It was a friendly Argentinian waiter in Puerto Iguazu serving us a very tasty local fish called surubi, that gave us the idea of crossing into Paraguay. “My grandpa was from Paraguay,” he said. “He actually faught in the war with Bolivia.”
“Do you ever go to Paraguay?“ we asked.
“Sure, you can cross by the local ferry. There is another waterfall there. It is called Salto de Monday. It is not so very big like Iguazu, but it is very beautiful and there are no people there.
Just don’t go in the afternoon, in Paraguay it gets a bit dangerous later. “
We looked at each other and we knew, we were both crazy enough to do it. It wasn’t in our plans, we simply wanted to spend a few days finally seeing the bucket list Iguazu Falls. But after the first day on the Brazilian side being underwhelmed by the falls and overwhelmed by the crowds and the heat, we welcomed a little adventure out of the ordinary. That night we were googling “crossing by ferry from Argentina to Paraguay” and coming up with little helpful information. “We‘ll go down to the ferry dock in the morning and see,” said my ever willing to wing it husband. Thank goodness for Maps.me to show us where it is.
In the morning we caught a taxi and headed for the ferry with a quick stop at Plaza Hito Tres Fronteras for a special photo op.
Then we bought a $2 ferry ticket, had our passports stamped and joined a few locals crossing over.
There wasn’t much of a schedule but once we were reasonably full with a few returning Paraguayan cars we left with the help of a little tug boat called Gaspar.
It was a quick crossing; first floating in Rio Iguazu between Argentina and Brazil, then pushing into the confluence of incoming Rio Paraná. It was pretty fun to stand on top of the ferry and have a 360 degree view of the three countries,
watching the approach of the Paraguayan flag on the other side.
As we disembarked, the few taxis waiting there were immediately filled by people in the know and disappeared towards the big city. We got our passports stamped (a new country for us, but we have seriously lost count by now) and crossed over to a covered bus stop in hopes that there might be some bus coming along. A man sitting there asked us where we were going. When we explained we wanted to get to the Saltos de Monday he sprang in action. “I will ask my friend if he can take you,” he said and walked across the street towards the checkpoint. Mind you, this was all conducted in very rudimentary Spanish, but luckily taxi and transport and green bucks are international words.
He returned with a large Guarani Indian in tow, dressed in a tattered red T shirt, who quickly agreed to the price of $20 for the return trip and took us to his car. But wait, where do were do we sit?
And how do we know he will take us to the falls and not some back alley? As if he felt our discomfort, he pulled out his ID to show us he was legit. Jesus Hernandez Martinez might not have functioning back seats in his car and might be missing a few teeth while owning only one holey red T shirt, but he is a jovial guy, who likes to laugh and wants us to enjoy our time. With the prospect of big payout he stops at the only gas station in this desolate border town and fills the car with a few $$ (actually a few ten thousand Paraguayan guaranis) worth of gas.
“Tranquilo,” he says when he drops us off in front of the entrance to the waterfalls. “Take your time, I will wait for you here, I have nowhere else to be.”
It is easy to get in. We buy our tickets, to our surprise, with our credit card. There is nobody in front of the booth (of course everyone is queuing up at Iguazu), and only a few young couples taking a romantic outing to the falls.
We walk through a little park and to the waterfalls lookout. Despite seeing the mighty Foz de Iguaçu the day before we find this small 45 m high waterfall quite impressive. Especially since we can get really, really close to the roar of the cascading water dizzyingly disappearing deep down, down, down…
The panoramic elevator taking us deep down to the very bottom of the fall brings us even closer to that falling water. I actually feel more excited standing (or jumping for joy)
next to this waterfall than when I jostled for a peek at the far off Iguaçu with thick crowds of sweaty people in all state of undress.
At least the Brazilian side of the falls is modern and well organized.
Everything works well, the free busses and elevators move people along different panoramic points and the walks to the viewing platforms are well constructed and not too long.
After getting our fill of the Monday falls, getting back to Argentina is a breeze, as always when you know where you are going. Jesus Fernandez Martinez makes sure to get us back on time for the just departing ferry.
Back on familiar ground we call a taxi and head for the Argentinian side of Iguazu falls. Of course, the Argentinians have been telling us their side is more beautiful. I will let their nationalistic pride uninjured, but I must say it certainly is much more disorganized than the Brazilian side. There is a lot more confusion and waiting around and the facilities are more run down.
It is now the height of the hot afternoon with the temperature of 36 degrees C and 100% humidity. Altogether there are 275 falls along 2.7 kilometres. You can spend the whole day hiking different trails. We don’t have the energy left for more than one long walk, so we head to the crowning glory of the falls – Gargantua del Diablo=Devil’s Throat. We first have to wait for the small, slow moving train to take us to the very last station (reminding me of the American classic children’s book Little Engine That Could). Then we have to walk on a very long elevated path over some very calm waters, that belie what waits ahead, and past some small shady groves of trees.
There the utterly exhausted and sunburned to a crisp tourists are trying to gather strength. I must wonder at the stupidity of humankind. There are families with tiny babies, apathetic in the heat, young shirtless blond Germans and Scandinavian guys turning violent pink, women of all ages with thighs and cleavage burning hot, hot red with beginning of blisters. There are old people with aluminum walking sticks and wheelchairs, but without hats straight off the cruise liners that look like they will fall down or over the railing and into the falls at any moment. A great ploy by their relatives, who signed them for the cruise and the Iguazú Falls extension!
In the little groves local fauna happily finds refuge from the burning sun.
We have done a tour of an animal rehabilitation center the day before, but the tour was in Spanish only, so besides yellow or red beaked Toucans I don’t know any birds’ names.
I do know the coatimundis (or coatis for short)
that gather around places where tourists stop and especially delight the children. “Look, ma, coatie!” I want to join them, yelling out loud. I know they are just your basic relatives of our raccoon trash bandits, but they are awfully cute with their stripped tails , especially the little babies.
When we finally make it to the top of the falls the sceptical me has to admit they are spectacular.
Any other falls anywhere in the world fail to compare. Niagara or Victoria, not even close. I wonder how the first white people to see it, felt. It was in 1541 that local tribesmen took Adelantado Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (imagine living with this name today Mr. Cow’s Head) to the falls they called very non poetically Big Water.
He was a Spanish explorer that had his unusually large share of misfortunes and shipwrecks. Surely he must have fallen on his knees to pray to his Christian God, the Creator. Heathens that we are, we admire Mother Nature and soft rock that my husband, the engineer, says is responsible for the falls.
Very hard to capture in words the power and majestic force of the falls and rocks. The poet in me wants to put it in verse, but my languages by now are so mixed up that I am at a loss.
You don’t have the power to make rainbows or waterfalls, sunsets or roses, but you do have the power to bless people by your words and smiles. You carry within you the power to make the world better. – Sharon G. Larsen