Human beings are a judgemental species, we love to rank and grade. When backpackers talk to eachother about the world famous and much visited Iguazu falls they ask “which side is better, the Brazilian or the Argentinian?”. Now, we didn’t know that these waterfalls were a matter of better or best, but we did know they ought to be breathtaking. Others who had visited this wonder of nature told us they were mucho mucho impressed, some even spoke of an experience of a lifetime..How could we not expect the world and more..?
We had gotten the advice to -whatever we did- make sure we went to the Brazilian side first (this tip was accompanied by many exclamation marks). So off we went: a bus to Brazil, more stamps in our passports, then dropped off at the entrance of what looked like a great amusement park, including long lines and an in-park busride to the starting point of the atttaction. Somewhat excited we walked down to the first viewpoint over the falls, together with tons of other tourists. And there they were, a half circle of falls amidst a green jungle, helicopter flying overhead, boats circling down below. Scenic yes, but also somewhat..disappointing.. “Is this all..?”(-that spoiled and ugly thought) reared its head..
How sweetly unaware I was in that moment of what lay in store for us. As we went by word of mouth and hadn’t read up on these waterfalls, we had no idea of how all-encompassingly many and mighty they were. Not a clue that we were in for water crashing down a width of 2.7 kilometers of massive rockwalls (there are approximately 300 waterfalls). This half circle of falls that we saw was only the beginning, slowly but surely we were lead towards a thundering climax, the devil’s throat. As if someone had gathered up an ocean and set it free in the green subtropical landscape telling it to find its way down.
On both the Brazilian and Argentinian side there were poems on how these falls must be the work of god; I understand why someone would start to believe after seeing these waterfalls. One poem said that man should not try to catch its impression in words. Sound advice, as no words can describe what you see, hear and feel when you are there. At one point my friend and I stood looking upwards at the water coming down, the mist of which was soaking our hair and clothes. While around us tourist in flapping poncho’s (taking selfies) came and went, we were mesmerised and could not move. It is unbelievable to stand there and see the force of nature at work. I am grateful for having seen these falling waters, to carry the image and sensation of them with me for the rest of my life.
So what of this ranking matter? Which side is better, the Brazilian or Argentinian? I’m happy to report they are both winners. And no, this is not a woman trying to keep the peace, this is a well-thought over judgement. You need to visit both sides to appreciate this natural beauty in its full potential. Brazil feeds you breathtaking vista after another, giving you a good idea of the size and place of the falls in the landscape. The pathway is straightforward, leading you to a massive waterfall “the devil’s throat” while underway you can constantly keep an eye on the many falls. In Argentina you see more of the surrounding nature, making you realise you are in a nature reserve, a green paradise with caiman, tucans, turtles, monkeys and more. You see angles that are hidden to the Brazilian side and get to be above, under, and next to the waterfalls. The sights are unbelievable. If it were paintings they’d hurt your eyes because of their kitsch; waterfalls, mist, rainbows, butterflies amidst the greenest of grasses and trees topped of by a sky full of silverlined clouds. Who’d believe that to be real?
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me that what I have seen the past two days was nothing but a beautiful dream.