February 18, 2013

Iguazu ~ The Falls

The Cataratas del Iguazu are one of those wonders of the world we are supposed to see, and it didn't fail to impress, though at times you wish all the people, and the fast food would disappear.

Located in the north-east corner of Argentina, the name comes from the the Guarani people, and means big water. The Guarani have lived in this area for over one thousand years, displacing the original hunter-gatherers who arrived perhaps as many as ten thousand years ago.

The falls were discovered by Europeans in 1541, with the Guarani then displaced by Spanish and Portuguese. The Guarani continue to have a presence in the region.

The cataratas are part of a national parks system that protects the environment on both sides of the river, in Brasil and Argentina. The Argentine park is 550 square kilometres in size and was established in 1934. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Weather is a factor when visiting the falls. In minutes the weather can change, and certainly did while we were there: from bright sun, to clouds, to a torrential downpour and back to sun again. One never gets dry in this environment with summer temperatures nearly always above 35 and humidity of 80 to 100. 

The Iguazu rain forest is part of the Amazonas, but does not receive as much precipitation, nor does it have the same abundance of species. Still, there are jaguar, ocelot, tapir, coati, caiman and a multitude of butterflies, birds and snakes all the same. Most of the jungle's life forms come out after the sun sets (the Park closes at 6pm) though we did get to see a variety of creatures, some, but not the one on the right, wearing Tilley hats.

We joined a river rafting group, with Pipo as our guide. Torrential rain ensued, just after we came upon a croc.

Not having enough of that persistent jungle-water smell on our clothes, hair and bodies, we then took another boat into the falls themselves where water crashed down on us from over 80 metres above.

The Devil's Throat, or Garganta del Diablo, is 82 metres high, 150 m wide and 700 m long.  For comparison, the Niagara Falls are 50 m high.

It was great fun, though the clothes never dried, and the camera was knocked out of commission midway through the day.

And what better way to relax on the way back to our lovely hotel, than to take a taxi flying along a roadway clearly marked 60 km/h, at an impressive 125! There is a stretch along the highway where speed bumps are employed to slow the traffic. Speed bumps on a highway!  No problem.

And storm clouds on the horizon. But that's another story.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

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