Four hours later; when the backache, tiredness, hunger and painful and immediate need to pee had all set in with a vengeance, I was finally forced to question whether this was in fact a good use of my time.
I had unwittingly found myself alongside fellow travelers Debbie and Julia in a most uncomfortable situation. Miles away from the convenience of food, bathrooms, the possibility of sitting down or being anything except stoically upright and at attention, we were no longer the chipper, chatty women we’d been only hours before.
“We were so innocent this morning.”
Noted Debbie drily…and correctly.
We were not transversing the Amazon (though, with the immense amount of water flowing all around us, and odd creatures occasionally spotted swimming below, we may as well have been).
No, no, not quite. We were in line to see La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat), perhaps the major attraction of the already very attractive Cataratas de Iguazú…
A world wonder
Iguazú in the traditional language of Guaraní means Big Water. And it is. Ohh, it is. But sadly, we had chosen to come on the second day of both Argentina and Brazil’s school holidays, and thus were sharing the park (and a supposedly wonderfully cathartic experience) with 20, 000 other people and their children.
For us Iguazú would mean Big Pain in the Arse.
Queues to rival Disneyland’s
We had already spent an hour in line to catch a mini train to begin a 1.1km walk to the Garganta itself – and when we arrived at the station, were shocked out of our cotton socks to see that this 1.1km was bumper to bumper packed with people.
“How long does it take to crawl 1.1km?”
I asked myself.
Three and a half hours later, I had my answer.
When finally at the viewing platform itself and in the middle of being ushered to move on outta there as soon as we had caught the tiniest peek of the crashing waters, I overheard the following conversation between two such green-parkered park rangers.
“Martin, just let the people through, who cares!”
“Nooo, if we do that it’s just going to be chaotic beyond belief. Have you seen how many are waiting?”
“But what can we do? There are just too many of them!”
“Look, we have to keep order here.”
Clearly, it seemed that the park rangers were as shocked as the punters to find themselves so completely inundated.
We stayed at the platform long enough to see a mini fight break out between two men over each not making room for the other to take his photo, and reluctantly moved along.
20,000 tired, cramped people
Now, I won’t say that the four and a half hour wait was completely boring. You can’t be bored if you’re desperate to pee, that’s for sure. Plus, driven to distraction by the idea of waiting in line (or simply not possessing an once of social respect) a couple of people decided not to line up at all, but to stride past the 1.1km long queue of people. When this happened, a particularly vocal family behind us would shout insults…
They did this with the tiniest hint of a smile on their face – as if to suggest that they themselves might have been tempted to take flight if it weren’t for the dozens of children they had between them – but beautifully, this also served to encourage others around them to yell out as well. Soon, people behind and in front of us where shouting out at the queue-jumping truchas (cheats). It was inordinately amusing.
Was 4.5 hours worth it?
So was it worth it? Yes and no. If you are there in the region, you can not not visit this Eden of a little world tucked in behind regular looking streets and trees. Normally, to see a waterfall of any sort of brilliance, you would at least have to hike a long way, if not also scramble uphill in order to get a good old glimpse. Not so here. The flat, calm waters continue in a sort of tranquil, almost lazy manner until they simply, noiselessly fall away from you.
So, yes, ultimately it was worth it.
But just don’t, EVER follow my example and visit Iguazú in the school holidays: Unless you have a five hour supply of food, a strong back and a curious ability to avoid being brought to spontaneous urination by the sound millions of megalitres of bucketing around you.
- Las Cataratas de Iguazú lie on the tri-border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay though can only be accessed by Argentina and Brazil.
- Buses leave regularly from Puerto de Iguazú or Foz de Iguazú and cost around US$10.
- If you are not South American, park entry costs around US$30 (ARG$130 on the Argentinian side).
- The Argentine side holds 80% of the waterfalls, though for this reason, does not enjoy the panoramic view offered on the Brazilian side. Under normal circumstances (ie, not school holidays!) two days is enough to visit both sides.
- Unless you absolutely can’t avoid it, doooon’t visit the park in the second half of July. Argentina’s winter school holidays fall around the 16 – 27th July in the province of Misiones where Iguazú is. Brazilian holidays are similar.