Iguazú National Park

In order to get a better understanding of what the brute force of water looks like, I went to Las Cataratas de Iguazú in the Northeastern-most corner of Argentina. Tucked in between the corner of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay are the Iguazu waterfalls, easily one of the most sublime natural features I have ever laid eyes on.

My friend Emily and I traveled by bus. We left Buenos Aires at 3:30 Friday Afternoon and got to the bus stop in Puerto Iguazu at 10:30 on Saturday. It was 19 hours of non-stop bussing–about the same time of non-stop driving as it took me, Sarah Johnson, Lulu Oakes, Julie Bender, Zina Huxley-Riecher Phil Cuddeback, Alex Thompson, and Ben Richmond  to get from the Old Crow Medicine Show concert in Savannah, Georgia back to Bowdoin for school the next day.

Bus travel in Argentina is very popular, though. A bus trip of that magnitude is a pretty standard, especially compared to the United States. On the road I would say 15% of the other vehicles we passed were coach buses. Another 20% were logging trucks, then the remainder were trucks, cars, motorcycles and scooters–carrying more than they could handle. Once you get outside of Buenos Aires, its quite common to see trucks and cars from the past couple decades. I’m used to seeing outdated cars rotting on the sides of the road in Northern Maine, here, there were cars and trucks from the 60s, 70s, and 80s rotting on the side of the road and also still rolling on past me the roads.

18 hours on the bus wasn’t so uncomfortable. We opted to spend the extra ten dollars and get a Semi-Cama seat, which is basically a lazy boy chair that reclines to about 150 degrees. It would have been easy to sleep if it wasn’t for the audio of awful movies projecting directly through the mis-wired speaker like a PA system to the whole bus, rather than only being able to be heard when plugged into the audio-jack. In Bear-Grylls fashion, I rigged up my fleece, with this all purpose heavy duty twisty ties from EMS and jammed a pillow in between the fleece and the speaker, as air tight as I could crank it to muffle the whining rants of  the atrocious video content. I figured the guys that rotate through driving 18 hour shifts must see so many movies that it may become very slim picking. Or they just have bad taste.

The unfortunate media let me focus on appreciating the Argentine ranch-land out the window. The setting sun cast an orange glow across the landscape, which looked quite a lot like rural texas with barns, farms, cows, low-lying brush, and the occasional crop-field windmill. It was nice to be able to see the sun fully descend down the horizon rather than being cast in darkness an hour early behind the shadow of Buenos Aires’ buildings.

The most satisfying part of the bus trip was the coffee. In Argentina the go-to coffee is café con leche, a really frothy and milky 4th cousin of coffee. I really miss the big mug of black coffee that is easy to fill up and lasts much longer than the european expresso style in a little teacup. The bus had just what I had been missing, and lots of it, in a vat approximately the same size as crate for medium sized dogs.

Even though I drank a few styrofoam cups of coffee, I slept through to the morning, waking up to shift around a bit every hour or so. We arrived in Puerto Iguazu and found the hostel. It was a really nice place, with a little swimming pool in the back. It cost 252 pesos for two people for two nights. Thats 25 dollars, or just about 6.50/night.

The hostel was in town–a place with stray dogs, abandoned buildings, restaurants, and bars that cater to the park’s visitors. The place had an authentic South American feel. The roads were stained red from the iron-rich jungle soil, and all around was thick brush and a limitless expanse of trees. The town is just a little pocket of streets, telephone wires, and buildings, completely enveloped all around by jungle.

It was another 20 minute bus ride to the park. Sheraton has a hotel directly inside Iguazu national park, but that was a little pricey. We spent two days in the park, both days on the Argentine side. There are also great views from Brazil, but we planned the trip last minute and didn’t have time to straighten out a Brazilian Visa. Europeans can travel to Brazil without a problem, but Americans need to pay a fee and get it sorted before hand. The closest I got to Brazil was on a boat on the river that powered its way up the rapids and right underneath some of the smaller waterfalls. The river is the border. The border is still the country, so I’m checking it off my list. I’ve been to Brazil.

In two days, we hiked all the trails in the park, took a boat ride underneath the falls, spotted a toucan, a couple jungle raccoons, a whole lot of beastly lizards, and some funky butterflies. One of the highlights of the park was a longer, less popular trail where after a 3.5 km walk you get to a natural pool below a waterfall where you can swim. The whole place was really incredible. Pictures can’t do justice to the space, the immensity of the currents, or the beautiful jungle climate surrounding. In the Iguazu National Park, there are between 150 to 300 waterfalls, depending on the water level of the Iguazu River. About half of the water from the river flows into one channel, named the Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat.

I just got back to Baires after another big bus ride. We took another company back, one that loves to blast air conditioning. I was shivering like a penguin the whole night in shorts and a tank top, extremely envious of the people in front of me who knew we were traveling by ice box and packed their winter gear and a blanket. If the sounds were the distinctive feature on the first bus, the smells were the feature of the second. We sat in the very back, right in front of the motor, so got drugged up by the 18 hours of smelling gasoline.

5 thoughts on “Iguazú National Park”

  1. i like it when you see a truck load of wood going one way, and then another truck load of wood going the other way… and you’re like… umm…. so…

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