Big Water on the Brazil-Argentina Border
Inactive, passive, docile, patient, indifferent to anything but the pull of gravity. But when there’s three and half million gallons of it falling off 250-foot cliffs EVERY SECOND, water acts a little differently.
On the Brazilian side of Igúazu falls, a boardwalk extends over a natural, rock platform between two levels of the falls. You walk out over the surging flow and are smacked in the face by 40 mph winds and spray as the torrential downward energy explodes off rocks and blasts endlessly across the platform.
You’re going to get wet.
It’s peace and calm and violent and terrific. As long as the sun’s out, there’s a rainbow.
Igúazu in the native language, Guarani, translates simply as “Big Water,” and they couldn’t have named it more accurately. The falls are a mile and a half wide. According to legend, they’re the spot where the angry Serpent God petrified a fleeing woman, M’Boi, as the stone at the bottom of the falls. Her lover, Taruba, was transformed into a palm tree at the lip of the falls, and the two were cursed; able to see each other for eternity, but never touch.
The two were engaged to be married when the Serpent God chose M’Boi as a sacrifice. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Taruba, a great warrior, obviously in discord with this decision, fled with M’Boi in his canoe. They paddled and paddled, but the Serpent God caught up with them, and in his rage, tore up the earth to make the top of the falls.
The only thing that binds them now is the rainbow that dashes in and out of the mist.
From the geology-nerd-in-me perspective
The falls are all basalt, frozen magma—the same kind that lines the Palisades of NYC and the Rift Valley in Africa—from an ancient sea of lava as a continent tore itself apart. Millions of years later, the river started to flow over the stone. Since then, the water has worn the falls back miles from their original location. The soft slowly overcoming the hard.
We stayed three days near Igúazu with the CEA group. The first two days, it poured. We went to an awesome animal sanctuary on the Argentine side after arriving the first day and got to the falls the second day in the gloom and downpour.
I was pretty well protected from the deluge until I walked alongside our guide to extract that geologic history while his umbrella drained itself into my giant poncho.
It was still a spectacular experience, getting to breathe some fresh, wet air of the semi-tropical jungle was a welcome break from the dusty, smoky, smoggy air of Buenos Aires.
On the Brazil side, after my camera died and I had put all electronics away for fear of their assured doom, I stood in the erupting spray—nature’s power-washer—and let the water and wind soak my pants, crumple my poncho, and wash my face.
Nick S. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is currently a Senior studying Creative Writing at University of Miami.