Chasing cataratas…

I had heard legends about this place: It makes Niagara Falls look like a little water fountain. It’s one to the seven wonders of the world! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life! Double rainbows, ALL the way!

The Cataratas del Iguazu (Iguazu Falls) are world famous for being breathtaking. I put it on my Argentina bucket list as soon as I found out I would be spending my summer here. Having seen it now, I can confirm the hype and can say that it really should be on everyone’s bucket list!

I travelled to the falls with three friends from my program, Santiago, Zoe, and Andres, this past weekend. As the designated “mom” of the group, I was in my type A element. After all briefly freaking out at my children for showing up hungover and late to our meeting point, we all finally boarded the plane and managed to make it to Puerto Iguazu in one piece. In town, we stayed at a lovely hostel appropriately called Nomads. Though rather shack-like from the outside, it was a great hostel with plenty of perks – namely, lots and lots of avocado at the free breakfast. After eating our weight’s worth in palta (what the Argentine’s call the wickedly delicious green stuff), we headed straight to the falls.

The park was empty when we got there and we had the whole trail to ourselves as we hiked towards the distant gurgling that we could hear beyond the dense vegetation. It’s ridiculously silly in hindsight but I remember being slightly nervous while approaching the falls. What if it’s all just hype? What if they’re not as amazing as everyone says they are?

How foolish was I? The first view of the falls took my breath away…

The word “wow” is laughably inadequate but it was really the only word that any of us could utter. Except Zoe. She managed to more accurately articulate our awe by jumping around and squealing (really squealing, like “eck! ahhh! AHCKKKK!”) up and down the hiking paths. The boys and I decided that Zoe would be the adopted one in our little makeshift family (of three latinos and me, the token Asian). I’m just kidding Zo! Hold on to your wonder!

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As we hiked along the upper and lower circuits, we were treated to view after view of lush greenery, blue skies, flickering rainbows, and, of course, torrentially powerful curtains of water. It was a blatant display of the sheer force of nature. We couldn’t help but morbidly think about whether or not anyone would be able to survive a dip in the falls (pienso que no!).

Andres said something that rather struck me as we walked along the lower trail.

“Isn’t it a little strange that we pay to go see nature?”

Hm. It is a little strange. But perhaps a more accurate statement is that we pay to preserve nature. Human beings used to exist in spite of nature. Hunter gatherers weathered the elements, braved storms, and took only what they needed to survive. Now, pockets of nature exist in spite of human beings. The way I see it, we were paying for the maintenance of trails and of the park infrastructure, but we were also paying to keep the falls relatively untouched.

I thought about this as we leaped down to the river plate to catch a boat that would literally take us underneath the falls. Our planet is incredible. How can we keep it that way?

This boat ride though pretty much wiped all pensive thoughts out of my mind. I was so frickin’ excited to get utterly drenched! We strapped on our life jackets and placed all our belongings in dry-bags. Then our driver began to steer the speedboat right towards the white torrents of water. Our “oohs and ahhs” from our peaceful morning hike morphed in to screams of sheer delights: “AHHH!! WOOOO!! YAS!!” as the boat repeatedly ducked in and amongst the curtains of water. This wasn’t some Disneyland jungle cruise where you get slightly wet. We were soaked all the way through to the bone. It was exhilarating!

After the boat ride, we spent the rest of the day with the falls, visiting a little island in the middle as well as paying pilgrimage to La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat). What a sight to behold.

Tired, damp, but thoroughly content, we headed back to our hostel to cook up a nice family dinner. We schemed about how we would sneak Zoe and Andres into Brazil the next day over a delicious bottle of $4 champagne, but more on that story some other time!

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