Iguazu Falls, Brazil
May 5, 2009

Wet ‘n' Wild in Brazil

Now, I want you to close your eyes and imagine...oh no, wait, hang on a minute. This isn’t going to work, is it? First of all, I suspect some of you may have been a wee bit mislead by my title of Wet ‘n’ Wild in Brazil and are now imagining scantily clad Brazilian supermodels frolicking and bouncing in the lightly breaking surf off a shimmering, golden beach or perhaps a wet t-shirt competition during the Brazilian equivalent of Spring Break. Now that is definitely not where I was going with this, so just push those thoughts out of your mind...well, at least try...and let’s get back on topic.

Of course, the other reason that closing your eyes is not going to work is that if you did, you would not be able to read the rest of this blog or be able to see some of the most amazing scenery that we have encountered on our tour of South America so far. So, keep your eyes open, but let you imagination run wild as I try, probably unsuccessfully, to describe the glory that is Iguaçu Falls.

Iguaçu Falls are found on the border between Brazil and Argentina, so I really should have titled this post Wet ‘n’ Wild in Brazil and Argentina, but that just doesn’t sound quite as catchy. They are not the highest falls in the world – that honour goes to Angel Falls in Venezuela, at 980m – and they are not the widest (in terms of a single curtain of water) falls in the world – that honour goes to Victoria Falls (at its highest flow) in Zimbabwe, at 1600m. However, they do have the highest average annual water flow of any waterfall in the world. Now, doesn’t that make you want to rush off to your nearest travel agent and book tickets! No? Probably not, because no matter how many numbers and figures that I throw at you, none are going to give you that spine-tingling, goose-pimpling, hair-standing-on-end feeling that you get when you are actually there, feeling the spray hit you in the face and hearing the noise battering your eardrums almost to breaking point. Even pictures, that speak a thousand words, cannot convey the physical presence that is Iguaçu Falls.


So imagine a fine mist rising up in front of you. The mist dances and swirls, raises and falls, a curtain concealing one of the natural wonders of the world that opens and closes to give glimpses of what lays ahead of you. Now imagine a low, deep rumble. The bass line of this symphony of falling water reaches you, stirring feelings of impending awe, arousing anticipation, calling you closer, ever closer. As you draw nearer, the noise increases. New threads of sound twist and twirl in the air, the water crashes and booms, burps and gurgles, splashes playfully and thunders terribly as the water careens along the confines of the channels and waterways that lead it inexorably to its plunging destiny. Nearer still, and you can now feel the fine mist hitting your face, clinging to your clothes, a infinitesimal part of the great falls settling in diaphanous droplets on the strands of your hair. And then...then...the chasm opens up before you and your breath is taken away. Gone in the roar and thunder, lost in the spray and mist.

One of the reasons that I fell in love with these falls was their sheer physical presence, the awesome power of the water, its overwhelming strength, its tremendous force and intensity. You felt as though nothing could stop it, nothing could stand in its way and prevent it from going wherever it desired. The different walkways and viewing platforms gave you many opportunities to immerse yourself in this relentless, ever moving spectacle. In some cases, this immersion was literal. One of the walkways lead out over a bench midway up the largest falls, the Devil’s Throat. This walkway should not be taken by the faint-of-heart or those without a change of underwear. As you reach the end, you look up into a sheer wall of water as it thunders over the ledge high above you. Look down and you see a boiling, roiling mass of chaos. The air is drenched in water, the mist coalesces around you, water flies into your face and before you know it you are soaked through right down to your knickers.  
If wetting your pants once is not enough for you, you can always hop aboard one of the high speed power boats that will give you a real up close and personal view of the falls. I am not convinced that taking a boat right up to the falls is such a good way to see the falls. You certainly do get to appreciate the sheer force and might of all that falling water. It hammers down on your head and body, taking divots out of any bare flesh. It pounds onto the boat and slams into the surrounding maelstrom of water that rocks and throws the boat every which way.  Meanwhile, the noise is deafening. Your eardrums are assaulted by the intense roar and howl of the water barrelling down into the gorge and you cannot hear yourself think “what the hell am I doing here?” And I certainly did not see much since most of the time my eyes were clamped shut tighter than a mussel at low tide. It was either this or experience the feeling of having my eyes power washed out of their sockets. All that water soon infiltrated all the nooks and crannies of my body and my skivvies were soaked once again.
Iguaçu Falls appear to be never-ending. As you walk along the walkways, you encounter fall after fall, walls of water that stretch ahead of you and behind you. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any better, it does. You reach that final walkway, the one that snakes out for one kilometre over the immense body of water that is sliding inexorably and relentlessly beneath your feet towards the edge of the abyss. At the end of this walkway, there is a platform that sits right above the entry to the Devil’s Throat and you can stare down into that maw of hell. The water leaps out over the edge, tumbling down and down until it disappears into the bedlam below. Streams of water twirl and twist, break into a million droplets and then coalesce into a new stream of water until it vanishes into the foam below. Watching falling water is like watching fire. It is mesmerising. It never stands still, it is never the same. It moves and shimmers, it spurts and stutters, dances and flies.
One pattern flows into the next, as one veil of water finishes its fall, another one begins. Add to this the cacophony of noise that surrounds you. The air vibrates, the walkway hums with the music of the falling water. The vibrations move through your body, pulsing through your muscles, flesh and bones as your blood pulses through your veins. You are enveloped by the throbbing, pounding rhythm that is Iguacu and you could stand there all day, hypnotised by water...well, I could, but Joe had other ideas and so I had to drag myself away from this feast of sight and sound and head back to normality.

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