January 21, Iguassu Falls, Brazil
Lonely planet describes it as a conga line and they are not far from wrong. The Brazilian side of Iguassu falls is crowded with people walking along catwalks from one scenic point to another, stopping for selfies, swinging their selfie sticks, putting a hesitation step into the conga line. Young women of a certain age love to pose before the falls, striking poses, arms flailed out, practicing sultry, happy and come-hither looks. If you are looking for a deeply spiritual experience communing with nature come to Alaska. But if you’re looking to experience the power of one of nature’s spectacles this is the place.
The Iguassu River flows, spreads really, you can see it as you fly in, over a basaltic field, an old lava flow. Where the lava flow ends the river drops. Because the river is spread out over the field, with lots of little islands. There are lots of little falls, lots of big falls and several huge falls. The river runs through rain forest that is home to varieties of birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies. The river has different fish species above and below the falls, the falls acting as a barrier between the two aquatic environments. Giant catfish swim just above the falls.
And this environment puts most of the crowd is in a very good mood, catching the spray, looking at rainbows in the mist and watching beautiful butterflies. They’re enjoying the experience. So am I. Folks not into selfies ask strangers, like us, to snap their pictures and we oblige. I only really ran into one unpleasant person. She was photographing a butterfly with a macro lens. When she was done, she flicked the butterfly off of the railing with her fingers so no one else could take its picture. But the butterfly had other ideas and returned to the railing and kindly posed for my camera. This woman was a candidate for joining the “over the falls without a barrel club.”
The falls are beautiful, but more than that, powerful. You enter the Brazilian park and a double decker bus takes you to different stops, one for a boat trip, one lets you off at a classic old resort hotel and a trailhead taking you down to the bottom of the canyon, and a third to an elevator that takes you down to the falls and carries those who hiked from the second stop back up to the buses.
There are long lines for the elevators and the busses, a half hour for the elevator and 45 minutes for the bus to return to the gate. This cuts into your time enjoying the falls.
After leaving the Brazilian Conga line and waiting for the bus in 90-degree 90% humidity I was soaked with sweat. We got into our cab and crossed the border into Argentina, lots of stamps, to look at their side of the falls.