Spectacular, magnificent, breathtaking! Iguazu Falls is all of this and more. No words can really sum up the experience of being so close to a 3 kilometre horseshoe of cascading water crashing in over 270 huge plumes of smoky vapour onto rocks 80 metres below. You can only stand in awe and stare at the wonderful natural spectacle all around you.
We arrived here in the melt of a Brazilian spring afternoon two days ago, the temperature in the mid 30s encouraging swarms of yellow butterflies to flitter around the roadsides and woodland trails. Our hotel, being within the National Park boundary, provides exclusive access to the walkways before 9am and after 6pm ; between times the paths and lookout points are thronged with hordes of fellow tourists that arrive in a never ending stream of shuttle buses. We have just come back from a saunter along the trail to the Devil's Throat, just us two and half a dozen others, where we felt the cool refreshing spray from the falls wash over us in the early morning calm. From the vantage point above this site which puts you at the heart of the screaming torrents, we watched a rainbow form as the sun slowly rose through the protected rain forest, illuminating the whole gorge with soft dawn light. It cost a lot of money to come on this trip, but sights like that are surely priceless?
Yesterday, during a day of draining heat beating from a flawless sky of blue, we had a trip to the Argentinian side of the falls where a metal walkway takes you to the very lip of the major drops. About 75% of the falls belongs to Argentina where a Disneyland type infrastructure has developed to cope with the 2million visitors careering around this place every year. Happily the shops and restaurants are sited so as not to spoil the natural splendour. The walkways extend over several kilometres affording some truly awe inspiring vistas that in places allow the spray to soak you. And always the thundering roar of unimaginable volumes of water. But you know, as good for me was watching clusters of gorgeous butterflies; yellow, blue, red and gold, some tiny and intricately patterned, others large floating insects of an unimaginable iridescence, flit around the margins of puddles to partake of minerals exposed by evaporation. Young girls were moved to having friends take images of them dancing with the milling throng; most just watched and drank in the spectacle.
Wildlife is all pervasive here. The grounds of the hotel, an extremely good one, play host to hummingbirds, paint-by-numbers tanagers and flycatchers. The tiles roofing the buildings house many pairs of grey-chested martins that dive with speed and impressive accuracy between bathers to drink from the swimming pool. Actually the swimming pool is a good place to birdwatch with several species using the edges as drinking areas. While lounging around with a piña colada and trying not to look too obviously at bikini clad ladies, I watched cowbirds, ground doves, kingbirds, kiskadees and even lapwings come to slake their thirst. And over all, the vulture amass on thermal to chase one another, spar and look for food.
The waterfalls themselves screen nesting great dusky swifts that wheel around in impressive flocks before diving through then towering water to their nests placed on a ledge behind the curtain of foam. We watched a ferruginous Pygmy owl catch a lizard bigger than itself from a few feet in front of us, carry it to a tree and proceed to slowly dismember it with an all too inadequate beak. The kitchen block of the restaurant attracts many moths, crickets and other such insect life. Early in the morning just before sunrise the walls of the building are covered with multi-hued insects of all shapes and sizes; twenty minutes later the mockingbirds and plush-crested jays have mopped them up. A free breakfast if ever there was one.
As we were packing our cases this morning, there reached our ears the frenzied squawking of a group of red-rumpled caciques - a weaver bird - that nest in palms just outside the window. There clinging on to the shiny palm leaves attempting to dismantle one of the long, pendulous, intricately woven nests was a magnificent toco toucan. A real drama being played out at eye level. The toucan probed here and there, hopped around from tree to tree, croaked to itself in frustration but could not reach into the nest cups to predate eggs or chicks. It persisted for several minutes before eventually giving up and looping away, its gaudy beak leading the way.
So now we fly via Buenos Aires to Santiago in Chile en route to the Falklands. In fact I am typing this blog from 30,000 feet as we cruise south on the first leg of that episode. I hope you are enjoying reading the blog as much as I enjoy writing it. Sometimes it can be difficult to know quite how to convey in mere words the scenes we witness, but I trust you get a sense of things on offer in this most fascinating of continents. Thanks for staying with me.