A Stumble At The Falls
I am a firm believer in doing research before I set out to explore an area I am not
familiar with. At a time when travel books were popular my goal was to read three books
on the country I was planning to visit. When questioned about the cost of the books, I
replied that spending an extra $100 bucks to ensure a better travel experience on a $5,000
trip seemed like a good investment. Fellow travellers would shake their heads but many
times on a trip they would wonder about my prior knowledge of the area or the history of
the country. Reading is a wonderful thing.
When we booked the cruise that left from Buenos Aires, Argentina, research
indicated that we should take a couple of extra days and visit Iguazu Falls before our
departure from Buenos Aires. Someone on the Internet connected me with a tour guide
who would put the trip together and provide local guides in the area we wanted to visit,
right through to some of the stops on the cruise such as Uruguay. The guy was good value
and delivered on everything he promised.
How did I choose him? His was the first name that came up on my Google search
when looking for a guide in Argentina. It was not a very scientific approach but it
resulted in a great find. The falls are just over a thousand kilometres from Buenos Aires
located on the Brazilian and Paraguay borders. Depending on which promotional
literature you read, the view is best from either Brazil or Argentina; Paraguay has not yet
developed a tourist trade in these areas.
We booked an extra three days to visit the falls and get back to Buenos Aires to
board our cruise; my newfound friend from Google search would look after the details.
We were about to embark on one of the most expensive travel lessons I have
experienced to date—I had learned it previously but this was a review: Do not trust
people in the travel business, especially when you are not going to see them again. They
will tell you what you want to hear, and provide you with no service and no follow up.
I could use the rest of this space telling you how Air Canada delivered this lesson
(and nothing in the way of customer service) but that is not the point of this writing.
Suffice it to say that a six-hour delay in Toronto meant a missed flight in Buenos Aires
and an extra night’s hotel bill, with less than four hours sleep and the expense of an
additional pair of tickets to Iguazu Falls. That is life and I understood that I was taking a
chance booking the flights for the same day. The problem for me arose when the Air
Canada rep told me that any extra costs would be covered; I just needed to save my
receipts and submit them to the Canadian office. Several calls and months of aggravation
resulted in not even a returned message. People lie to you to get rid of you: lesson learned
and confirmed. Thank you, Air Canada.
In the meantime, our man from the Internet worked his magic and had us back on
track for the remaining two days; he even squeezed in one of the missed tours from day
one with an early start on day three. Customer service does exist in some places.
We arrived in Iguazu where our plans materialized without a hitch. A driver met
us at the airport and delivered us to our hotel, which exceeded expectations. I spent some
time walking the streets of Iguazu, all three of them, and realized this was a small town
whose function was to be a transfer point for tourists. Shops offered the traditional fare of
t-shirts and tacky items bearing the name of the falls. A coffee shop served yerba mate,
my introduction to a brew I would only truly understand later in the trip.
A taxi driver offered a recommendation for a dining experience and the restaurant
did not disappoint. It seemed that after a bit of a shaky start our excursion was back on
track. The next morning, undeterred by an unexpected flood in the bathroom, I spent
some time at a wild animal ‘rescue facility’ across the street. It was evident that
delivering wild animals from apparently unsafe conditions and placing them in captivity
in small cages for public viewing left a lot to the discretion of the proprietor. Acting as a
zoo, this ‘place of refuge’ would not have been acceptable by North American standards.
While it was an interesting couple of hours—definitely not a destination point—it was
also not a totally positive thing for my conscience.
On the other hand, the falls themselves proved every bit as inspiring as the
brochures had promised. Judging from the number of people elbowing to get a good
position for a ‘selfie’ at the guardrails, others thought so as well. Iguazu Falls gets about
one third the number of visitors of Niagara Falls but either these tourists stayed longer in
comparison, or the viewing area next to the falls which are three times as wide as Niagara
Falls, is allotted less space. The crowds were just that: a crowd.
Also on the recommendation of our Internet friend, we had purchased tickets for
the Amazing Adventure. Not to partake, he said, would be the equivalent of visiting
Rome and not seeing the Pope. Despite the crush at the falls, judging by the number of
people here, it appeared that this might be the more highly sought after visit.
This Adventure included a visit underneath the falls in a Zodiac; the instructions
were very clear about not taking your camera unless it was placed in a plastic bag
because you were going to get wet. Seldom have I heard as much of an understatement in
promotional material of a tourist attraction. We got wet, and then we did it some more to
get even wetter.
The drivers of the boats at this attraction were skilled operators and I am sure they
knew the capabilities of their boats. I am also sure that the safety of passengers was their
prime concern but when the passengers expressed their oohs and aahs we were back in
the rapids—at higher speeds and even closer to the other boat. It was a thrill seekers ride
to say the least; we loved it and while I was sorry not to have pictures, I was glad my
camera was safe in the double zippered rubber bag.
A night at a hotel near the falls, and our guide arranged for an early excursion the
next morning so that we would be able to catch our 3:30 flight to complete the trip.
The final adventure was labelled “Warning: There is some physical activity
involved and participants must not have mobility issues”. Well intended but not informed.
About halfway down the 1200 steps, someone resolved they’d had enough and lay down,
freezing up the whole line. Her partner decided she would be a hero and protect the fallen
by blocking the entire group. It may seem callous on my part but I suffered some severe
frustration waiting in line for the paramedics to arrive and administer the cold cloth to her
neck before we could all move on.
A minor setback, the sites were well worth the climb on the stairs.
A cab arrived on time at the per-determined location and we were off to the
airport and Buenos Airport. The ship was waiting.