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Train to Spectacular Big Water


Waterfalls, National Park

Something about it reminded me of Disneyland, even though I was in Argentina. It might have been the wide pink-clay colored sidewalk that guided me strategically past the souvenir shop as I headed for the train station. Or, the picture map I received from the smiling greeter.


However, I was not here to see Mickey Mouse. I was in Argentina’s Iguazu Falls National Park and the main attraction were not roller coasters, but rushing water. Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca of Spain discovered the falls in 1542 and named them the “Santa Maria Falls.” However, the name was ignored in favor of the more popular name of Iquazu Falls used by the Guarani, the native people of the area. The Guarani name was simple. In the Guarani language “I” means water and “guazu” means big, hence "big water." Comprised of 275 falls along 2.7 km of the Iquazu River, Iguazu Falls is indeed big water.


And. the small train station conveniently located next to a snack bar with a cute sign announcing that the next train would be at 10:00 a.m. led me to believe this was going to be like a BIG WATER amusement park. The open-air train with park bench seats arrived with a sounding of bells. I boarded the train to the last stop, Garganta station or the gateway to Devil’s Throat. The train played a pre-recorded audio of safety precautions, general park information and advertisements of half-price admission for the second day. (A second day is not a bad idea since the park has so many trails to explore.)


The train is named the “Tren Ecologico de Selva” and translates as the Green Train of the Jungle. This ecological train runs on natural gas and was installed to prevent the excessive circulation of pollution producing vehicles in the park. To minimize collisions with animals, the train never exceeds 20 km/h.


The train arrived with a loud "Ding!" We had reached Garganta station. I got off and was greeted by a smiling boy of about 17 in the same bright blue polo t-shirt as the greeter; he was selling plastic raincoats. “Your going to get wet near the falls,” he said. I walked past him to the sign that said Devil’s Throat this way.


The “Paseo Garganta del Diablo” is a one kilometer walkway that brings visitors directly to the U-shaped, 150 meter wide Devil’s Throat falls. I walked along the metal grated catwalk through the marshland of the sub-tropical rain forest. The catwalk carried me above muddy waters and past trees, only found in humid regions, as I hear the incessant roar of what can only be a huge waterfall.


Finally, I reached the viewing platform and am staring down into a giant mouth of rushing water. There is so much water spilling over the cliff that a permanent cloud of mists hangs in the air. After only two minutes, my jacket is drenched.


I returned from where I came from and boarded the Disneyland style choo-choo once again and headed to Cataratas station. I had visited the main attraction first, now it was time to walk the trails. Upon disembarking the train, I was greeted by the obligatory snack bar and a plethora of signs. Each sign directed me to a different trail.


The trails are elevated footbridges and catwalks placed 50 cm. above ground to avoid the erosion from tourist trample. Each trail has a constant width of 1.2 meters and is designed with resting stations and lookouts. I started on the Upper Trail, a 650 meter walk circling the upper lip of the falls. This is the shortest of all the trails and with no stairs, it is completely wheel chair accessible.


The Lower Circuit Trail brings me into the heart of the sub-tropical rain forest to the foot of the falls. In contrast, the Upper Circuit Trail is filled with tree top views and open skies. Both trails are easily walkable and offer different viewpoints of the falls, one from above and one from below.


No good theme park is complete without a hotel. Iguazu National Park has the Hotel Sheraton Internacional Iguazu situated a short walk from Cataratas station. This hotel has a spa, fitness facility, business center and 185 guest rooms, many with views of the waterfalls.


The brochure states that the parks contains 2,000 different plant species, 450 kinds of birds and 80 mammals. While I was there, I saw coatis, an ugly looking lizard, some vibrant butterflies and small black birds that flew into the falls. These small dark haired birds, known as vencejos, are found mainly in this area and are the symbol for Iguazu National Park.


My day was ending and I boarded the Green Train of the Jungle to return to Central Station. There, just like at any good theme park, I had to walk past the souvenir store to proceed to the exit.


Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Sugar, Dinosaurs In Neuquén, Sailing the Beagle Channel, La Dorita Enfrente, Lavender Farm, Casabindo, Astor Piazzolla: The Man Who Changed Tango, Amauta, La Meilleure école D'espagnol à Buenos Aires!, Iguazú Falls and Ushuaia.

By Sharon Cheung
An avid traveler and freelance travel writer, I have been to 28 countries. My experiences have included working on cruise ships, studying in China...
17 Mar 2008

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