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April 12, 2005

No Place Like Home VII - Iguazú

"You are going to go under the falls and you are going to get wet."

"How wet."

"Very wet. Soaking."

Always believe a tour guide when she tells you this.

The trip to Iguazú was more eventful even before I flew to Buenos Aires than once I got here. I used a travel agent, Mayra at Argentina Travel Services. I am reasonably adept at making reservations on my own; and although she was always a help I wasn't entirely convinced of the value of it until things went wrong. This is Argentina.

The day before I left Mayra emailed me with a subject line "small problem". I had booked a flight on Southern Winds; a reputable low cost carrier that was considered by her to be reliable . . . until it wasn't. At first they changed the times of my flight about an hour. I thought nothing of it. Then the day before I flew to Buenos Aires they changed my flights to Iguazú by a full day. I called Mayra in Buenos Aires immediately.

Mayra was able to quickly rebook me on some of the last available seats on Aerolineas Argentinas at a rate not much more than Southern Winds. I called American Express and disputed the original charges, also making a mental note that American Express, even when expensive, tends to give excellent service when things go wrong.

The most exciting thing about the Aerolineas flight was the ominous steam pouring out of the vents as we boarded, but it was merely the air conditioning and the humidity.


Iguazú is much hotter than Buenos Aires and it was obvious the moment we got off the plane. I took a remise (a radio cab) from the airport to the Sheraton.

The Sheraton Iguazú is the only hotel in the park on the Argentinean side. It's a pretty standard Sheraton, with the issue of being in the middle of a subtropical rain forest. Not everything is in perfect repair, and there are problems you don't have at the Sheraton in Peoria.


I'm Starwood Gold (no big deal, it comes from my American Express card), but it entitles me to an upgraded room when available. No falls view rooms were available the first day, but the very friendly staff found me one for the second. There's no comparison; it's all about the view.


I took yet another shower and rested for a bit; I still felt tired from my cold. After that I went down to the tour guide desk. The only tour available for the day was leaving right then.

After I paid, I asked what exactly I had signed up to do.

"You are going to go under the falls and you are going to get wet."

Well, I didn't think much about it until they started handing us plastic bags to put our shoes in. I was carrying a knapsack and asked for extra bags.

The Gran Aventura tour put together by Iguazú Jungle Explorer involves a trip through the jungle via truck for about 20 minutes to the boat dock, then a 30 minute trip on the river. The boat cannot get very close to the main falls, the Garganta del Diablo. The rapids are too dangerous. But the driver does everything he can to insure an exciting ride; hot-dogging at every possible opportunity.

After a final pause with the clearest view possible of the Garganta (still perhaps a kilometer away) the attendant motions for you to put your cameras in your plastic bags.


The boat heads towards a side series of smaller falls, the Salto San Martin.



I had put my camera, my shoes, my shirt, everything but my pants in the bags and knotted them. I was glad.

We went under the falls and we got wet. Twice.

I was drenched.


Soaked, you land at the lower trails of the park and then you drip and squeak about a kilometer back to the park entrance. It was not the best thing for my cold.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at April 12, 2005 7:08 PM

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