The popular tale at Iguazú is a history lesson about the guides who used to paddle their tour groups to the top edge of the falls, and then paddle against the current while their clients peered over the edge. This was a common practice until the day one guide couldn’t handle the current and the entire group of European tourists plummeted over the edge. After the deaths of those tourists, the government banned such trips.
We hear so many stories like these that we sometimes forget their sources. They’ve gotten so repetitive that if you start one of them, many people will stop you mid-sentence and say, “Yeah, I’ve read that in Lonely Planet too.”
The waterfalls at Iguazú were spectacular. If it wasn’t for the paved paths and the slow Disney-styled train-ride with Ennio Morricone’s Mission music in the background, I think I would have enjoyed the experience even more. Nevertheless, no photograph or video can capture the feeling of being there—hearing the thunderous roar, following the countless streaks of white through plumes of mist, or feeling the refreshing droplets accumulate on your forehead. I followed the hoards of tourists across the bridges that led to a point at the top of the Devil’s Throat. From there it looked as if the world simply dropped off into an unknown abyss.
For a hundred pesos I took a boat ride to the base of the falls. Of course we didn’t go directly underneath the falls, but we were close enough to be blanketed by a solid white wall of mist. I had never been surrounded by pure whiteness before. It is difficult to measure the canvassing power of water.
As I sat by the pool at the hostel, I met myself in other travelers who are in South America without much real purpose at all. Some are on a rambling journey around the globe. Few have a set itinerary. We find ourselves standing on deserted roads waiting for the next bus or pickup truck to roll by and take us to God knows where. Where our lives intersect we swap stories.