The Devil’s Throat

Written by Stuart Revnell No Gravatar

We first heard about how good the buses are in South America when we looked into booking the trip and realised quite how big the continent is (did I ever mention the time I spent an hour on Google Maps, thinking “It doesn’t seem that far from Santiago to Peru” before realising the scale indicator had changed by a factor of ten from the one in Thailand). Still, our experience of long distance bus journeys in Asia hadn’t been great, so to be on the safe side, we opted for the ‘Super Cama Suite’ for our 20 hour, 987 mile journey from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu to see Iguazu Falls.

This was a world away from the often roach-ridden, noisy, decrepit, rattling coaches we’d experienced on occasion in the previous months. Fully reclining seats, blanket and pillow, your own TV screen, English language films, a hot meal and red wine. To cap it all, just as we were about to brush our teeth for the night at midnight or so, the waiter came round and offered us whisky or champagne. I couldn’t remember how to say “No thankyou” from GCSE Spanish all those years ago, so we managed to make our way through a glass of champagne to accompany the end of the second movie.

Iguazu Falls span three countries – Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina – and it’s generally advised that one visits them from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides for the full experience. So arriving refreshed at around 11:30 the following day, we opted to head straight to the Brazilian side, for our first glimpse of a natural attraction which is a finalist in a global ‘Seven Modern Wonders of The World’ competition.

We took the bus to the start of the trail, and as we wandered along the forest track on a beautiful sunny day, butterflies landing on us, lizards scampering along the path, and the odd coati (also known as the Brazilian aardvark) snuffling along, its long nose poking around on the ground for food dropped by idle tourists, the excitement began to build. What had begun as a faint noise at the start of the trail built and built, and soon, there was no mistaking that these falls were going to be big.

Then suddenly we turned a corner, and there was the first one. And…er…hmm…it didn’t look quite as big as I thought it would. Sure, it was a massive waterfall, but it was very far away, and, well…great, but had we really come all this way to see that? We carried along the trail though, and soon we came to another viewpoint. Suddenly, there was an even bigger waterfall, slightly closer this time, and with the first one still visible – I was starting to get this now.

A little further along, the same thing happened, and at each stage, our excitement and incredulity grew. The Brazilian side is the one you go to for the panoramic view of the full extent of the falls, and there was no mistaking it – this was one big panorama.

Finally, we rounded a corner, and there was the pièce de résistance. Garganta del Diablo (‘The Devil’s Throat’), the largest and most spectacular of the falls, loomed in front of us in the distance, a thundering torrent of water cascading down into a seething river below, spray flying up way above the falls, the volume of water simply astounding.

There is a viewing platform you can walk on, right out over one bit of Garganta del Diablo – not the main bit, which is on the Argentinian side a few hundred metres away, but certainly a spectacular viewing area in its own right. We did this, got soaked, went up to the top of the viewing platform above, and in the distance, on the Argentinian side, we saw another walkway with a crowd of people seemingly on top of the thundering falls. We finished the day with a huge sense of anticipation about the following day’s excursion to the other side.

So, after a pleasant night in our hostel, off we went to the Argentinian side. This is where it all gets up close and personal – jungle walkways which take you right up above, in front of and beside the stupendously big falls. Apparently there’s some theory that waterfalls give off lots of negative ions, which increase happiness levels, and, whilst I don’t know if the science is accurate, there was certainly a very happy mood which prevailed on the walkways. Everyone was soaking, smiling, and having a great time.

The walkways brought us right to all the falls we’d seen from a distance the previous day. Each one we went to seemed to get more impressive, and our anticipation built as we approached the finale of our trip – Garganta del Diablo again, but this time, from the walkway right over the top of it which we’d seen the previous day. We got off the train which takes you to the start of the walkway, and as we walked over what seemed like a vast, fairly calm lake, with the odd turtle basking on a rock here and there, and fish swimming about in the sunlit shallows, it seemed hard to believe that there was really one of nature’s most splendid creations awaiting us barely two kilometres away. Garganta del Diablo is between 120 and 150 million years old, 82 metres high, 150 metres wide, and has a peak flow rate of 1.75 million cubic metres of water per second, but you would never have known it at this point.

Soon, though, the water began to flow much faster, and the fish and turtles seemed to have gone. Faster and faster it flowed, and what had started, as with the previous day, as the faint sound of rushing water far away, suddenly got very, very loud. We entered the final two hundred metres of the walkway, and in the distance the water disappeared, replaced by a churning, white, foaming edge. It got bigger and bigger, and as we got to within fifty metres of the final viewing platform, we finally saw the undisputed highlight of our trip to date – the Argentinian side of Garganta del Diablo. An absolutely huge, sprawling mass of water, which, in twenty metres or so, turned from a fast flowing, foaming mass to a thunderous torrent which dropped vertically into the raging, spray-covered depths below. We were right above it, and along with several tens of other people, we scampered around in state of shock, awe, excitement, happiness and wonder. There’s no way that I can describe seeing this properly. To see the power of this gargantuan waterfall, the sheer volume, noise and scale of it – it almost defies belief.

So why, you might ask, is there a picture of a coati in our photo gallery? Well, at one point on our trip we stopped for lunch, and, despite several signs advising not to climb over the barriers, I spotted this fearless animal, disregarding all of the signs and hanging on by its long black claws to the falls side of the barrier by which I was standing. I was holding a plastic bag filled with egg rolls we’d made for lunch that morning in the hostel, and didn’t realise the coati was there until I felt a pulling sensation, and saw it pawing for the contents of the bag, having already ripped a small hole in it.

I retreated to safer ground away from the barrier, where Jane began to fix the bag to prevent our lunch from falling out. There was a scuffling noise from behind us immediately though, and the coati was upon us again, snuffling its way along the ground with an intensity of purpose I have rarely seen in an animal. It sidestepped the leg Jane placed in its way, deftly avoided a limp arm with which I attempted to bat it away, and in the blink of an eye, its foul, whiskered snout was in our lunch bag, a lightly salted egg roll in its mouth. Then with the insouciance of an animal which knows it will remain unchallenged, the coati wandered off to munch on its loot in a leafy, shaded spot under a tree, glancing up at me occasionally as it swallowed great chunks with obvious enjoyment.

The Devil’s Throat, indeed.

2 Responses to “The Devil’s Throat”

  1. SarahNo Gravatar says:

    Sounds fantastic – can picture the scene with the coati too – made me chuckle!!

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