I wasn’t able to write last Monday because I had taken a trip up to Iguazu Falls, right on the border of Brazil. I went with the PALS group, which organizes trips around Argentina for exchange students. It was a lot of fun and there was quite a bit of partying and general rambunctiousness in the hostel pool. We played pool volleyball, danced around to a laughably bad DJ, and on the last night they had even organized a costume party. But, of course, this is really about the waterfall. It is impossible to explain how breathtaking las Cataratas de Iguazu are. Maybe that’s a good thing. If I could write a description that did them justice or take a picture that really captured the essence, there would be no need to travel. Still, I can try.
We began our adventure by climbing into a boat on the lower river – Rio Iguazu Menor. As we sped down the river, we were surrounded by jungle full of lush green trees and cliffs with trickles of water running down the sides. It felt so good to breathe the clean air and smell the trees. For all its wonderful things, I can’t say Buenos Aires is good for the lungs.
We heard the waterfall long before we saw it, but once we did see it, we were blown away. It was cool seeing it from below instead of from the side. Looking up to see all that water falling down at me from above made me feel small, and made me realize how powerful it was. It was so beautiful and I was humbled, but we were all thinking about what came next. We weren’t just going to look at the waterfall, but also feel it.
The boat picked up speed and the feeling of rushing right at the fall was so exhilarating. We couldn’t go directly under the fall, we wouldn’t have come back out again, but even just getting close we were completely drenched. I tried to keep my eyes open but I couldn’t; the water pressure was just too strong. Thinking back on it now, thought, it’s cool that I have a memory of Iguazu that isn’t visual – it’s completely tactile. I think back and feel the strong, surprisingly warm water on my skin, drenching me.
When we got back to shore we began our climb up along the side of the fall. The higher up we got, the more amazing angles of the waterfall we saw. It was amazing to think about how long it had been there. It’s beauty has been there in the middle of the Argentinian forest since long before humans were there to appreciate it. I wondered to myself whether the birds were able to appreciate its beauty and decided that they must. Perhaps not in the same way we do, but I couldn’t imagine the energy that surrounded the fall didn’t affect every being around it. The path took us through the jungle, higher and higher up. Sometimes we would wind away from the waterfall and we would spot toucans or monkeys, then all of a sudden it would come into view and I would be taken aback all over again
At the end of the path there was a little train waiting for us which took us up to see el Rio Iguazu Mayor. As we chugged by I saw people hiking the rest of the way, which I would have preferred. Still, perhaps it was better to get to the top more quickly, because what was waiting for us was spectacular. In order to get to the upper fall, we walked along a boardwalk/bridge that allowed us to be right above the water. We walked slowly, taking in the peace that surrounded us. At one point, I looked down into the water at the biggest catfish I have ever seen. I knew catfish got big, but I hadn’t realized how big. It was amazing, and it made me think about what having truly protected lands and waters mean. Everything in this park has had the chance to grow to its full potential and be whatever it was meant to be. As the catfish proved to me, most things would be absolutely spectacular if we would leave them alone.
At the end of the boardwalk, we finally arrived at La Garganta del Diablo or The Devil’s Throat. I couldn’t believe the pure power that surrounded me. The water poured down with such force that it was absolutely impossible to see the bottom through all the spray. All the white water looked like a cloud and it made it seem a little like we were in Heaven. But at the same time, it was so beautifully Earthly that I feel like saying it looked like Heaven is a bit of an insult.
It was a bit odd to me how fast the peace and calm of the river we had just strolled over turned into this display of violence. The river didn’t pick up speed before hand, it just fell, as if it knew all along it was coming and had had its entire journey to prepare. Something about the waterfall made me want to dive right in. The fall just seemed so connected with everything. There was no telling where it began or stopped. It was at once an infinite amount of drops and one single waterfall. I wanted to be as entwined with everything around me as it was and as I stood there staring at it, I realized that I was. Just being there, appreciating its beauty, made me a part of it.
Of course, visiting a beauty like this one means that a lot of other people want to visit, too. It was probably the most tourists I’ve seen in one place since I’ve been here. There were so many people pushing to get good views or pictures and it was frustrating. I almost let it ruin my experience, but then I realized that humans have been participating in pilgrimages for ages. What amazing animals we are to travel so far in order to appreciate the beauty that this world has to offer. Still, I hope people are really able to appreciate the moment, the gift they’re being given, and not experience the whole thing through the screens of their phones and cameras. It’s important to remember that you travel to actually see with your real eyes and let all your other senses experience as well. If it was all about the photo, you could have just stayed home and googled it.