On Saturday, we flew from Lima, Peru, over the Andes, with some great views of the snow-capped mountains. Four hours later, we arrived in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil. Except our hotel was in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. I know, right? The flight from Lima to Foz de Iguaçu takes four hours and is a direct flight. But to fly from Lima to Puerto Iguazu, which is only across the river, takes 24 to 30 hours - because you fly from Lima to Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, then north to Puerto Iguazu.
So when you arrive on the Brazilian side, you then find a taxi driver willing to offer a reasonable price to take you through the border to your hotel. We turned down several drivers before we found a discounted price, though it was still high. But the issue is that this isn't just driving from point A to point B. No, the trip is like this: we get in the taxi with our luggage, and drive maybe 10 or 20 minutes to the Brazilian Customs and Immigration. We had the entry forms from arriving at the airport, but now we had to exit the country - so we stood in line for another 20 minutes to go through Customs and get a stamp saying we legally left the country. Then a quick drive across the bridge over the Iguazu River (which is the legal border, in the middle of the river), and up to the Argentinian Customs and Immigration. Here, the Customs officers are in little toll booths, and drivers just go up to the window (after waiting in line another 10-15 minutes) and hand over their information and the passports of their passengers. We say hello, we get an entry stamp, we drive out, and voila, the first right turn and there's our hotel.
And just to make life more interesting, Brazil is on one time, and Argentina is an hour earlier.
Since we arrived in the evening, we made Sunday a relax day, and just hung out at our hotel. It was a really nice hotel, so we enjoyed just relaxing.
Monday was my day to explore the waterfalls, which is the whole reason to come to Iguazu (or Iguaçu) Falls.
This is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and absolutely worth the effort to get to this little intersection of Brazil, Argentina, and almost Paraguay (which is just down the road). The waterfalls are magnificent, majestic, all those superlatives.
Both sides of the waterfalls, the Brazilian and the Argentinian, are national parks. "Iguazu" is the name the original people, the Tupi-Guarani, gave to the falls - "Y" means water or river, and "guasu" or "guaçu" means big. So Iguazu means big water or big river.
These are SERIOUSLY big waters!!!!
A traditional legend says the river housed a huge snake named "Boi." The original inhabitants sacrificed a woman every year to calm Boi, and keep him happy. One year, a brave Guarani man kidnapped the woman scheduled to be sacrificed, and saved her from this horrible death. The two escaped through the river. Boi was so enraged, her burst, which bent his body and split the river, forming waterfalls that separated the man and woman forever.
The Iguazu River meanders along, and then reaches a somewhat semicircular region covering approximately three kilometers, where the land drops precipitously roughly 240 feet, or 80 meters. This abrupt drop creates a series of waterfalls, taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide. In fact, it has been said that when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguazu Falls, she looked around and said, "Poor Niagara!"
Some general facts: There are about 275 drops or individual cataracts in this series of waterfalls. The height of the cataracts ranges from 60 to 82 meters, or 197 to 269 feet. And the flow rate, or volume of water, is astounding: 1,756 cubic meters per second! That's 62,010 cubic feet per second! PER SECOND!!! And in March, during the height of rainy season, that volume can increase up to 450,000 cubic feet (12,750 cubic meters) per second!!!!
This series of waterfalls has THE greatest volume of any waterfall in the world. And the water is endless! It just keeps thundering over the rocks, foaming into a new river that continues onward.
The basin that creates this huge drop into a canyon or gorge is actually the result of a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Geologists have measured 8 or 10 distinct layers of volcanic rock, primarily basalt, in the falls. However, with this constant volume of water, the erosion continues as the water wears away rock, other rocks break and fall off, and the location of the falls slowly inches (or centimeters) back an infinitesimal amount per year.
Those are the facts and figures. The story part is that I went through the Customs issue in reverse; went to the falls; hiked from one end of the trail to the other, meeting people coatis, and butterflies along the way; gasped and was amazed! Then a bus ride back to the entrance, a ride back to Customs again, then back to the hotel. With a few glitches, but such is life.
The photos barely do justice to the majesty of the falls. And these photos from the Brazilian side? This is supposedly the LESS scenic side! I can barely wait until Wednesday, when we visit the Argentinian side!
I'll leave you with more photos, because it really is the only way to share the breath-taking and heart-stopping beauty of Iguazu Falls. Words pale in comparison.