Over the Border and Over the Falls – Iguazu and Northern Argentina

“I beg your pardon, Owl,
but I th-th-th-think we coming to a fatterfall
… a flutterfall … a very big waterfall!”
– Piglet (Winnie The Pooh)

We cross the Andes for the last time – at least on this trip – and bury our fleeces, hiking boots and Gortex jackets deep in our backpacks. However, the return to warm weather also means the return to Bugworld and Scooterland. And, it seems that the smaller ones are the loudest – the scooters, not the bugs.

Caimen at Esteros de Ibera in Argentina
Heron at Esteros de Ibera in Argentina
Capybara at Esteros de Ibera in Argentina

Caimen, Herons and Cabybaras are commonly seen in Esteros de Ibera

We make our way across northern Argentina, and spend a few days wildlife-viewing at Esteros del Ibera. Here, we find thousands of birds, deer, caimans, capybaras (the world’s largest rodent) and, of course, mosquitoes.

Our next stops are the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in northern Argentina. Towards the Brazilian border, we visit the Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio Mini. Although the missionaries may have been well-intentioned, we are reminded about the conquistador notion of fair trade.

San Ignacio Mini Ruins in Argentina

The Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio Mini

South America’s native people (Guarani in northern Argentina) were forced to exchange their land, freedom, and precious metals and stones for the supposed benefits of Christianity, the Spanish language and communicable diseases. It is not unlike other European colonies in the Americas, including at home in Canada.

We visited our first Brazilian tri-border area a few months earlier at Tres Fronteras, where it meets Colombia and Peru, in the middle of Amazonia.

We sit at the Triple Frontier in Argentina, and look over the confluence of the Paraná and Iguazu rivers to neighboring Paraguay and Brazil.

Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet at the Parana and Iguazu Rivers

Paraguay (left) and Brazil (right)

Cataratas de Iguazu

Straddling the Argentinian / Brazilian border is one of the natural wonders of the world – the cataratas (waterfalls) of Iguazu. Some of the 275 cascades plummet close to 300 feet. Although not as high as Niagara, the sheer magnitude of the area is awesome. Standing at the top of the massive Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), and to feel, see, and hear its earth-shaking power, is truly awesome.

It is a major South American destination, and our ability to dodge the countless bus tour groups is put to the test. On our second day, we spend the morning hiking through the forest, admiring the monkeys and huge spiders while trying to hear ourselves over the constant drone of helicopters touring overhead.

We arrive at a secluded waterfall and are completely alone. After a shower under the 15m falls and a dip in the pool below, we prepare to move one. As we leave, several other people show up, and the sky turns black. We are chased back along the trail by falling trees, flashes of lightning, and claps of thunder. The trail which has become a series of swamps and creeks, and we are soaked to the skin.

The weather improves in the afternoon, and we explore the network of trails to various viewpoints overlooking the waterfalls. We manage to avoid the crowds everywhere we go, and enjoy most of the place to ourselves.

Alex stands under a waterfall near Iguazu, Argentina

Alex stands under a 50 foot waterfall

Cataratas do Iguaçu

The next day, we cross the Brazilian border Brazil to Foz du Iguaçu. Although the Argentinian side of the falls allows visitors to get up close and personal with the waterfalls, the views from Brazil are much more dramatic.

Garganta del Diablo at Cataratas Iguazu in Argentina

Garganta del Diablo or The Devil’s Throat

We don’t stay long. The trail system isn’t very long, and the area only warrants a few hours of exploration. After exhausting all the viewpoints over a roll of film, we head back to the bus station, collect our backpacks, and head for the Atlantic Coast for the first time – at least on this trip.


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