Posadas to Iguazu & Iguazu- Days 7 & 8
Up with the sun, packed, breakfasted and ready for the road by 9. We were picked up by the driver who had brought us from the airport at Posadas a couple of days ago as well as a guide, Alejandro, a former teacher and park ranger at the Iguazu National Park, who had become a free-lance guide and photographer; very knowledgeable and articulate.
Iguazu is about a 5 hour drive from Puerto Valle but in our case it took more 8 hours as we stopped to visit the ruins of a Jesuit mission built in the early 1600’s, a fascinating place to wander in, particularly if you have seen a movie from a number of years ago, and starring Jeremy Irons, called The Mission which is set in the mission whose ruins we visited.
Arrived at Iguazu in late afternoon, or rather, at the Sheraton hotel which is within the Iguazu National Park boundaries and given an upgraded room with a wonderful view of the falls. We wanted to go for a walk on the walkway which takes you to the upper level of the falls but the Park closes at 5 and so all the entrances to the walkways, which are only a minutes walk from the hotel, were blocked.
The falls themselves, as anyone who has seen them knows, are massive, extending over a wide arc much larger than Niagara, and the sound is overwhelming. Our hotel is about 500 metres away from the falls but you can hear their roar the moment you step outside. We have a guide who is meeting us in the morning to take us around and then we are to take a boat ride, in the spirit of the Maid of the Mist, up to the cascades and down the rapids below the falls.
We had no desire to dine in the hotel so had planned to go into the town of Puerto Iguazu for dinner. When we went to make arrangements, came to understand that the town is 26k away and and a 30-40 minute drive each way at a cost of about $40 US. After a long day's driving we decided that we would pass and eat at the hotel; mistake! One of the most inedible meals that we have yet met in our travels and this includes some vile mysterious dishes in Asian backwaters Lots of wine to make up for it.
Next morning the skies opened and it rained for most of the 4 hours that we spent walking the upper and lower catwalks that surround and bridge the falls at their top and at their bottom on the Argentinian side of the river. Crowds were not deterred however and we were surrounded by massive crowds, school groups, tour busloads and families all thronging and pushing their way in the pouring rain, along the walkways.
The walkways are made of metal mesh in connected panels, each about 1 metre by 2, surrounded by a metal strip about 15 centimetres wide which give them support and stability. The metal panels are surprisingly slippery in the wet and the solid metal frames surrounding them are even more slippery so that between walking very carefully so as not to slip and to make sure that you did not step on the solid metal frames as they were even more slippery while trying to work your way through hordes of people is not an ideal viewing environment, but the falls are so overwhelming that it made keeping your footing seem small potatoes.
The walkways at both the top of the falls and at the bottom are built alongside, over, and around the various cascades that make up the falls in such a way that you are in much more intimate contact with the falls than is the case at Niagara. You are literally within reach of the falls at many points and are surrounded by the noise and the mist and spray that is being thrown off. An amazing experience.
After a couple of hours we were given waterproof bags for our cameras, watches etc, strapped into life jackets and bundled aboard a large inflatable zodiac which powered up to within about 100 metres of the falls so that we could take pictures from the base of the falls then we were advised to put away and secure anything that could not stand a wetting, at which point the zodiac buzzed up to the face of the falls, zoomed around the various cascades and took us as close as possible short of actually boating under the falls themselves. I have no clear recollection of the trip, as I had taken off my glasses as advised, but they would have been useless in any event as we were pummeled and overwhelmed by a welter of pounding water and spray so that it was impossible to see anything except for a very loud, white, wall of water. Even breathing was hard since the volume of spray was overwhelming; it was only possible for me to breathe through my mouth which meant that I consumed gallons of the river, fingers crossed.
Wet and weary we walked back to the hotel, changed and packed for tomorrow and went to the bar. Spent a couple of hours there, had dinner from the menu of bar snacks, much better than the dining room and watched a flaming Iguazu sunset.
Off to bed to be ready for our flight in the morning to Salta.