting the Argentinean side of falls from Brazil: as of Dec 2009, passport holders from Canada, USA, and Australia are required to pay a Reciprocity Fee to the Argentina government for entry, even if you are going for the day to see the falls. (Rates are in US funds and subject to change): $160 for USA citizens, $100US for Australians, $72US for Canadians.