Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil
Getting soaked from the heat/humidity and the spray of an intense waterfall experience.
Firstly, I might as well clear up any confusion about Portuguese name of this place—Iguaçu is pronounced ig-wahh-zoo. That crazy Portuguese "ç" character is sometimes replaced with a "z" (as that's how it sounds, and is more commonly understood by all).
In the afternoon, after arriving from our 1,800km push from Uruguay/southern Brazil, Tatiana and I found ourselves interested in doing a little something with the ample daylight left in the day. Staff in our hostel mapped out times and directions to the major points of interest, including a hydroelectric dam that gives tours in the morning and afternoon (8, 9, 2, 3, and 3:30). If we pushed it a bit, we'd have time to make the last tour of the day.
In the rush of cleaning up and getting ready, I managed to forget the map with directions (realizing this some blocks from the hostel), but generally remembered where to go and what bus to take. It was blazing hot outside, and not wanting to wait in the wrong spot Tatiana asked a fellow at the bus stop if we were in the correct place for a visit to the dam.
The man assured us we were, shortly thereafter ushering us onto a bus (even though it didn't display the signage that I was looking for). The ride should have taken about 40 minutes, but after less than 20 I started seeing a lot of signs for the waterfalls (not the power plant), and had the sneaking suspicion that we were on a bus in the wrong direction—confirmed moments later.
With no time to backtrack—we would have missed the final tour for sure—we made the best of the quirky twist and decided that we might as well go to the waterfalls instead.
Recalling passages from my guidebook, and looking at the map displayed in the visitor center, it's my understanding that the Brazilian side of the falls is more visually encompassing of the area (thinks vistas), whereas the Argentine side is more intimate (lengthy nature hikes, boat rides, etc). Park entry is currently BR$20 (about US$10) per side.
We got off the bus 3/4 of the way there (with the majority of the tourists on board) and started a forested trail that ran (well above) the banks of the river. That initial break through the trees, reveling a backdrop of a dozen massive waterfalls, was enough to stop me mid-stride.
It wasn't long into the walk when I had to take off my shirt and toss a bandana around my head—we were both dripping with sweat from the humidity and heat.
The trail continued up-river, revealing more falls with every break in the trees (or concrete viewing platform)—the persistent sound of crushing water always surrounding you.
Legend has it that Iguaçu Falls (or Iguazú Falls, if you prefer) originated when a jealous forest god, enraged by a warrior escaping downriver by canoe with a young girl, caused the riverbed to collapse in front of the lovers, producing a precipitous falls over which the girl fell and, at their base, turned into a rock. The warrior survived as a tree overlooking his fallen lover.
The highlight of the Brazilian side was reached at the end of the trail—a concrete catwalk that extended from the base of one set of falls to the drop-off of another. The roaring, brown water furiously dumped but a few dozen meters away—the spray soaking those on the platform from head to toe in a matter of minutes.
Trying to take photos was an entertaining event in and of itself. The spray from the falls would change direction slightly with the wind, occasionally allowing for enough time to wipe the lens off take a photo (most of the photos from this platform look like I rubbed Vaseline over the lens). Eventually this was impossible, as I had not a shred of dry clothing left on my person.
Frankly, I'm surprised that the camera still functioning after such a place—it was so wet after we were though that it looked like I had showered with it.
After walking around a bit more (and observing these awesome raccoon-like animals found in the park), we made our way home—exhausted and smiling. Raining today, it was clear we made the right decision to visit the falls yesterday.
The hostel I'm staying at offers tours over to Argentina for BR$65 (US$31, including the park admission), bypassing the bus juggling and throwing in a visit to the three-way join on the river that marks the border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, but I'm completely saturated in satisfaction with my waterfalls experience. After visiting the Brazilian side, I really have no need or desire to expense a trip into Argentina.