We stood there in silence clutching the railing. Finally, the breath I was holding escaped in a low uttered, “Wow.” The stranger next to me looked my way with wide eyes and just nodded her head in agreement. We had been walking along a sturdy metal walkway that wound its way through trees. Below the walkway was an expanse of water that covered a wide area on the plateau. The placid water slowly meandered its way to the edge.
At the edge of the lava cliff where we now stood water plunges down 300 feet in a massive show of power. Mist is so thick the bottom cannot be seen. Only the roar of water smashing into the rocks far below reached our ears. This spot is called the Garganta del Diablo, throat of the devil. Occasionally a breeze will clear the mist giving us glimpses into the deluge as it utters its prolonged cry of power in our direction. Our first viewpoint of Iguazu Falls left us speechless, but it would not be the only view that would leave us in such a state.
The Devil´s Throat
The Devil’s Throat canyon is 260 – 300 feet (80-90meters) wide and 230 – 260 feet (70-80 m) deep. For comparison, the longest drop in Niagara Falls is the Horseshoe Falls with a depth of 188 feet (57 m). About half of the water from the Iguazu river plummets down Devil’s Throat.
The rest of the water forms 160 to 200 separate waterfalls along the cliffs. Trails through the park would lead us to multiple spectacular views each one deserving of its own park.
The video below is a montage of the several falls in Iguazu from different viewpoints. I know that the portrait orientation annoys the purist videographers among you but it was the only way to capture the height.
Trains and Cute Little Pests
Getting around the Iguazu Park on the Argentina side is very simple. A pleasant little open-sided train takes visitors to the middle of the park where the visitors can choose to walk along well-marked, paved trails, or take another train to the devil’s throat.
While we were waiting for the next train we sat and watched a gang of coatis begging for food. The monkeys at this stop hung around observing from the roofs. Further down the trail, the monkeys were a bit more aggressive. We watched as one of the monkeys stood in front of a lady as she ate her sandwich. He stood there on his hind legs and watched expectedly. When she didn’t give him any of her food he leaped up and snatched the sandwich from her hands then ran away with it.
Going Ape on a Coati
Later at the food court, we watched as the gang of coatis got more aggressive and fought with a man trying to save his bag of bread for their picnic. A store clerk ran out to help and went all ape on the coati trying to scare it off. Eventually, the coati ran away but not without a massive loaf of bread in his snout. He fled from the humans and from the rest of the coatis hot on his heels. For a moment he looked like a running back who broke through.
It was all a bit reminiscent of the monkeys and coatis in Manuel Antonio Park in Costa Rica. There we watched a woman get bit as she tried to fend off a raccoon. I was a bit scared for the children who were having their pictures taken by their parents while they tried to pet the wild animals. Despite all the huge warning signs with pictures of mangled hands from coati bites multiple people still wanted their picture taken with their face next to the teeth of the coati. There is one rule that is true everywhere in the world. Don’t pet wild animals (with maybe the exception of dolphins?). Don’t feed wild animals. The rule is there for the animal’s sake, it is unhealthy for them.
Trails of Iguazu
Trails around the Iguazu National Park leads visitors to spectacular views over the waterfalls and then beside them. There are two main walking trails, the upper trail, and the lower trail. Both are paved and wheelchair accessible and take visitors to beautiful vistas of the falls. There’s also a 7km unpaved trail (out and back) through the jungle for wildlife viewing.
Foz de Iquaçu, Brazil
We spent a week in Foz de Iquaçu (the spelling changes on the Brazil side), the town on the Brazil side of the falls. I definitely wanted to see this side in full sunlight so we made sure we had a number of days to choose from. On our second morning in Brazil, the sky cleared to full sunlight. We grabbed our daypack and headed for the falls.
We were not disappointed and we were regaled with a full rainbow shining in the mist from the falls.
On the Brazil side, buses take tourist to a trail that follows the cliff providing a number of views of the falls that are on the Argentina side. At the end of the trail, a metal walkway leads over a shelf of the waterfall that provides a view of the devil’s throat from halfway down.
We made our way to the edge of the platform and stood looking down into the depth where the water was falling. I have to admit I felt a bit uneasy up against the railing with a mob behind me. A mob complete with one screaming crazy woman who seemingly wanted everyone to get out of her way. The platform was steel and embedded in concrete. Still, it was a mob. I suppressed the unease until we were able to get to the corner of the platform and grab a few pictures of the spectacular rainbow in the falls. Then we made our way back through the crowd and to the main trail.
Ease of Access
The park fees are well used in Iguazu. Trails are clearly marked and maintained and protect the environment from the hordes of visitors that arrive daily to these spectacular falls. It is so well maintained that the falls were almost too easy to get to.
Jerry, a friend of mine who manages the GNHA Hiking club, posted pictures of Alta peak this past week on Facebook. It brought back so many great memories of the hike that Trin and I took to that peak and the mishaps on our way out. The view was spectacular but made even more beautiful because of the struggle to reach it. It was a long beautiful hike highlighted with spectacular views. It was like being rewarded for work well done.
I do love the fact that the trails in Iguazu are accessible to all. No matter the fitness level or ability just about everyone can experience these wonderful waterfalls. The well-maintained trails are also necessary to protect the area, especially since it receives a million visitors a year.
It did, however, give me a bit of wanderlust for the days gone by when this was first discovered. What would it have been like to trek for days and then stumble upon this site?
If you get the chance to see these falls they are definitely worth the time to go see. We all benefit from the discoveries of others. Our most cherished memories, however, are often the ones we struggle for the most. Working for what we have is rewarding.