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Travel Highlights 11: Iguassu Falls Day 3

September 27th, 2007

Once in Argentina’s national park, we take the short boat ride to San Martin Island. The roughly hewn rock stairs to the top of the cliffed island are steep and wet which makes the hike up them a bit of a challenge. The first trail leads to one of the more powerful falls. Thick mist sprays over us and into the pools beside us which brim with water and threaten to overflow. Yesterday was extremely rainy and the island’s crevices, holes and ponds are disturbingly full of water. The second trail leads to a view of a large, rock archway with a natural window that overlooks the “Gargantua del diablo” or Devil’s Throat, the most powerful of all falls. Crusty-headed vultures hulk in a nearby tree, soar above us and extend their thin, grizzled legs and pointed nails.

We head down another trail, away from the hungry vultures, along the northern edge of the island. Here there are views of the fast flowing river and steep cliffs, and smaller, misty falls. At the end of this trail, there is caution tape across the path. I guess we weren’t supposed to go on that trail, though I’m not sure why. Snakes (there are caution signs about snakes throughout the island), the risk of a landslide, the high level of water? We are all too glad we didn’t find out.

After a few last fleeting glances of the panarama of falls, we hike through a quiet forest trail. As we walk, the clouds part, sunlight filters through the canopy of the rainforest, and creates patterns like those of the paper snowflakes we used to make as kids. The trail is intensely peaceful and conjures memories of slow autumn meanders through crispy-leafed paths. We run across the now familiar “cutia” (very thin faced, fat bummed, cat sized rodents), who are typically skittish and tear away from us as though we were jaguars with barred teeth. An eerie, jarring song of mysterious birds is like an electric can opener set on speed dial; a continuously electric-sounding whir and pop.

We hike down a skinny path, and duck under bulging rocks, to a tranquil waterfall and pool. We don’t have much time, so after a few deep breaths, we turn and make our way back. As we stride homewards, I almost step on a startlingly bright leaf. I wonder about its colour, bend down to take a closer look and realize it is a leaf bug. It is a perfect replica of its surrounding geography, though brighter, with spindly legs and needle thin antannae. It moves slowly, like the ancient, wrinkled turtles we saw in Belem. As we near the exit, we watch a pack of giant vermilion soldier ants whose fierce scissor-like antannae are known to send humans into reams of pain. We stay comfortably distant.

Back in town, we lug our backpacks onto the luxury bus that will take us first to San Ignacio Mini, then to Buenos Aires.

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