The Devil’s Throat

After a day in Buenos Aires – spent alternatively shopping and sleeping – Huckleberry B and I took a 90 minute flight on Aerolineas Argentinas north to Iguaza Falls which lies on the border between Argentina and Brazil, and not far from Paraguay.

B had previously visited Niagra Falls whereas I had been to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe (over 20 years ago), so we were both keen to compare our experiences with Iguazu. Remarkably, Iguazu Falls met and vastly exceeded our expectations.

It is very difficult to describe the awesome majesty of Iguazu Falls in words…

That said, consider the following: the falls themselves stretch over a distance of 2.2 kilometres. Somebody counted over 200 individual sets of falls, lined up – one after the next – across that distance. The tallest of the falls drops over 80 metres.

On our first afternoon at Iguazu, we went for a walk around the western side of the falls. Very helpfully, the National Parkland included steel walkways which allowed visitors to stroll from one small island to the next, across the water, remarkably close to the edge of some of the falls. We were able to enjoy some extraordinary vantage points.

The sight of immense quantities of water plunging over a sheer cliff face and cascading onto the rocks below was truly breathtaking.

However, we got an even better view the next morning…

Our `great adventure’  began with a twenty minute open-truck ride through the Argentine jungle until we reached a point called `Puerto Macuco’, where we boarded a speedboat named – of all things – simply “Alex”. Once onboard, we dutifully placed our belongings in a waterproof bag provided to us, removed our shoes and socks and buttoned our raincoats. Before long we were jetting along the lower Iguazu River at high speed, swerving with the currents and bouncing up some rapids.

Rounding a bend we were met by the awe-inspiring sight of the Iguazu Falls towering above us, water cascading from the heavens as far as our eyes could see. After pausing to allow us to take some photos, we were ordered to place our cameras in the waterproof bags as well. There was a good reason for this direction…

Once ready, our speed-boat operator – who probably aspires to become a Buenos Aires taxi driver – revved his motors and charged at terminal velocity up the canyon towards the very base of one of the falls, drenching us in cold water and baptising us under the Iguazu Falls. We were given a short time to catch our breath – and cease giggling like giddy school girls – before we were dunked under the gushing waterfall a second time.

(For those interested in comparative legal studies, all this was done without a risk warning or any waiver of legal liability for negligent infliction of injury, loss or damage. Evidently, the Argentines are not yet troubled by tort reform.)

We continued to giggle, yell and clap our hands as our boat drifted quietly to a nearby shore, where we disembarked, soaked yet exhilarated.

Whilst the view of Iguazu Falls from the river below defies both imagination and proper description, the most amazingly memorable view was yet to come.

The most dramatic section of Iguazu Falls lies on the eastern side of the river and is known as `Gargantua del Diablo’; or `the Devil’s Throat’.

To imagine what the Devil’s Throat looks like, place your left hand horizontally and look from above so you can see the back of your hand and all four fingers. The river runs up your arm and to your hand and swirls into both your top two fingers and your bottom two fingers. Now separate your top two fingers from your bottom two. The gap in between is the Devil’s Throat – a narrow “U” shaped waterfall with an unimaginable quantity of water cascading over the edge from three sides.

Remarkably, we were able to view the brutal carnage of the Devil’s Throat from a viewing platform constructed on a small island right on the lip of the first vertical in the “U”. To get to the viewing platform we had to walk for 1.1 kms along a low bridge from the southern bank of the river.

Approaching the Devil’s Throat, it is remarkable how calm the river looks as it moves quietly towards the abyss. However, once you draw close – essentially from water level – you can see the water suddenly drop into a void. The only hint of the violence going on below is the constant sound of water crashing into a whirlpool far below. Once at the viewing platform, it is hard to digest the immensity of what you are witnessing. Indeed, there is so much water falling from three directions – and bouncing up from below – that you can’t see the bottom. God only knows what unbelievable forces are being wrought down there. What you do know, however, is that you are being drenched merely by standing alongside all this chaos.

One thing that struck me as odd, however, was the number of birds frolicking below us within the upper levels of the spray, cruising along the currents, diving into the mist, flapping their wings and soaring away. I don’t know what they were doing. Perhaps they were looking for food. Maybe it was their way of taking a quick bath. Or possibly it was simply fun…

I remember recently remarking that Milford Sound was the most impressive natural feature we had ever visited. After visiting Iguazu Falls and standing at the edge of the Devil’s Throat, I am compelled to rethink that assessment. Iguazu was truly extraordinary and leaves Milford Sound in its destructive wake.

(By the way, I suspect Huckleberry B has formed the same conclusion. As each new wonder unfolded before us at Iguazu Falls, my sarcastic valentine would turn to me and ask with a wry smile; “Milford Sound?”)


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