TRAVEL: IGUAZU, A SLICE OF IMMORTALITY

MANILA, APRIL 10, 2011 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit [Photo is loading... Garganta del Diablo: All senses function before the furiously roaring, frothy white horse-shaped confluence of waterfalls. This grandiloquent landscape is what attracted the production of The Mission, a film starring Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons.]

What if one night you dreamt that you saw a rose and woke up with it in your hand? Sometimes, our dreams unfold right before our very eyes and with the fulfillment of our wishes, our lives are changed forever.

Imagine a massive curtain of raging water dramatically plunging into an abyss surrounded by lush forests with the reverberating screams of monkeys and exotic birds that complement the ambient sounds of nature. Under a clear sky, this cloud of steam rises above and reaches a point when a deafening boom silences everything. The noise is the rampaging water at the point where the river drops straight down from the semi-circular amphitheater of basaltic lava. It is here where the enormous column of water is fragmented into 270 waterfalls foaming with white spray that rises to reveal the verdant green backdrop of the jungle.

The Iguazu Falls, located in between Brazil and Argentina, known as the “the most beautiful border in the world,” inevitably arrest your senses. You are not just in front of the world’s largest waterfall but the most magnificent and powerful on the planet. As if that wasn’t enough, the tremendous current of the falls creates a permanent fog, where sunbeams form multiple rainbows of stunning beauty inviting you to dance in the cool mist. The water clouds rising above the foam have inspired the natives to create the moniker “the place where clouds are born.” This is the definition that best captures the magical veracity of this UNESCO Heritage Site where the omniscient presence of God is felt in nature’s embrace.

[Boat ride to Devil’s Throat: Navigate the river rapids in wanton abandon. Wear rain capes to protect yourself from the plummeting water and dramatic mist.

A sweet slice of immortality is how I would best describe my visit to Iguazu Falls in Argentina. From Buenos Aires, I took a one-hour flight on Aerolinas Argentina to one of South America’s most precious attractions. I had visited the mighty Victoria Falls in Zambia earlier and was told its only rival in terms of beauty, grace and insatiable power was the Iguazu. Victoria Falls are the world’s largest falls, at 300 feet high and one mile wide, but Iguazu Falls consist of 270 different waterfalls over nearly two miles.

I vividly associate the Iguazu Falls with the dramatic opening scene of the Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro film The Mission shot here in 1986. Depicting the evangelization of the indigenous Guarani natives, the grandiloquent landscape is what must have attracted the production here. This heartbreaking scene where a lifeless body strapped to a cross is released down the mighty thunderous falls in reckless abandon left an indelible imprint in my mind. I was so affected by this film that many years long after I viewed it, I dreamt of this scene. Little did I know, one blessed day, I would visit the spectacular Iguazu Falls in the border of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and heed the call of my own mission. Being a travel writer allows me the opportunity to visit sanctuaries where one can experience God the most. We know He is everywhere but some places simply make us feel Him more intimately. Sharing the good news about the blessings of divine destinations is my humble contribution to responsible stewardship.

[Cataratas del Iguazu has watery cascades that fall off a 2.7-km. front, as high as 82 meters. This makes Iguazu one of the world’s biggest and most spectacular waterfalls. Its width is twice that of the Niagara Falls in the US.]

Iguazu Falls extend over 2,700 meters and have twice the height and four times the width of the Niagara. Iguazu Falls consist of over 275 cascading walls of water spanning a three-kilometer edge, the most prominent of which is the horseshoe shaped gargantuan El Diablo (Devil’s Throat) at the far end of the stretch. A new 2,080-meter catwalk allows the visitor to enjoy the unique landscape before arriving at the imposing Devil´s Throat, the most impressive cascade of the falls. I asked our gracious guide Gabriel, why did they not call it Angel’s Breath instead?

This sojourn turned out to be a blissful reunion with my long-lost childhood friend Antonio “Tony” Rodriguez who joined me in Iguazu. We went to the same alma mater at Colegio San Agustin for elementary but he migrated to the US immediately after college. He is now an engineer working on the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the largest telescope project in the world located in the Andes Mountains in Chile. Scientists will be able to create a giant zoom lens with resolutions 10 times better than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Together with our expert guide Gabriel Rojas of Aguas Grandes Tours, we experienced the glorious Iguazu. It was a celebration of life, renewed friendship and lasting memories.

