I am not joking when I say this is the most terrifying part of Iguacu Falls.To stare into the Garganta di Diablo - the Devil's throat - is to stare into the abyss.
Fourteen separate waterfalls combine to pour into a gorge to create the worlds largest continous waterfall. In terms of volume of water per second this is the world's most powerful waterfall stretching in a horseshoe over half a mile in circumference. You can walk to the edge of the horseshoe via walkways from the Argentine side and to look in is to look into a continous canyon of frothing ripping water and a spray which can be seen from 4,000 ft up in the air.
When you reach the Argentine side most visitors head for the Garganta before exploring the Superior and Inferior walkways. A miniature train chugs visitors over three miles through the jungle to where they walk along a metal walkway built between islands which takes you to the lip of the abyss. The miniature railway is free with entry to the National Park and seats 300 people. Our group consisted of a pair of Catalans, a pair of Germans and a pair of Spaniards - none of which spoke English. We got by via the international language of grinnng and pointing with our Brazilian guide, Silvano, doing most of the translating. The train is open to the elements and you can watch the jungle chug by and also butterflies find you in the carriages and flit in the air around you. The journey to Estacion Garganta takes twenty minutes and when it finishes the crowds disembark and sprint for the walkway.We took our time, determined to enjoy every minute and the trail became a ringing metal walkway. First of all the walkways passed through the jungles then began to cross rivers and channels until we realised we were crossing the islands in the middle of the Iguacu.
Before this year there was no walkway. The old one was washed away by floods in 1986 and you could still see the ragged concrete supports poking up from the water. After that they ran boat trips to the viewing platforms which were meant to be terrifying as the launch fought against the strength of the current. The metal walkways are mean't to be far sturdier and along with the miniature railway are new for 2002. Between the settlement of Puerto Canoas and the Garganta are about 8 islands covered in jungle with the walkway connecting each one with the Garganta and the river bank.
From the walkway you could see the Iguacu meander below you watched over by steaming jungle. The islands became smaller and smaller as we headed deeper into the Iguacu river and the chocolate waters had that South American steaming languidity, but some were also running at speed as the pull of the Garganta took grip. On the last island were are number of indigenous Indians laid on for the tourists. They were simply adorned in loincloths and headdresses and sold souvenirs such as tiny axes, bows and carved jaguars. But the crowd pushed on to the last stretch as they could hear the Garganta now...
The initial sight is amazing. The river is a half mile wide at this point and the metal walkway extends far into it's reaches. It stretches to the lip of a gorge torn into the river where twenty waterfalls pour into its depths. A viewing platform was situated at the very edge of this gorge where crowds gathered in the enveloping spray. Ahead was the Iguacu river at it's widest, stretching around in a great curve. It was being broken up by rapids and cataracts upstream and all force drags it towards 'the Devils Mouth'. This great horseshoe is about 500ft wide, and as it goes over the edge is is torn, ripped and broken into tearing frothing foam. Thousands and thousands of gallons going over every second. There depths are obscured by watery mist and your ears are buffeted with a truly explosive continous roar. As if fifty cannons are going off every second.
As you wipe the spray from your face and look below - you notice movement. Swifts nest behind these falls and dip in and out of the plummeting cataracts. They flit in and out of the billowing vapour and the rainbows which effect different sections of the falls. And as the sunshine does bounce off all that cascading water the whole place glitters and sparkles. The whole effect is hypnotic and the spray and clouds were part of the experience. On the other side of the platform were more waterfalls even deeper into the horseshoe. More swifts wove and darted and I was fascinated by continually buffeted vegetation which clung limpet-like to rocks in the middle of the falls.
After posing against it for pictures we all reluctantly move on with many backward glances. The German lady who was with us wanted her photo taken against the two, souvenir selling Indians. She draped a muscular arm from each across her shoulders and grinned for the camera. The Indians would not have been so happy if they had known that the blockage she was causing on the walkways mean't that people were squeezing past and treading on their $5 axes and carved jaguars. Oh, well such is life..