January 9, 2012

Iguazu Falls - Vale la pena

There is an expression in Spanish, "vale la pena", which means that something was worth the effort, or literally, "worth the pain".

If ever there was a perfect expression to go along with a natural wonder of the world, Iguazu Falls is without a doubt, vale la pena. 

We arrived in Argentina after red-eye flights, refueled at McDonalds in the airport (not my favorite meal of the trip...) and headed to the Buenos Aires bus station. After initial shock at the sticker price of Argentinian buses ($100+ USD), we bought our tickets, ate some lunch, and boarded our 17 hour direct bus to the border town of Puerto Iguazu.

Situated in northeast Argentina, bordering both Brazil and Paraguay, Puerto Iguazu is a town created for one purpose and one purpose only - Iguazu Falls. Everyone is there to see the star of the show, and not much else. However, we were surprisingly pleased with the cute cafes (Lemongrass Cafe!), delicious meals (Picare!), and quaint nature of the town. My fellow Minnesotan, Stetson, and I commented more than once how much the town reminded us of Ely, Minnesota - another "jumping off" town as people head north into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota.

The day after our arrival we got up early and headed to the bus terminal to take a 30 minute bus to the national park at the falls. By the time we arrived at the main gate we had spent about 19 hours on buses, 12 flying to Argentina, and an afternoon re-grouping from it all. Basically - we were ready to get this trip started already!

At the main gate all foreign visitors pay $100 ARS (about $25 USD). We had also bought passes in advance (at the bus terminal) for an up close and personal boat ride underneath the falls for $125 ARS. Tickets in hand we headed for the tram which would take us to the start of the trails to walk to the falls. Ten minutes later and we were walking towards the upper falls.

Parque Nacional Iguazu - Argentina (There is also a national park on the Brazilian side of the falls)

The first sight gave me goosebumps. Filled me with the type of adrenaline rush that can only come from the knowledge that you are seeing something truly and naturally spectacular. The type of thing you see once in a lifetime. That moment, and all the other ones after it, made Iguazu Falls vale la pena.

First sight of the falls!

Narissa, Kelsi and I at the upper falls.

Trying to somehow show the immensity of how far the falls actually go on for!

From that moment, we explored the upper falls, walking out on various platforms for panoramic shots from above the falls. Then we walked the lower falls circuit for better photo opportunities with the falls in the background.

View from the lower falls.

From the lower falls we also took a boat ride under the falls that left us soaked to the bone. I couldn't even look around during the ride because the water was pouring down on us so hard, but thankfully Rob captured it on video. For the grand finale we took the tram even further up river to the very beginning of the falls and walked out about 20 minutes to a platform above the Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo). The amount of water crashing down this 82 m high waterfall is absolutely stunning and the effect of so much water creates a nearly constant rainbow near the top of the falls.

 La Garganta del Diablo 

Tourists trying to get the best photo of this gigantic waterfall. 

Since the photos cannot really do the experience of witnessing 275 waterfalls over the course of 2.7 kilometers justice, check out the short video below to truly get a peak at the take-your-breathe-away nature of this natural wonder.

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