[The author Christine Dayrit, with ALMA engineer Tony Rodriguez and Gabriel Rojas of Aguas Grandes, poses by the circuito superior, a 1,200-meter walkway with six vantage points from which to observe how the water of the mighty Iguazu flows and plunges into the abyss.Photos courtesy of Aguas Grandes and Sheraton Iguazu

An impressive geological fault embellished by myriad waterfalls, the Cataratas de Iguazu is considered a wonder of the world. At the furiously roaring, frothy white horseshoe-shaped confluence of waterfalls at the Garganta del Diablo, you can see an estimated 1,500 cubic meters per second plummet into the abyss. Every second, 450,000 gallons of water tumble down. You ought to come much closer to the falls, soaking wet and wild as you take the boat ride that heads straight for Devil’s Throat. This is a moment of sheer epiphany.

The premier address here is the Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa, the only hotel property that is located inside the 68,000-hectare Iguazu National Park. On moonlit nights, you will be awed by a rare natural spectacle, as a clear-cut rainbow is dramatically formed by the moonlight reflected on the water. The luxurious three-floor Sheraton resort offers 176 spacious guestrooms with views of the Iguazu Falls or the rainforest. With a private balcony and large windows, you’ll feel even closer to nature.

[Hito Tres Fronteras: From this vantage point that marks the geographic confluence, you can see the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay separated by two rivers. Dawn and dusk are the best times to be at the blue and white obelisk.]

All rooms are well appointed and equipped with individually controlled air-conditioning, high-speed Internet access, the exclusive Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, and much more. Many visitors come here to experience the celebrated full moon that illuminates everything in its path to reveal the silvery waterways of the Iguazu river. Stroll around the walkways and footpaths, guided only by the rustic sounds of the jungle and the gurgling current meandering along the dark rocks. A sublime appreciation for what surrounds you will feel like a reverent answered prayer that embraces your soul.

Did you know that it was a society dame who first provided access to the Iguazu Falls? Victoria Aguirre had a fierce desire to explore the jungle thus she donated a large amount of money for the construction of a 20-km. track to the largest waterfalls. The main avenue of Puerto Iguazu is thereby named in her honor.

[Enjoy the outdoors at Sheraton’s swimming pool with an impressive view of the Iguazu Falls and verdant forest.]

A visit to the Jesuit Missions ancient ruins is also a must. These 17th and 18th century missions were founded to convert the Guaraní aboriginals to Christianity. As an added treat, Iguazu also boasts a lush rainforest with an extensive range of flora and fauna — 80 mammal classes, 2,000 species of plants, and over 450 kinds of birds and insects. Even snakes and wildcats are common during jungle treks. Take a truck ride through the lush forests while spotting the resident macaws and toucans’ loros and synergize with the protected eco systems that thrive wonderfully here.

Back in my suite at the Sheraton, the Reservation and Calendar of Full Moon Tour 2011 read: “Submerge yourself in nature, breathe deeply, and harmonize with the silver-plated rays of the moon that bathes everything in sight and ignites the night. One of the most unique sights in the world, you have to experience it to understand its beauty.”

As darkness cloaked the evening, I said a prayer and thanked the good Lord for traveling mercies. I am glad I heeded the call of Iguazu Falls.

No need to wake me up. I am no longer dreaming. 


[Ecological Jungle train: this locomotive uses natural gas as it runs on its 7-km. track at no more than 17 kph. to let wild animals cross its path. It does the Cataratas-Garganta del Diablo part of its run every half hour or so].

For more information about Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa, please call (54) 3457-491800 or email reservas.iguazu@sher-aton.com. For tours to Iguazu Falls and the rest of Argentina and South America, call Menchie Gregorio, managing director Travel Excellence Corp GSA for Aerolineas Argentinas, at 892-6012 or send e-mail to travelexcellencecorp@yahoo.com. . 

Email the author at miladay.star@gmail.co

 


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