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krisek Foz do Iguacu - A travel report by Krys
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Foz do Iguacu,  Brazil - flag Brazil
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krisek's travel reports

World's greatest waterfall. Iguazu.

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Iguazu Falls is amongst the planet's most striking natural wonders. It is a collection a large number of waterfalls, each of which has a name. They are packed together thus making the site one of the Earth's most sought after spots to visit. report of the month contest
Aug 2011

The Iguassu Falls from the air.
The Iguassu Falls from the air.
The Iguassu Falls drops 1.7 thousand cubic meters of water per second on average. Niagara drops 2.4 thousand and Victoria - 1.2 thousand. The largest drop ever recorded for Niagara was about 8 thousand, and for Victoria about 7 thousand. These two compare rather weak with Iguassu, whose largest drop was recorded at 12 thousand in 2010 and in August 2011, at over 17 thousand.

The Argentina-Brazil falls stretch for several kilometres and in fact are a collection of over a hundred waterfalls, some of which have been individually named. There are a few vantage points, on both sides of the border, which offer good views of the several parts of this natural wonder, although the full extent of the waterfalls can only be appreciated from the air.

Argentina has the majority of the waterfalls. This is because the water plummets down the cataracts on their side of the Iguassu River, and the national park on their side allows closer and wetter inspection of the falls. The river bank on the Brazil side however, offers much better and more panoramic, and also very wet, vistas. The Brazilians also have better facilities at closer proximity of the falls' most dramatic section - the Devil's Throat. There is a walkway extending almost inside the Lucifer's mouth, sort of speak. This is where one can get totally drenched, whatever the weather! Actually, when the Iguassu swells too much, these particular walkways get closed down for safety reasons. Seriously, and without exaggeration, one could easily been swallowed. This was the case when I visited - late August 2011, as the river carried over ten time more water than normal.

Argentine authorities usually close down sections of their extensive walkways when water levels become too dangerous. I actually saw a part of a bridge on approach to the Devil's Throat completely submerged, probably even destroyed.

Although this exceptional volume of water can wow and overwhelm the visitors, there is a downside. Two downsides.

Favourite spots:
Sunset at the Iguassu Falls.
Sunset at the Iguassu Falls.
One is that the spray and mist that the waterfalls create block many views, which is harder to appreciate the beauty of the spot. And the other is that the water changes colour from white to brown. White is obviously prettier and way more photogenic. Some would however argue that brown is more dramatic.

I liked the waterfall at the Brazil side the most, right at the beginning of the trail. This was a viewpoint most distant from the falling water and therefore offering a great panoramic view. Also the volume of water created more overspill falls in many parts of the escarpment there, and water normally does not fall. It was amazing. Weather supported great viewing with good air clarity and reasonably moderate cloud cover. This spot was also great for sunsets. The waterfall on the left and the sun setting on the right. In the morning, on the other hand, a complete rainbow formed right in the front of the waterfall.

The other excellent spot was the eastern side of the Devil's Throat.

What's really great:
The Devil's Throat seen from the Brazilian side.
The Devil's Throat seen from the Brazilian side.
The Brazilians installed a viewing platform (complete with lifts) which allowed almost to touch the curtain of water, or the Devil's Lips! Seriously, this part of the train was heartstopping. Anaesthetics (caipirinhas) and defibrillators (coffee) were available at a restaurant, at the end of the trail, the terrace of which provided excellent views of the place where the Iguassu river begins to plummet.

Ten times more water than normal? Yes, this was one of the greatest feature at my visit. It was impossible at times to see anything if wind blew in one's face, though. The spray and mist created by phenomenal amount of falling water blocked visibility completely. This was the case at sunrise. It was practically raining and there was no cloud in the sky! I was completely drenched. And I walked on the main road, not on the falls' path! I was supposed to be shielded by the 30-50 meters wide buffer of giant trees and bushes growing between the road and the actual escarpment. No!

The entire Iguazu Falls seen from a helicopter.
The entire Iguazu Falls seen from a helicopter.
On my second day, by 9 a.m., the wind changed, and the mist dispersed a little allowing for better sighting on the Brazilian side. As the Argentine side of the falls, which allows closer approach to the falls, was partially closed due to the excessive volume of water, and many paths were actually totally submerged, I decided not to cross over and?opted for a helicopter flight to see this natural wonder from above (helicopter flights were available on the Brazil side only, the Argentinian law prohibited this on their side of the border). The ten minutes flight set me back by BRL180, but it was worth it. Only from the air could one appreciate the size of the waterfalls fully. The flight was smooth and the pilot navigated cleverly, so everyone on board could take pictures. Yet, I have to say that the person sitting in the middle back seat would have to stretch a little to get the camera's right angle. Not the same as sitting right at the window, or beside the pilot!

