Venturing to Iguazu Falls By Adam Burke

An adventure to see the most breathtaking sight South America has to offer

Waking up groggy eyed and exhausted in a bed that isn't even my own, I fold the faded light-blue comforter and hand woven brown striped blanket down to my ice cold feet. The month may be June, but I shiver and shake as I swing myself out of the bed into the winter air typical of Buenos Aires.

A view overlooking Buenos Aires' Congressional Plaza. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

The white, chipped space heater hums to life as I lunge towards it and flick it on in a desperate effort to defrost my icy limbs. Sitting cross-legged on the rectangular patterned wooden floor in front of the heater, my body welcomes the heat as the pale warm orange glow of its radiance fills my corner of the room. It's 4:30 A.M., and I couldn't possibly feel more drained. The rolling metal shade (that resembles those sort of gates they roll down in shop windows to prevent looters from breaking in) blocks out the city light that I know is ceaselessly shining, regardless of the wee hour of the night it currently is.

I pull myself away from the heat to snag my towel from the back of the aging wooden chair placed at the foot of my bed and walk past the floor length mirror that doubles as a sliding closet door. Tiptoeing to the door, I cautiously work the tarnished gold handle open, careful not to wake my roommate. The compact apartment quickly fills with the loud barks of the family dog, Tuppi. Shushing him and letting him sniff my hand to reassure the dog that I do in fact belong here, I saunter five more paces to the bathroom.

My bedroom, alongside the family dog, Tuppi.

After showering, toweling off, and returning to my room to dress, I glance at my black and grey Swiss Army backpack, all packed to go. It’s 4:45. According to one of our chaperone’s texts, the taxi is picking us up out in front of the building in twenty minutes. I softly shut the door to the bedroom and drag myself into the kitchen. Seeing the table, I smile. My host family was nice enough to get up and set out an early breakfast for me. Sitting in silence, I munch on my toast and sip my black Argentinian coffee that’s strong enough to raise all the hair on your body.

Finishing my light breakfast, I shake my roommate awake, letting him know it’s almost time to leave. Sometimes sleep is more valuable than showers or food. We both pull on thick sweatshirts in an effort to combat the cold, biting air of the outside. Shouldering our bags, we’re greeted by our host father, who hugs us and sends us off with a smile paired with a meek “Que tengan uds. buen viaje.” After he wishes a good trip upon us, we head toward the elevator as the heavy wooden door of the apartment swings shut behind us.

Pulling out keys that look like something an eighteenth century innkeeper might possess, my roommate unlocks the door and we step out into the street, greeted by harsh, cold air. Sparse amounts of cars pass by. This is the emptiest I’ve ever seen these streets. Usually, it seems that there are more cars than people.

A small car pulls to a stop just across the street, and we’re greeted with a wave from a teacher on the trip with us. Skittering across the crosswalk, we throw our bags into the car and jump in. Leaning my head against the window, I observe as the buildings skate by one by one, each sequential building seeming not too different from the last. I barely move until we reach the regional airport half an hour later.

Greeting similar groggy eyed classmates, we tag and check our luggage, and then move on to the security line. After making our way through the (disconcertingly) sparse security check, we walk to the second terminal and drop ourselves into the nearest dark blue plastic seating. Passing the hour until boarding time, I can’t help but feel a little nervous. There’s an airport strike among air traffic controllers currently, and some planes are being boarded up and ushered out to the tarmac, only to be sent back to the gate without taking off. That’s part of life here, though. In South America, you just have to go with the flow.

After the boarding time comes upon us, I stand in line and hand my ticket to the attendant. Making sure to use my best Spanish, even at this hour, I continue on out the door past the ticket desk. We hop onto a loud, shaky bus, which totes us to the plane waiting on the tarmac several hundred yards away.

Luckily, our plane takes off without fault, and we’re soon high in the air soaring parallel to the eastern border of Argentina. I try to sleep during the two hour plane ride, but I’m much too excited to be able to get much rest. As we near the final descent of our flight, I look out the window. I’m relieved to see endless expanses of green foliage awaiting me below. It’s the first time in a week since I’ve seen more than three or four trees in one place. I could never live in the heart of a city for any substantial amount of time. We disembark the plane at a small, brick, two-terminal airport.

Iguazu from the air, alongside Iguazu International Airport. Photo on left courtesy of Wikimedia.

Waiting out in front of the airport is a spacious white mini-bus. We’re ushered into it, and before long we’re bouncing along the two lane road headed to Iguazu National Park. Soon after, we’re collecting our day bags and stepping off the bus into the tropical air.

For the first time in over a week, I don't need to wear a jacket to stay warm. I gladly pull it off and stuff it into my bag. We walk for a few kilometers into the park, the air around us warm with the smell of bark and leaves. Joking about stepping on snakes for the whole walk, our group finally reaches our preliminary destination: a small train station.

After a ten minute wait, this small train pulls up to the wooden canopy that we’re standing under. By small, I mean really tiny. Like the kind of thing a toddler would ride at Disneyworld. We hop onto the open air mini-train, and chug along for a quarter of an hour or so.

The train at Iguazu. Photo courtesy of Robert Cutts.

What we reach at our stop is an asphalt path with a metal walkway at the far end. We congregate at the sign by the walkway as our guide thoroughly tells us about every aspect of the falls. Our group is anxious to see if he’s being truthful when he says that the falls are larger than Niagara.

Our group steps out onto the metal walkway, a long walk in store ahead of us. I trudge along for the kilometer or two walk, feeling on edge the entire way. The metal walkway stretches above the rushing water of the Iguazu River below us, and I can't help but to think what would happen if I fell in.

I can hear it before I can see it. The loud rushing water of the cascading falls echoes across the turbulent river, emanating a heavy whoosh. The falls, nicknamed La Garganta del Diablo, or the Devil’s Throat, are both taller and faster than anything you can see in the United States. As we draw near, I begin to see the cloud of mist rising up from the enormous precipice.

Approaching the Falls

Walking the last few final steps on the metal walkway, I run up to the rail and gaze out over the edge of the falls. They're more breathtaking than anything I've ever seen in my life. Endless amounts of water tumble down, down, down the cataracts, causing an infinitely turbulent uprising of water and mist. Before I take out my phone to take as many photos as I possibly can, I smile to myself. Waking up at 4:00 A.M., enduring tiring travel, it was all worth it. This view guarantees it.

The Devil's Throat, as seen from an observation platform.
Looking down the falls.
Photos from Iguazu National Park.
Created By
Adam Burke
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