Mmmmmmm … (etc) / In noreni per ipe / in noreni Cora / tira mine per ito / ne domina, with the music of Vangelis in mind I step into the New World ! Here I am in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus, on my way to The Conquest of Paradise. But am I already there? The surrounding subtropical forest, permanent rainbows formed by water droplets in suspension in the atmosphere give a magical halo the fabulous spectacle of the Cataratas del Iguazú (Spanish) or Cataratas do Iguaçu (Portuguese). Welcome to the Iguazú National Park on the border between Brazil, Argentine and Paraguay, in South America. Iguazú National Park was created on January 10, 1939, and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The park is one of the largest forest reserves in South America. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish navigator, and explorer discovered these famous waterfalls on January 31, 1542, while sailing down the river to find an easy route to Asuncion in Paraguay. Apparently, he just had time to shout “Santa Maria !“, when seeing the first of the many falls. With luck (he had certainly a four-leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot and a horseshoe in his bag!) and ability (and a precursor of an F1 powerboat ?), he avoided the perils of the river and entered the history books by uttering this sentence.
Wooden or iron walkways on both sides of the waterfalls lead visitors safely to the heart of the water and Steam curtains while powerful motor boats come as close to the cataracts as possible. If you plan, brave visitors that you are, to experience the falls by boat, make sure you bring a raincoat. The pilots are not shy about making a detour… under the downpour of the falls. But, this approach, the closest possible, makes you realize the power, violence, and beauty of the falls !
Iguaçu means “big water” in Tupi-Guarani, and we witness a striking display of mountains of water rising from the jungle. We can literally “feel” the spirit of the forest: the moisture, sounds, aromas, and penetrating steam, which fill the surrounding space! In fact, it is not a single waterfall, but a collection of 275 falls extending over 1.7 miles with an average height of 269 feet and an average flow rate of 62,010 cu ft/s. Compared with other notable Falls, Iguazú is wider than Victoria Falls, higher than Niagara Falls, and more beautiful than both. The Iguaçú Falls are the world’s largest and most impressive waterfalls. Winston Churchill, himself, said that Niagara and Victoria were “Cataracts of bathtub” compared to Iguazú.
But besides all these stories of O, this national park offers the greatest sanctuary of biodiversity in Argentina. No other region has a comparable number of wild species: over 200 vascular plants, 420 species of birds including the Toco Toucan, the symbol of the park. The Toco Toucan’s most noticeable feature is its huge yellow-orange bill measuring between 6 and 9 inches in length giving the bird its weird look. But contrary to what we might think, the bill is relatively light for its size because the inside is mostly hollow. The Toco Toucan also has striking plumage in a range of colors, a black body with a white throat, chest and upper tail and some blue around the eyes. At the bend of a path, you may also have the chance to encounter another famous bird, the Aratinga Guarouba… or Golden Conure. The plumage is the colors of its country, yellow with green remiges (Brasil Parra Pa Pa Pa Pa…) and of a football team that has set many dreaming, but whose nemesis is a rooster…. just laughing, we all take off into flights of fantasy. The park is also home to more than 80 species of mammals, including the Coatis, friendly small creature, and mascots of the National Park. Coatis means “long nose” in Tupi-Guarani, an evocative name when you see their long snout ending in a mobile proboscis. They have a thin body covered with a thick gray-brown fur. They measure between 33 and 44 inches, half of which is their tail, and weigh about 8 pounds. Their legs end with long claws allowing them to dig holes. They live both on the ground and in trees. The Corti is a good daytime climber, going down the trees upside down. They are omnivorous and delight in turtle eggs, insects, mushrooms, berries and sometimes even mice and lizards. They live in small groups of five to eight, including females and young males.
But continuing our Mission, like that of Indiana Jones in version 4 or OSS 117 and traveling incognito from Rio (What else?) in movies that made Iguaçu Falls famous worldwide. When you feel you are in paradise, hell is never far away… in the direction to the Garganta del Diablo, known in English as the Devil’s Throat. From the Gorge Station, a 1,3-mile long walkway (round trip) allows visitors a panoramic view of the imposing, impetuous and incomparable chasm called Devil’s Throat, the most impressive of all cataracts. The route crosses several islands of Misiones forest, and in the calm of countless streams “yacarés” (caimans) and “herons” feed on small fish. Then, after the silence comes the big jump. From three major platforms, we can watch the show of the Iguazú River. Approximately half of the river’s flow falls into this long and narrow gap, the Garganta del Diablo, and into the riverbed 269 feet below. The Devil’s Throat is a horseshoe fault measuring about 492 feet wide and 2,297 feet long that creates a powerful waterfall. The waterfalls produce dense clouds of steam that wet all the lush vegetation around and gives a misty touch to the landscape. The roar is deafening and the view magnificent! This mist creates a sort of permanent light rain that, when it meets a sunbeam, creates stunning rainbows. An invitation to sing Hallelujah !
Come on, one last look at the beauty of the place, and it is time to say goodbye to Dos Hermanas, Chico, Ramirez Bossetti, Adan y Eva, Bernabe Mendez and Mbiguá, San Martin, Escondido, Dos Mosqueteros, Rivadavia and Tres Mosqueteros Falls… “Everyone is beautiful / Everyone is beautiful / Everyone is beautiful / Everyone is big enough for everyone / Nananana…” (Zazie – Tout le monde il est beau).