Hotel das Cataratas, double room.
Hotel das Cataratas, double room.
I decided to stay at a rather expensive colonial and very pretty five star Hotel das Cataratas, managed by the Orient Express company for four reasons. One - it was a long trip, and I just wanted to splurge. Two - the proximity to the falls, which was matchless, allowing for flexibility in viewing. Three - sunset and sunrise at the falls at my doorstep without having to comply with park opening hours. Four - perhaps I will not visit the spot again, so what the hell?! The hotel charged BRL670 per night for a large and comfortable room with kingsize bed, and included breakfast; access to the heated outdoor pool; the gym; and souvenir flip-flops.

The Hotel das Cataratas was pretty fabulous. Breakfast buffet included fry-ups (eggs, bacon, sausages), cereals, pancakes, plenty of ham and cheese of different kind, loads of fruit and juices, assortment of breads, rolls, croissants, pastries, limitless coffee and tea, and ... Champagne! Now, this is visiting the falls in style!

Rainbow at the Devil's Throat.
Rainbow at the Devil's Throat.
I was thinking of maybe going out in the city of Foz do Iguassu. So, I enquired at the pousada, where I was staying my second night, about bars, pubs or clubs. The friendly receptionist, who spoke some Spanish and extremely basic English (enough for me, though), she did not immediately know what to recommend, actually. A few places could apparently be found along Avenida Jorge Schimmelpfeng. One of them was O Capitão, which also featured in one of my guidebooks.

O Capitão (the Captain) was a large, modern venue with floor to ceiling massive glass windows, as if the entire structure was made of glass, except the roof. It was a popular place with a hundred or so little plastic chairs outside, which on a good night were being booked up and occupied quickly. Their speciality was pizza, but for most it was a mingling spot, a place to be seen at sipping cachaças and beers.

Rainbow over the falls.
Rainbow over the falls.
Ha! Now, about the handouts at the falls. There were three different kinds of hangouts at this natural wonder: an expensive one; a slightly cheaper but not the greatest value for money; and completely free one (once you are through the national park gate, that is). The first one was the amazing, complete with a fireplace, lounge and bar at the Hotel das Cataratas serving incredible coffees, teas and cachacas. The other one was the cafeteria at the Devil's Throat serving decent coffees, and almost edible simple food, plus slightly overpriced soft drinks. The free trick was ... the waterfall itself and the several platforms to enjoy the vistas.

In town, there were a few very simple cafes and cafeterias along the main drag and on the road to the falls. Nothing particular special. But it would be extremely hard to beat the mists and sunsets over the gazillions of water tumbling down, rough and happy!

The Buffalo Branco restaurant.
The Buffalo Branco restaurant.
I was very lucky to find an open eatery on Sunday afternoon as the city seemed completely abandoned. It was the chain churrascaria grill restaurant the Buffalo Branco. They were not cheap, but the food was plentiful, very plentiful. I got stuffed with various types of meats and salads. I lost count how many beef steaks, pork ribs, chicken drumsticks, lamb chops, sausages, sirloins and fillets, and other yummy grilled cuts I had after the visit of the seventh waiter. All that, two bottles of Coke and one espresso and I was BRL61 down. Not the cheapest meal around, but fair value for money for all that load. Perhaps unnecessary, as one should not eat this much at all. The service was swift and bottled beer was served in ice buckets to make sure it remained well chilled throughout the meal.

Other recommendations:
The Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Dam.
The Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Dam.
Iguazu Falls was accessible via three airports: one in Brazil - the Foz do Iguacu (IGU); one in Argentina - the Cataratas del Iguazu (IGR); and one in Paraguay - the Guarani International Airport of Ciudad del Este (AGT). The airport in Paraguay was the most remote and crossing over to the falls from there would take the longest. The closest airport to the actual waterfall was the Brazilian airport, just 16kms ride to the first vista.

The area had another wonder. The Itaipu dam, the second largest dam in the world, whose turbines produce 20% of all Brazilian current power needs. The dam was actually located on the Paraguay side and, what was most surprising, visiting this remarkable structure was free of charge. The 'catch' was that it could only be done in a group with a guide, which the power plant provided.

Foz do Iguacu was also connected with the rest of Brazil by road, although getting anywhere closer to the coast took a very long time.

Published on Monday September 12th, 2011

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Thu, Oct 27 2011 - 04:29 PM rating by eirekay

I wish I could pack a bag every time you post another report! This is wonderful!!!

Fri, Oct 07 2011 - 06:02 AM rating by porto

Well done Krys on another inspiring report. And those pictures, stunning!

Fri, Oct 07 2011 - 02:53 AM rating by pesu

I knew I had missed something not having read your Brazil reports yet... Wonderful text, stunning pictures. A caipirinha after touching the Devil's Lips? Great! And since I first saw this upper photo from the air on FB I was fascinated - thanks for sharing, Krys! :

Sat, Sep 24 2011 - 08:28 AM rating by jorgesanchez

This is one of my favourites of your Brazilian reports.

Tue, Sep 13 2011 - 11:56 AM rating by mistybleu

I'm so jealous; this is a wonderful report - even with the duplication.

Mon, Sep 12 2011 - 08:49 PM rating by shervin19

wow Your report is wonderfull and usefull. Same as before.
Thank you

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