I bumped into my namesake Richard yesterday. We had a chat!
“So, you’ve been travelling – again! Where did you go this time?”
I detect a certain jealousy! “Iguaçu!”
“Where? That sounds like a large reptile not a place.”
“Iguaçu, not Iguana (!), claims to be the world’s biggest waterfall, and it’s in South America.”
“Now wait a minute. My western education tells me Niagara Falls, on the border of Canada and the United States, is the biggest; I learnt that at school.”
“Not everything you learn at school is gospel; you learn that later in life. Maybe you think the Italians invented Pasta, and now we know it was the, er?, Chinese!! Only joking!”
“If it isn’t Niagara, it must be Victoria Falls, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa?”
“Well, Niagara is small by comparison to Victoria Falls, which has a width of some 1700m, the largest curtain of flowing water in the world. Iguaçu is another kilometre wider, but there are some 250 separate falls within this width.” (See note)
“Just a thought though, whilst we’re talking about Victoria Falls. Surely they should be renamed Mugabe Falls, or better still Robert Falls, as the Africans seem to want to erase any memory of the history of their colonisation. That would be PC (Ed: Politically Correct and not Post Card!) as far as the Zimbabweans are concerned but Queen Victoria might start spinning in her grave. She can’t complain though; I don’t think there is anyone else in human history who has had so many statutes raised in her honour, or places named after her.”
“Anyway, you flew for hours in a plane …. just to see some water flowing over a cliff?”
“You could look at it like that but ……. I read some time ago that when the then US President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, visited Iguaçu back in 1930s, she was heard to remark: “Poor Niagara!” So it’s not only me!”
“Haven’t you got better things to do, better ways of spending your pension?”
“But this is all about witnessing the awesome power of nature and believe me, Iguaçu Falls are awesome! Incidentally, weren’t you amazed to read that the two tectonic plates on the west coast of South America that caused the Chilean earthquake last month move laterally about 80mm per year – that’s more than three inches?”
“Anyway, where is this place Iguaçu ….. whatever you call it?”
“Near Foz do Iguaçu, a small town in the south west of Brazil, where three countries come together – Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.”
“You call it Fozzzzzz?”
“Well actually it’s pronounced Foysh. Foz means ‘mouth of the river’ (delta?) and Iguaçu means ‘Great Waters’ in the local Tupi-Guarani language. The falls are some 23kms upstream of the town which is situated at the confluence of the Iguaçu and Paraná rivers.”
“Is there anything else to do, apart from watching water flow over an edge?”
“God, you can be so supercilious sometimes! Haven’t you ever watched in wonder, at nature? Simple pleasures like sitting on the beach and getting lost in the rhythm of the waves breaking on the shore, or watching a stormy sea expend its immense power crashing into cliffs; these are some of life’s pleasures, surely? Enormous waterfalls like Foz do Iguaçu are mesmerising; it’s not just the fact that water is flowing over a cliff, it’s its continuity, its colour, its perceived power …… the noise alone is deafening. At Iguaçu you can walk along the river towards the falls, and then there’s a walkway out onto one of the flat areas of rock. At the end you are surrounded by water, at the edge of an 80m drop, with huge falls behind you, covering you with spray, your ears pounded by noise, like being in a washing machine on its rinse cycle perhaps. Now do you get the picture?”
“OK! Maybe it’s worth a trip. So, did you get out onto the river or take a helicopter trip over the falls?”
“We could have gone up in a helicopter, to look at the falls from the air, but it was a very short 10 minute flight ….. for which they wanted to charge £60 per person ….. and we decided that my pension didn’t stretch to that! But we did risk a boat trip, on one of those rigid raider boats. We were told we would get wet ….. but they didn’t say we would bounce up river to some of the minor waterfalls ….. and then nose into one of them! The sound of falling water, the force of the water on our backs, eyes closed to protect ourselves, everyone screaming with …… well, either exhilaration or sheer terror! Completely soaked; ‘knicker wet’ as I would say! The relief when we re-joined the main river was palpable!”
“Ha! Serves you right, you adrenalin junkie you!”
“In the rain, we visited the local bird park (see below), but we also saw lots of birds and wild animals, some simply wandering around the hotel gardens!”
“Did you stay close to the falls?”
“On the Brazilian side of the falls there is one hotel that is actually within the Parque Nacional do Iguacu, an immense area of Atlantic Forest some 1700km², in which the Iguaçu Falls are located.
The Hotel das Cataratas is just the place to stay; it was completed in 1958 and oozes old world charm mixed with C21st efficiency. One advantage of staying here is that when the park closes overnight, as a guest you have the falls and forest to yourself!
So there you have it, a few memories of being surrounded by water – some water huh! Just some scribbles, you might say!
Richard Yates – firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: The Angel Falls in Venezuela have the longest single fall of water, some 980m, nine times that of Niagara, Victoria or Iguaçu!