Day 2 at las cataratas
If it’s even possible, the falls may have been even more amazing today! Garganta gets most of the attention, but the rest of the park is just as incredible. Also, since I did Garganta yesterday, I skipped right ahead to the rest of the park and had it almost entirely to myself!
First you find yourself again walking across bridge after bridge, looking down and seeing that you’re indeed on top of one waterfall after another! Every three steps was another amazing view that took my breath away (see video)! Big waterfalls, small waterfalls, wide waterfalls, loud waterfalls…all kinds, everywhere! And rainbows abounded, as well.
And because there was usually no one else around, I could sit and appreciate the beauty and enormity of it all, the sounds of the birds in the trees and the waterfalls pounding down, the smell of jungle air. It was absolutely maravillosa.
Then after exploring the tops of the falls, I made my way down the park to the bottom, where you can explore the bottoms of the falls, along with a few other waterfalls and some jungle along the way. Finally I arrived at a point that I had seen from above and was dying to get to. Basically you could walk right up to the bottom of one of the huge, wide, powerful waterfalls. It was incredible!
I got completely soaked, and could only take pictures from at least 20-30 feet away or more, but it was awesome. I just stood at the bottom of the roaring water and put my arms up and shouted! It was so exhilarating! And I could see a lot of people above, back at the top, looking down at me. Probably feeling the same excitement to get down there that I had felt earlier. It was very, very cool indeed.
After exploring all the falls part of the park, it was only around 11 (I got there around 8:30 or 9). I hadn’t had breakfast, so I grabbed some cheap empanadas for lunch. I went to eat them at the outside tables, when I noticed that there were a ton of the raccoon/lemur creatures around (which are actually called coati). Well, they saw my brown paper bag and knew it was food, so next thing I knew they were climbing up onto the table and chasing me around, trying to climb up my leg! One of the workers had to help shoo them away, and I had to go eat inside! When I came out a little boy had a gumball he was holding up above his head, and the coati were literally climbing him (or “giving him a hug” as his parents were joking). The rest of the day I saw those coati everywhere, sniffing around and looking for food!
Then I decided to go to walk the trail called Sendero Macuto. It was recommended to me by a worker at the hostel, but apparently few people ever have the time to actually do it. Well, right off the bat I almost turned around because it was super muddy and flooded in parts! But I pushed on and most of the trail was OK. My shoes were caked in mud, though! There weren’t too many people on the trail, and I often had it all to myself. Right away I saw monkeys up on the trees. There were also lots of birds, butterflies, bugs, etc. There were so many noises all around all the time, sounds of the jungle. Sometimes I felt a bit like I was in Lost, as strange sounds would seem to follow you or swirl around you!
After walking for what seemed like forever, I started to grow very tired of walking. I reached a part of the trail that was totally flooded and thought about turning back. But then I pulled out my map to look at the trail. First, I realized that I was, indeed, walking toward a waterfall (I’d thought maybe it was just more of a jungle trail) and that the trail was only 3km, which it certainly seemed like I’d walked already. So I decided to push on a little longer. Good thing! A minute later I was at the top of a waterfall. I admired it from above, then went down to the bottom and lazed with my feet in the water for a while.
On the way back, I had some more wildlife spotting. First I saw my first group of coati in the jungle. A little while later I heard a noise next to me in the jungle. I peeped in and saw a cute little creature. It started to run away, but I stood quietly and it started to come back. I tried to get my camera out as quietly as possible, and it ran again, but then came out onto the trail a few feet behind me. Unfortunately I still wasn’t able to get a very good picture as it moved quickly away from me and toward the other side of the jungle. It was some kind of big rodent-like creature. But it was something different than a coati or monkey, so it was officially cool!
Finally, I came across another bunch of monkeys on the trail. They were all around on all sides, which was a little unnerving. Then one jumped to a branch right above me. The branch broke and the monkey started to fall. It seriously scared me to death! Lucky for me, the monkey and branch just missed me and landed at my feet. Lucky for the monkey, he was unharmed and he quickly climbed back up a tree, where he went on to jump onto another bunch of branches just above me, but luckily was able to stay aloft this time!
After that I was pretty ready to get out of the jungle (even more so when some kind of giant beetle flew into me when I was still a bit shaky from the monkey incident!) I made it pretty quickly out of the rest of the trail, through the mud, and back to the main area of the park. By 1:30 I was in the bathrooms attempting to get the mud off my shoes, and ready to come back to the hostel for a nice shower to rid myself of mud as well.
I have to say, I am really happy with how I did the park. Doing two days costs a little more (the second day is half price — so 30 pesos instead of 60 — and you have to pay another 10 pesos for another roundtrip bus to the park) but is well worth it in how much time you have and can see the park without crowds! I would have probably taken more time if the boats had been running to Isla San Martin (the water was too high for boats) as the views looked like they would be spectacular from there! I would definitely recommend to anyone going to the parks to bypass La Garganta and do the rest of the park first, then come back to Garganta at the end and take the boat back to the entrance. When I was leaving the rest of the park area, there were just hoardes and hoardes of people, walking basically in a line, into the areas I’d just left. By going there first, I’d been the only person around! It’s well worth it to just do a different order than everyone else.
Finally, on another note, I do feel my Spanish is improving just a teensy bit. I’ve had to use it and rely on myself a lot more since I’ve left Buenos Aires and been mostly on my own. I bought my ticket for my bus to Salta tomorrow and had a decent conversation with the ticket salesguy (of course, he had to repeat some things a couple times!) and have had to use it on numerous other occasions. Mostly basic stuff, but it’s improving. I also found myself thinking a lot of things to myself in Spanish while I was walking around the park (mostly just basic stuff, like “Hm, que es eso?” or “Las mariposas son muy hermosas!” and stuff like that!). It’s a step though. Besides, I’m only on, what, day 6 of my trip? Of 99? Tomorrow will be one week since I left! And I will spend it as another day of nothing but travel. My bus leaves Puerto Iguazu at 11am and arrives in Salta at 10:00 the morning after!
Watch the video from Iguazu Falls.