Our tour began with a jeep ride through the jungle. The tour guide was very nice and she pointed out all of the possible things we might see while in Iguazu: Jaguars, various cockatoo, the coatimunids and much more. The sounds of the forest were amazing. Cicadas sang their humming chirps, birds would call to each other with sweet songs and the leaves would bustle in the breeze. Everywhere you looked, there were vines hanging down and across the trees; leaves of all the hues of green wove together to paint a colossal landscape. Giant vultures flew overhead scanning the world around them for food.
We planned a long hiking day through the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls. Little did we know what we were in for today! If you thought we were wet yesterday, hold on to your horses!
We woke up and were greeted by our driver from yesterday, Gustavo. It was a nice, half-hour drive to the falls. When we got to the park, Gustavo showed us the ropes; it was then when I told him that I saw these amazing boats charging right up to the falls. We wanted to do it! He brought us to the kiosk for the adventure rides where we signed up for a jeep tour followed by the “shower” session.
Then, we walked down this long stone-carved stairway down to the river to our fantastical boat adventure. We strapped ourselves in to our lifejackets and off we went. We were allowed to take photos of the falls up close as we felt their thunder booming down into the river. It was still hard, though. I was amazed at the amount of people so brave to take their photos with their iPhones and fancy cameras. As the boat climbed its way closer to the falls, the tour operator motioned for EVERYBODY to put ALL electronic equipment away. NOW! And then it came, a downpour of rain unlike any other as the driver plunged the entire boat into the “mist” of the bottom of the falls – but it was NO mist. Think of the hardest, strongest hose being sprayed into your face with a sprinkler that is the size of a building! Then, you have it! My sunglasses practically were thrown off my face. I prayed that my waterproof bag was closed tight. And, Tyler and I just looked at each other in awe. Awe of the water. Awe of the force. Awe of the silliness. Awe of the experience! And were we wet – feet, hair (don’t laugh), mouths, clothes. There wasn’t a pore on our body that was dry.
After that, we explored the parks. The sounds of the forest came back. I hoped to see a cockatoo – nothing. I didn’t want to see a jaguar – nothing again! Lots of birds and various veins of the falls were there for us to walk through with the various catwalks weaving through the forests. There are several trails in Iguazu – the Upper Trail, the Lower Trail, the Green Trail and perhaps many different parts we didn’t even get to! In order to get to “The Throat of the Devil,” you have to take two trains. This became comical because we didn’t know you had to make a transfer – so perhaps Mr. S. and Mr. Sanders had to make a couple slow chugging train rides to get to this devilish larynx.
When you get to the final destination of “La Garganta del Diablo,” there seems like a mile of weaving metal catwalks 20 to 30 feet above the river. We went and slipped the whole way because we were still wet from earlier. Photos have been very difficult because of the rainy season. At any moment, the sky seems to want to sprinkle us with a tropical rain – reminding us that we are not in Chicago.
It was probably 5 p.m. as we made our way. On and on… down the metal planks moving past the lines of tourists trying to see this impressive sight. As we made our way to the final landing spot, the sky seemed to come to life. The rain started again. First, it was a sprinkle. Then, it became a rain. I tried to be bold and take video of the monumental natural beauty before me. The rain then turned to buckets. Suddenly, there were cats, and then dogs, flying past us – as this was no longer a rain. It was a full on monsoon. Thunder cracked. Lighting crashed through the clouds and perhaps there was a cow flying by. BECAUSE IT WAS THAT BAD! The rain was no longer rain. It felt like hail crashing against us. I had to hold my hands up to my head and neck because it felt like a million nails pummeling into us.
I finally looked at Mr. Sanders after about 15 minutes of this and said, “This is amazing but I am no longer having any fun.” He agreed and we made our way against the wind, against the nails of rain now spraying us in our faces.... back down the mile of catwalks to get back to the train. Photos just were impossible.
As we finally got back to our taxi, Gustavo was nowhere to be found. We were late. No idea on how we were getting back, we just hoped that he would be there eventually. He came. We luckily had towels to, at least, keep us warm. And, this adventure was EPIC!
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School in Chicago, IL. He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.