I'm going to venture into the Argentina rainforest with only a machete and a Speedo. This is my blessing; this is my curse. I'll consist entirely on a diet of red ants and dreams. One man will enter (the rainforest) and one man will exit (the rainforest).
Or something like that.
Regardless of the Speedo, it's time for a little jungle/waterfall excursion in the region of Iguaza, located in the northern part of Argentina, along the border with Brazil and Paraguay; my friends at >Say Hueque Tours set me up good. Like surf and turf, I'm taking one of their most popular eco-travel expeditions. Be forewarned: Parque National Iguazu boasts 275 waterfalls. Let me say that again: 275 waterfalls. That's practically one waterfall for everyone. (In a group of 275.) My point: there are enough waterfalls to go around for everyone.
IGUAZU FALLS FACT: The 275 waterfalls traverse along 1.67 miles of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are 269 feet in height. The spectacle of nature wonderment was featured in the film sequel, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. By the way, I hated that movie.
Welcome to the Jungle. Dangling vines. That fresh rainforest smell. 250 species of butterflies. Guys calling me "Chico." Crazy insects bite my legs. (I hope I don't turn into a Marvel Comics superhero.) Our tour guide points out blue fruit that the indigenous people used to paint their faces. I'd welcome an unexpected blow dart to the neck. It wouldn't be surprising (my fingers are crossed) to see a rat the size of a Doberman pincher scurry across the Argentina rainforest. The jungle is inhabited with loads of coatimundis. (Raccoon-like animals that have sort of an anteater's nose.) Our guide informs: "These creatures bite and are everywhere." The rainforest is also home to such inhabitants as tapers, sloths, pumas, and jaguars. (They mostly come out at dusk when the park closes.) This is one place where you'd punch someone in the throat if they ever said the words, "Drill, baby drill." I crave to be greeted by the cast of Avatar. In fact, the rainforest is just like Avatar--and in 3-D as well. Welcome to Pandora!
This is my second expedition into the rainforest on the Say Hueque eco-tour. Yesterday I spent my time repelling down a cliff on the side of a raging river gorge. Excellent! That was preceded by zip-lining along a cable high over the tops of jungle trees--swinging like a mad monkey from a vine. Outstanding! (Zip-lining, by the way, will be the main mode of transportation in 2012.) Later we passed bananas, papayas and shanty structures with makeshift soccer posts in the center. Little kids from villages ran to the road and waved. A true Indiana Jones type of day. (Minus the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)
Continuing our trek towards Iguazu Falls, we pass thick brush and an old abandoned hotel. Nature is winning the battle. Vines and plants grow up the walls and in between the cracks of the foundation. In the end, nature always wins the battle.
Our guide informs: "In the 1920's, they used to walk through the jungle with big machetes to get to the falls while the ladies in long dresses would sit on the porches of the hotel and sip tea."
Skip ahead to 2010. No machetes needed. We simply follow the signs through the rainforest and stay on the designated path in order to make our way to the falls.
"Toilet is the last tree. Shower is free," says a man on the path moving in the opposite direction. What does this mean? Is he foreshadowing events to come?
And then comes the 275 waterfalls...........
Holy flippin' crap! I'm a very jaded person but I'm simply blown away! This has got to be one of the most amazing sites I've seen outside of the original Star Wars trilogy. There are waterfalls side-by-side with even more waterfalls. Some waterfalls are within waterfalls. They fall into yet another waterfall. Long waterfalls. Short waterfalls. Wide waterfalls. Skinny waterfalls. It's purely waterfall mental. One waterfall would be enough to blow my mind, but with 275 waterfalls my head is ready to explode. Dramatic cliffs mix with the lush greens of the jungle rainforest. The reverberating sound of crashing water echoes throughout. A constant spray of light mist. Mix that with rainbows everywhere. Yes, refracting light transposed in the form of rainbows is added to the magical landscape. Unbelievable.
"Birds live in nests behind the falls," our guide informs. "They float through the waterfalls to their nest and mate in the air--very fast."
I feel like former first-lady Eleanor Roosevelt. When upon seeing Iguazu Falls, she exclaimed "Poor Niagara." Indeed--the two aren't even in the same league of waterfalls spectaculars. The most impressive waterfall is called the Devil's Throat, or Garganta del Diablo. Marking the border with Brazil, this U-shaped beast has a 269-foot drop and comes crashing down like a cascade of abundant, freshly popped popcorn. Large clouds of mist rise from the scene. This is soooo much better than visiting San Francisco's biggest tourist attraction: Alcatraz. Turning a corner in the rainforest, there's yet another fortress of waterfalls with more rainbows hovering over the proceedings. Rainbows over rainbows. Falls over falls.
IGUAZU FALLS FACT: In July 2006 the drought made the falls completely dry. Our guide tells us: "You wouldn't believe it, but it looked like the Grand Canyon."
How can one enhance their spectacular Iguazu Falls experience? By taking a boat ride on the River Rio Iguazu that ventures under the fricken' falls. It's a must! While most of my fellow tour crew has purchased makeshift plastic raincoats, I decide to rough it without water protection. (Will I regret this later by having wet underwear?) The bottom line: when riding a small boat under a cascading waterfall everyone is going to get drenched. Putting on my lifejacket, I notice a sign by the boats that mentions in Spanish: No Personas con Problemas de Columna. (I sure hope that doesn't apply to me.) With thrill-seekers in place, our motorboat embarks full steam directly towards one of the 275 waterfalls. It's pretty darn massive. The waterfall sprays the entire crew with the pressure of a really good hotel shower. Oh my god! I'm laughing uncontrollably like a child. This is better than any Disneyland water ride. Shrieks of laughter. Sprays of water. Whooshing of the falls. Our boat then makes a massive U-turn. And it's.........right back into the waterfall once again. Flippin' hell! There's another rainbow. There's Brazil. There's me laughing like a little kid. After the journey, I walk around the rest of the afternoon with wet underwear. (Something I haven't done since that one really wild backyard barbeque back in 2003.)
A perfect end of the day is back at La Aldea De La Selva Lodge. The place is an incredible feat of landscape architecture that mixes first class accommodation with the isolated feeling like you are tucked away in the middle of the jungle. Lush green trees and vegetation engulf the comfortable lodges amongst a tranquil sound of tropical silence. For dinner I opt not to have the delicious local fish wrapped in banana leaves (there will be another day), and instead have the largest, thickest Argentinean steak they have to offer along with a glass of their reddest wine. Then I reflect on the Taj Mahal of waterfalls.Click here to find out more about the Say Hueque Iguazu Falls tour