Argentina – The Iguazu Falls

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For, believe me, the secret of the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is: to live dangerously! Build your cities under Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors, as long as you cannot be rulers and owners, you lovers of knowledge! Soon the age will be past when you could be content to live like shy deer, hidden in the woods! At long last the search for knowledge will reach out for its due: it will want to rule and own, and you with it!

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

 

FROM RIO DE JANEIRO, we took an 18 hour bus journey south-south-west to the Iguazu Falls, a mighty set of waterfalls on the border between Brazil and Argentina.

To access the Falls, we stayed in the nearby town of Puerto Iguazu. Here, in a superb open-air restaurant called El Patio, I enjoyed my first taste of that Argentine classic, the parrilla, essentially an enormous barbecue for an asado, a South American technique for cooking cuts of meat, usually consisting of beef alongside various other meats, which are cooked on a grill (parrilla) or open fire. Asado is the traditional dish of Argentina, as well as Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and southern Brazil, and is a choice of meats such as chorizos (salamis), morcillas (black pudding), chinchulines (chitterlings or intestines; chewy, smoky with a faint taste of liver), mollejas (sweetbreads) and other offal. The meat isn’t marinated; it’s just seasoned with salt. This is classic slow cooking. It’s served with chimichurri, a sauce of chopped parsley, dried oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, and paprika with olive oil. I’m happy to report that Argentine beef is excellent! Here, it’s like in Santa Cruz de la Sierra where people enjoy nose to tail eating. So it’s tripe, snouts, kidneys, intestines and hearts, all the off cuts – really delicious stuff! The local beer is called Quilmes and it’s easily the best lager I’ve had in South America: it‟s clean, smooth and actually tastes of lager! This region is called El Litoral and is famous for the musical genre chamame. This is a catchy and bouncy music and it’s great to watch the locals dance to it. We saw this in the same restaurant where we were enjoying the asado, where people just seem to eat steak, drink good, young wine and get up and dance. Chamame dancing is almost the opposite of the tango because the man and woman never touch during the dance; they simply mirror each other’s movements as close to each other as can be without contact. People here in El Litoral just randomly get up and dance in front of a packed restaurant without a moment‟s thought for embarrassment and showing none of the reserve of Northern Europeans; things should be more like this. I’ve loved the music I’ve heard on this trip so far, from Bolivian pan-pipes to reggaeton and I looked forward to the tango in Buenos Aires.

The Iguazu Falls (Cataratas) are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the borders of Brazil and the Argentine province of Misiones. Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful indigenous woman named Naipí. Instead, she fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. Enraged, the scorned god sliced the river creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. We visited from the Argentine side, part of a national park, the Parque Nacional Iguazu. We headed first to the falls known as the Garganta del Diablo (brilliantly named the Devil’s Throat), an absolutely huge waterfall; it’s semi-circular, a massive 82m tall, and a mindboggling 150m wide. It‟s impossible not to break out into grins just looking at it, wiping the spray from your face. The ferocity is unimaginable; truly awesome! The rest of the Falls are equally spectacular: the whole waterfall system consists of 275 individual falls along nearly 3km of the Iguazu River and these can be seen very close up because of an intricate network of bridges and platforms that crisscross the falls. The views are simply too spectacular to fully take in, the noise of the falls are deafening, and you always have the awareness of the butt-clenchingly, ferocious power of these natural wonders.

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