The sign outside the Cataratas Hotel reads “Don’t walk on the paths at night as jaguars and snakes abound.” Actually, the only walking we did last night was from our bus directly into the hotel, since an airline strike delayed our arrival at Iguazu Falls. Fortunately, Princess Cruises arranged for about 90 of us to fly to the Argentina side of the falls from Buenos Aires on a chartered plane.
However, our hotel is on the Brazilian side. Our bus stops at the border and our guide attempts to charm the border officials into letting us through without inspecting each one of us. Alas, her 40-year-old charms are not as potent as they were 10 years ago and we all have to get off the bus and have our passports checked, individually.
We actually arrive at the hotel a little before one a.m., but we are up for the buffet breakfast at 6:30. The hotel faces the falls and is inside the national park. We walk down the path into the gorge starting at eight a.m., getting excellent views of various aspects of the falls along the way. We keep an eye open for jaguars and snakes. However, all we see are a toucan in flight and a monkey.
Since the park doesn’t open until nine, we have the path to ourselves. We walk on platforms near the brink of one of the major waterfalls, at one point getting almost within touching distance of the deluge. The March weather is perfect. There are 277 distinct waterfalls spread over a two-mile area, up to 269 feet in height.
Upon seeing Iguazu Falls, Eleanor Roosevelt is reputed to have exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!” I grew up near Niagara Falls, and I agree that Iguazu Falls are bigger, higher, and more spectacular. I can picture my parents being impressed by them when they visited the falls some years before while living in Paraguay for two years.
We eat lunch at a restaurant near the brink of the falls and then fly Varig Airlines to Rio, via Sao Paulo, where one set of young and beautiful flight attendants is exchanged for another. In Rio, we plan to spend some time walking along the beautiful beaches such as Ipanema, but that’s another story.