The city bus picked us up at the same station where we arrived earlier that morning and hauled us and the handful of other tourists out of town about 8 km to the National Park. I was completely baffled at how few gringos there were aboard, as well as in the park. Most everyone around us were actually speaking Spanish or some indigenous dialect. There were many indigenous people in the park selling their carved crafts and jewelry spread out on small blankets, the same they use to wrap up their goods and carry on their back. They sat on the grounds scattered around in seemingly random places along the various access trails to the falls. Most of the carvings were surprisingly poor quality for indigenous work and it seemed that everyone had the same items laid out on their blankets. Maybe the artisans decided to “incorporate” the carving business to step up production levels to meet the dollar demand. I didn’t let this constant reminder of the pervasiveness of capitalism overpower the excellent time in this beautiful park. It was nice to get off the bus route, out of the concrete jungle and into some real green surroundings. The natural aroma in the air as Paul and I walked between the lookout points was exhilarating: clean, fresh oxygen. I had the realization that this is in fact where a lot of our world’s oxygen is produced, through the natural and wonderful system we call photosynthesis. The same system by which we receive all these brilliant shades of leafy green.
The falls were absolutely incredible to experience in person, and certainly have already made it to the top of my list on highlights of the trip. Our first approach to the falls was from below. After a glimpse at the falls from one small deck at the base of the right most corner, we hopped on a boat that crossed the lower river to Isla Grande San Martin, the island that sits in the middle of the horseshoe. We hiked around the island to the various decks that offered cool views of the various falls. The enormous amounts of water falling over the horseshoe shaped falls is much more impressive than that of the comparable Niagara falls of North America. There are over 275 cascades spread out along the horseshoe. Then we returned to the mainland for another point of view, this time from the top of the falls. There were two main vantage points above the falls, one directly above the right corner of the falls and the other more impressive view much farther up river that we accessed by first hoping on a small passenger train around the perimeter of the river. The area known as the garganta del diablo (devil’s throat) has fourteen falls dropping 350 feet with such force that there is always a 100 foot cloud of spray overhead (read more about the falls @ about.com). We reached the top of the garganta via a long catwalk that reaches out over the approaching Iguazu river and peered over the edge seeing an impressive white cloud of water vapor. The winds changed and we became soaked with this vapor that suddenly reached up and over the 350 foot fall.
We spent the entire afternoon roaming the various trails and overlooks and left the park both tired and satisfied on the last passenger train of the day. That night we planned our course, setting sights on Paraguay, a new and unknown land that presented itself across the Paranï¿½ river. Passage to Ciudad del Este (East City) in Paraguay would be slightly more involved than simply crossing a bridge from Argentina. Interestingly, if not at least ironically, even though Argentina and Paraguay share a border separated by a river, the only way to arrive by bus is to pass through Brazil first. There is no bridge that connects the two countries. Luckily though, there were busses that made “direct” trips through Brazil without stopping, meaning we would not have to stop at Brazilian immigration, get fingerprinted, and pay the US$100 visa fee. The ridiculous ordeal is levied on US citizens in reciprocity of the same that the US does to Brazilians.