Argentina - Autumn In My Heart
Iguazú Falls & San Carlos de Bariloche
The Devil’s Throat
I was standing upon a high platform when my eyes locked on to the Devil’s Throat. The image will stay with me forever. It was an April day and I was on my honeymoon. I squeezed my husband’s hand as we stood together in the middle of a massive rainforest. I felt the stickiness of humidity against my skin the smell of dampened earth and old fallen leaves filled my nostrils. Exotic birds flew freely in amongst the tropical flora as water powerfully gushed down the narrow chasm over the rocks some 80 meters below.
We began our dream adventure in Iguazú National Park located in the northern part of Argentina bordering Brazil. The famous waterfalls split the river into upper and lower Iguazu. The name comes from ancient Guarani where ‘I’ literally means water and ‘guazu’ means big. Folklore tells us that the falls were named after the gods of an Indian tribe before the Spanish conquistador. One of them wanted to marry a beautiful girl who refused and ran away with her lover in a canoe. In anger the god divided the river, creating the falls and leaving the lovers to fall to their fate forever. There are more than 250 waterfalls between the two countries and both have catwalks for visitors to take advantage of their incredible majesty. About half of all the water runs down the narrow U-shaped gorge so called the ‘Garganta del Diablo’ or Devil’s Throat on the Argentinian side. From here visitors are able to get up close and sense the power of the falls whilst on the Brazilian side you arguably get a more panoramic view of their expanse.
A boat ride into the falls is a must do — by far the most exhilarating and fun activity of the day and a great way to cool off after hiking around the park. It is a far more authentic and adventurous experience than one would get at Niagra, for instance, with none of the commercial trappings. As we took our place in the simple motor boat my heart beat fast with excitement and we soon began to sail through the high wake towards the torrent. As the boat moved closer to the falls all other sounds were drowned out by the gushing of the water and as we moved further still, the force of the splash became so strong I could barely keep my eyes open (note to self — next time bring goggles!). The skipper toyed with us as he moved the vessel in and out of the falls at least three times before we all returned to shore bearing grins despite being soaked from head to toe.
Still reeling with excitement from the falls the journey continued to San Carlos de Bariloche in the middle part of the country, set in the foothills of the Andes mountains which form a divide between Argentina and Chile. There is a special beauty and tranquility associated with this part of Patagonia with its range of mountainous plateaus, grassy plaines and mirrored lakes.
After arriving late I awoke early the next day to the sound of birds singing in the tree next to our bedroom window. Opening the shutters revealed the beautiful vista the mountains reflecting in the lake in front of our chosen estancia, Peuma Hue. After a hearty breakfast produced from the farm, Eve, the lodge manager, readily hands us a trail map and shows us to our to guides for the day — Chloe and Joey, two gorgeous golden retrievers! Our canine friends run ahead and guide us around a small part of the Huapi National Park through luscious forest, waterfalls and up into the mountain range making sure to stop and look back every so often and make sure that we are keeping up. There surely can be no better way of viewing the oldest national park in the country.
After a long day of hiking we returned to our cabin in the woods and enjoyed a luxurious three course meal delivered by the on-site chef washed back with copious amounts of local Malbec before retiring to the communal lounge by the fire to share stories with fellow guest. This is the beauty of Peuma Hue — it’s a community built around love for the region yet offering plenty of opportunities for seclusion in the vast park land. Here I met Amy, Peuma Hue’s horse whisperer, who shared her journey to Argentina from the Northwestern part of the US and persuaded me to ride through some of the grounds with her the next day which turned out to be the highlight of the trip.
Sadly, it was once again time to move on from Bariloche. We had done every outdoor adventure including hiking, kayaking and horse back riding and left feeling privileged to have discovered this little gem of a place in Argentina. Before leaving we decided to quickly visit the town centre positioned right on Nahel Huapi Lake — the largest and the deepest clear water lake in Argentina, so grand that you can mistake it for an ocean. The town, built in Swiss-style architecture, is very quaint with not much to do but enjoy its simplicity and the warmth of its people. Indeed amidst all of the chocolate shops and St. Bernard’s posing in the town square you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in Geneva. But there really is nothing that can rival this enchanting part of Patagonia.