Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Mighty, awe inspiring, frightening waterfalls make me thirsty.

Posted by Rishiray on November 11, 2009


Iguacu means “mighty waters” in the language of the Guarani people who inhabited this area before European settlers arrived in the mid 16th century. When Spanish explorer Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca discovered the falls in 1542, he wanted to call them Santa Maria. The falls are indeed “mighty” though, and locals didn’t care a heck of a lot about Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Santa Claus, Santana the guitar player, or any other Santas the Spanish might have wanted to inflict on them. The Guarani people regarded Iguazu as a holy place. It is an appropriate attitude.

On Monday, I did the cruise and the Inferior trail and most of the other trails on the Argentine side, leaving the Superior trail for a separate day. In retrospect, I should have pushed the pedal to the metal on Monday as the weather was gloriously sunny and not the garbage weather that we had on Tuesday and Wednesday. I would have a couple better pics, but ce’st la vie.

Heading down from the Sheraton was a simple enough task as behind the hotel, there was a well-marked, paved path down to the entrance to the Jungle expedition and Cataratas train station. Along the way, there were signs showing a stick figure of a man on the path, with snakes on either side of him, threatening to strike at any second.  Since I “no speaka the spanish” I think the signs meant, “Stay on the path or snakes will dance around you”.

Side note: It was only after I got my Sheraton umbrella and raincoat, and boarded the train from the Sheraton, all while the thunder gods were doing a samba routine, that I was truly glad I stayed at hotel. Speaking to friends that I made over the past 3 days, they all wished that they had stayed on day at the falls, just for the convenience. (Forget that I did it on Starwood points!)

Once I got on the little train going towards the falls, the overall tourist population was bit sparse as it was raining quite heavily. The train is an awesome idea, as it is a long hike after that to the actual series of long walkways across different sections of the river. I can’t even imagine how people ever saw the Devil’s Throat before the walkways. It must have been true jungle trekking, not like the “walk and take picture” tourists like me today!

It took about 20 mins for the train to leave Central Station to get the Cataratas Station. From there it is a long series of walkways over the river … not unlike these

Getting to the viewing platform, which stands at the precipice of the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo) was such a huge challenge, since following walkways is terribly difficult 😉  Of course, the usual tourist infestation was there, just like me and it was crowded with tourists taking pictures, and one dude offered to get up on his little ladder-chair and offered to take pictures above the heads of the crowds.

I managed to last 30 mins on the main walkway, through a combination of factors:

  • I was the only person wearing swimming googles. I looked like an idiot, but I also was the only person who could see through the mist.
  • I had wrapped my camera lens and barrels in plastic wrap from the hotel. Again, camera looked stupid, but 4 other photographers with their SLR’s commented that they wished they planned like I did. One guy took a picture of my camera for his blog *lol* i.e What to do at huge waterfalls!
  • I was the only person there with towels for their camera, which made shooting much easier, especially for cleaning the lens with all the mist. Of course, I offered my towel to the grateful SLR peeps. Experience teaches you in these situations… yesterday’s imaginary Brazilian journey taught me that a photographer should always have a lens cleaner and soft towel in his bag.

It’s hard to describe exactly the feeling that you get standing above something like Iguazu Falls. Millions of tons of rushing water below your feet, the thunderous roar of the water cascading hundreds of feet down into an abyss, is powerful and completely frightening at the same time. I always seem to be hypnotized by this rushing water, I can barely pull myself away from it. It is truly a wonder of nature going to explore waterfalls, they are such simple things, but one has to appreciate that only millions of years to tectonic activity or a melting glacier will allow such phenomenon to occur.  The Devil’s Throat is definitely awe inspiring in its power, you get that feeling like you want to run away and jump in at the same time. Beauty and wonder still exist in the world and I’m glad that I made this trip so far.

Watching into the mouth of the abyss, with the birds flying all around from the mist was powerful, ethereal and creepy, all in one. You think to yourself, “One slip, one jump and that’s it”

The falls aren’t just one waterfall — it is a series of 275 separate cascades spread across a jagged cleft in the Iguazu River. The river is 3km wide at this point, and the falls drop 80 meters. Hence they are “higher than Niagara and wider than Victoria”, as the travel guides say. The complex geography of the site really makes this, a most spectacular waterfall, definitely unique  anywhere in the world. If you’re a religious person, you could stand for hours on the platforms, marveling at the artistry of God’s handiwork, and wondering about the sheer, raw, natural power that the place embodies. One can’t help but a bit humbled.

Photolog link: http://www.rishisankar.com/Travel/Argentin/Devils-Throat/10289656_DKx9F

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