Puerto Iguazú is a teeny Argentinian town just outside of Iguazú Falls, a sweep of cliffside explosions of roaring water plunging into the river hundreds of feet below. At a point where the Río Iguazú flows between Brazil and Argentina, its charging waters form this almost two miles wide stretch of hundreds of waterfalls, known in Argentina as the Cataratas del Iguazú.
The thing to do in Puerto Iguazú is visit Iguazú Falls, and that is what I did. A cheap and easy bus runs from the bus station in Puerto Iguazú to the falls about twenty minutes away and deposits its passengers at the main entrance to the Parque Nacional Iguazú, the portal to the falls.
Mid-morning on my first day in Puerto Iguazú, I conquered the bus logistics, enjoyed the short ride to the national park, disembarked the bus, handed over 100 pesos to get into the national park, and entered the world of the falls.
The park covers over 200 square miles of jungle, with paths curling through the juicy green leafy plants and trees and along the cliffs above the Río Iguazú. Overwhelmed with the size of the park and the numerous options of paths to take, I randomly chose a trail to start with and set forth.
My chosen path, the Macuco Walking Trail, was perhaps not the best choice for my first undertaking in the park. The trail is a 5 kilometer walk through the jungle ending at a small waterfall that splashes into a secluded pool that visitors can swim in.
The small Arrechea Fall is nice to look at but didn’t generate the impressiveness I expected from the famed Iguazú. Not only that, the trail to get there is covered with the biggest ants I’ve ever seen. Crazy jungle ants. I had to look at the ground the whole time to make sure none were trying to climb on me.
At this point, the afternoon was setting in and I was getting anxious that I hadn’t actually seen the magnificent falls yet. I retraced my steps on the 5 kilometer pathway, being careful to avoid the ants, back to the main area of the park and ventured onto the Lower Circuit, a pathway that meandered down so visitors could view the falls from below.
Already antsy to see the falls, I immediately got stuck behind a tour group on the cramped path of the Lower Circuit and felt my patience waning even more. The path was crowded with too many kids and slow walkers and I started to get a bit agitated, forgetting that I was so close to a natural wonder that is itself a symbol of tranquility.
Ahhhhh, why can’t these people get out of my way, was all I could think. I admit, I should probably work on my patience skills, especially when I’m visiting such a hot tourist attraction. But it really was annoying.
Finally, the narrow path opened to a viewing platform, and there were the falls. Chutes of white water bursting over the cliff, interspersed with stripes of yellow that looked more like the color of a yellow diamond than dirty water, although the color is caused by the water collecting soil.
An absolutely breathtaking image, but it was hard for me to absorb the beauty of it with so many kids running around yelling and parents rushing past me.
I braved the crowds of families and headed to the spray zone, a deck underneath one of the gushing falls that was a prime spot to get soaked by the cascade of water produced by the surging waterfall. I pushed myself through the herd to the edge of the deck, but there were so many people that I could only stay there and get sprayed for a second. It would have been fun to take in the grandness and feeling of serenity the sight and sound of the waterfall inspires if there weren’t so many people pushing me in all directions.
Next I tackled the Upper Circuit, a winding path along the top of the falls. Fortunately for my sanity, this path was much less crowded. Free from the mobs, I slowly walked on the path from waterfall to waterfall, gazing at the lightly rippling river that accumulates at the top of the cliff, then watching the calm water turn violent as it erupts from the cliff edge and disappears down into the river below.
Adding to the placidity were the clear and luminous rainbows that curve from one side of each waterfall to the other. It was quiet except for the crash of the water into the river. Finally I could really take in the peacefulness and sublimity of this natural wonder.
I made it to the end of the path, then returned to the path entrance. My feet were ready to call it a day, but luckily I had emerged near the Cataratas Station. Yes, the park operates its own amusement park ride-like train to the main destinations in the park.
I boarded a little train to the Devil’s Throat Circuit that leads to the aggressive churn of Devil’s Throat. A raised wooden pathway winds over the river to the spot where a storm of water loudly rumbles into a pool then throws itself down into the river below.
It is indescribably awesome.
My memory card was full and the national park was nearing closing time, which meant my time at the falls was almost over. I caught a little train back to the entrance of the park and a bus back to Puerto Iguazú.
Now I am gearing up for another long bus ride to my next stop, Salta, in northern Argentina.