I don’t know whether to cry or slap him. A casual flick and the cigarette butt tumbles into the wide jungle river. He saunters off. I think I shouted ‘no!’, but maybe I just thought it. Precious nature, one of the world’s natural wonders, contaminated by an ignorant man.
I’m at Iguazu Falls (ak.a. Iguassu Falls or Iguaçu Falls) on the Argentinian side. Paying R$75 through the hostel has turned out to be a good option with quicker, stress-free border crossings from Brazil and easy entry to the park.
Once through the turnstiles, a two train trip takes me towards the Garganta del Diablo – the Devil’s Throat – where I wander along springy, metal walkways over an extensive jungle and river landscape, stopping only to watch black whiskered fish on a feeding frenzy, two foot masses competing for crumbs thrown in by rule-breaking visitors. And then I see the guy and witness the cigarette incident, and I’m upset.
But time to appreciate what else is going on. The roar, no, the constant pounding of water is all-consuming. As it falls, lines and shapes in the stream mutate and tumble downwards with force, only to be bounced back up as puffs of cloudy spray.
I take some photos and then put away my camera. I squeeze myself into a gap, shut out the crowds and turn my face to be kissed by misty wetness, and I allow myself to be calmed by nature’s rumble.
And I stand and stare. In the truest sense of the word, it is awesome. If I was a believer, I’d have thanked God at this point. Instead I thank life (and my ticket company for reversing my flight back to South America so easily).
I take a short, free ferry ride and eat a picnic lunch on the little island of San Martin, a place with a mini sandy beach and a steep, stepped climb to vistas of the San Martin Falls. I have a voucher for the boat ride into the falls that I can choose to use or return later to the hostel. At R$50, I’m weighing up cost over experience. Should I just go for it?
Experience wins. Absolutely worth it. The only disappointment is that we don’t go in as far as I would hope beneath the rush of the Devil’s Throat, but we do still all get a good soaking and the thrill of the being so close to the power and force of the water is indescribable.
And it’s a blessing to get wet; the sun has been shining with such ferocity. Not that I’m complaining. It has been a perfect day to visit Iguazu.
Less than fifteen minutes later and I’m back on land. I sit on a rock to dry off and take in the scenery. I’ve forgotten about the man and his cigarette. I am just here, in the now, drinking in the beauty and energy of this amazing place. A precious moment.