Iguazu, July 2004

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Location map for Iguazu, with air route.
View from Sheraton Hotel reception.
The Devil's Throat, from a helicopter.
The Devil's Throat, from a helicopter.
The Devil's Throat, from a helicopter.
The Devil's Throat, from a helicopter.
Butterfly (Diaethria Candrena).
Butterfly - the Flame of Flambeau (Dryas Julia).
Tour guide Simon, with some coatis.
The arc of falls on the Argentinian side.
Motor boat heading under the falls.
Black vultures enjoying the spray from the falls.
Edge of the Devil's Throat, from the Brazilian bank.
Viewing platform in the Devil's Throat.
Standing in the Devil's Throat.
Rainbow in the Devil's Throat.
Standing beside the Devil's Throat, Brazilian bank.
At the Devil's Throat in a thunder storm.
At the Devil's Throat in a thunder storm.
At the Devil's Throat in a thunder storm.

The Iguazu River flows westwards from mountains near the coast of Brazil and forms part of the border between north-eastern Argentina and Brazil. At the border of both of those countries with Paraguay it meets the Parana River, which flows down to the huge estuary of the Rio de la Plata. A few kilometres before that T-junction the river has formed a wide delta and carved down through the rock to form a long arc of more than 250 separate falls about 80 metres high. At one place on the delta it has gouged a long deep gully into which water drops spectacularly on 3 sides - the Devil's Throat. We managed to view this from four different perspectives: first from a helicopter, then walking along the Brazilian bank, then along the metal walkway, more than a kilometre from the Argentinian bank, in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm - what an experience! And finally, on that same stormy day, up the rapids in a powerful flat-bottomed metal boat which took us right under the falls. We had never before been truly drenched like we were that day but it was exhilarating.

In the language of the local Guarani people, Iguazu means "big water". The spelling we use here is the Spanish one, because we approached from the Argentinian side, by air from Buenos Aires. Argentinian pronunciation is quite different from that in Spain. For example, both "z" and "c" are pronounced not with a lisp but as "s". On the Brazilian side, in Portuguese, the spelling is Iguaçu.

We stayed at the Sheraton Iguazu which is privileged to be within the Iguazu national park. The park dates back to 1934, when some enlightened Argentinians, ahead of their time, saw the need to protect the sub-tropical rain forest in this area, particularly from the timber industry. With its falls it is undoubtedly one of the great wonders of the world and yet it is relatively unknown outside South America. The locals flock there but it is extremely well managed. Walkways prevent visitors from straying from prescribed paths. Everyone gets an excellent view without spoiling the jungle and without it appearing to be full of people.

Even without the falls there is a great deal of natural interest. Such forests are home to a huge range of species. I have illustrated with some butterflies but we saw wonderful birds and also monkeys in the trees. The grand toucans are both striking and comical with their huge orange beaks. Watching them fly in straight lines, beaks pointing the way, they somehow seemed to be like cartoon characters. On the Brazilian side there is a fascinating bird park where we posed for photographs with a tame grand toucan perched on our arms - another awe-inspiring experience.

This tip of Argentina is the province of Missiones, named after the Jesuit missions which were here in the 17th century. We visited one at San Ignacio, in the south west of the province. Rediscovered in 1904, the ruins show that it was a huge community in its heyday: larger than many European cities at that time. The film "The Mission" (Jeremy Irons et al) was set here and the Iguazu falls feature in part of the story.