Iguazu Falls are one of the natural wonders of the world, and after visiting, we can confirm that this title is well-deserved.
The falls are situated in a national park, and can be accessed from Brazil or Argentina. We took a bus from Puerto Iguazu in Argentina (since we do not have the visa for Brazil required of Canadians, and could not visit). The bus to get there was really cheap, but the entrance into the park was quite steep, and they only take cash.
The falls themselves are somewhat like those in Niagara, except you have to hike a bit into the jungle to see them. The “Devil’s Throat”, similar to our Horseshoe Falls is also spectacular. Unfortunately, at the present moment, access to those falls is closed due to severe flooding in the area. This led us to some frustration as we could only see those falls from afar, and the paths that were open were much more congested than usual. We were sometimes waiting in a huge lineup on a path in the jungle. A nice setting, but not the ideal situation for a hike.
Also visible in that area are the hundred of falls scattered all around the cliff. Though none of these individually would be impressive, but collectively, the area feels enchanted.
Although we were disappointed that parts of the falls were closed, we were just thankful we were lucky enough to see them. This feeling set in even more when we arrived in Asuncion, Paraguay to see a shantytown that had been constructed right beside their government buildings. We later found out these were victims of the same flooding and had subsequently lost their homes. They have been relocated temporarily by the Paraguayan government. My bitterness over having missed a section of Iguazu evaporated when faced with the real hardships caused by this year’s excessive rainfall.
The first time I saw mate, I thought it was just an Argentine man smoking a massive pipe. In fact, it was tea. All over Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, you will see people carrying thermoses full of hot water, along with a cup of herbs and a metal straw. So prevalent a tradition, we had to buy the equipment and try it out.
At our hostel in Iguazu, Argentina, we boiled some water and poured it into our gourd shaped cup. We were immediately scolded by a local, who told us, “That is not mate. That is soup!” He went on to explain the proper way to make this historic beverage, originally drank by the native people of the area. Of course, the one he made was significantly better than our first attempt. He kept coming back for a chat and another sip saying, “you can never drink mate alone!” (Ed. note: The communal nature of mate, where one cup is passed between many, is another beautiful example of community in South America) We sipped our bitter, but delicious drink for hours, and left for dinner feeling the delightful buzz of caffeine.