Iguazu Falls and Northern Argentina
With about two weeks to travel, and a college student’s budget, I had to choose and plan wisely.
But I didn’t.
For once in my life, I didn’t obsess over every detail or freak out trying to plan everything. I got on a bus headed north to see the Iguazu waterfalls, and I had a basic idea of where I wanted to travel throughout northern Argentina, but other than that — nothing. No plan. One backpack, a travel guide, and myself. Wherever I decided to go, living moment to moment. A skill I picked up living porteño style for about five months.
I went to the falls with my best friend from the study abroad program. Iguazu park was packed with tourists, but seeing the waterfalls was worth braving the crowds. We went on a boat right up to the bottom of the falls, got soaked! We spent the day hiking through the park to see the different waterfalls, and inadvertently wound up saving the best for last. The Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), which we approached on a metal walkway constructed in the river, was beautiful. The walkway provides you with an aerial view. But the falls drop so far down, it is impossible to see the bottom. You seem to stare into a bottomless pit of white foam that surges up in huge sprays, drenching everyone on the walkway. The water gushes so powerfully, converges so quickly, and plummets so heavily. You cannot see the falls until you are upon them, because of the angle at which the walkway approaches the point the falls begin. It’s as though you’re walking along (on top of) the river, and suddenly the world drops off. You get closer to the precipice, look down, and see everything. I felt like I was at the end of the world. Or perhaps the beginning, its creation. Something impossible to capture in a photograph. We wanted to stay and stare at the waterfalls for the rest of the day, but eventually we tore ourselves away.
After Iguazu, I was going to venture North alone, and my friend was to head South and into Chile. She had already traveled through northern Argentina and assured me it would be amazing.
Many people told me I would be fine traveling alone, that I have a good head on my shoulders and would make good choices. Others told me I was crazy — a young woman, traveling alone, what was I thinking? With such pale skin and blonde hair, and my accent, I would stick out.
I decided I wanted to go by myself, and that, crazy or not, it was the way I had to travel. It was scary, but liberating. At times, I did feel limited and frustrated by what I could do as a woman traveling on my own in a foreign country. But for the most part, it was an amazing experience. I had to look out for myself, and only myself. I planned as I went, and never had to worry about running late, or falling behind schedule, because there was no schedule. I didn’t have to buy bus tickets well in advance, I could buy them as I needed them.
From Iguazu, I traveled to Tucuman, Tafí del Valle, Amaicha, Cafayate, Salta. From Salta I splurged on a guided excursion through the quebradas (canyons) and Salinas Grandes (salt flats) that ended in Purmamarca. From there I took a bus to Tilcara, and spent two days in that small town, taking one short bus trip to see Humahuaca. Then I took a bus allll the way back to Buenos Aires — a 24 hour bus ride, that was a bit much for me.
Aside from that last long stretch, the bus rides were one of my favorite parts of my travels. Of course I enjoyed seeing each pueblito. I was glad to see how people live in the rest of Argentina, outside of Buenos Aires. But the journeys in between were beautiful, and as important as the final destinations. In a way, there were no final destinations, only one long journey. I didn’t know where exactly I would wind up sleeping at the end of each day. I didn’t know how far North I would make it before needing to turn back to Buenos Aires to catch my flight to the United States. I simply relaxed, stared out the window, enjoyed the trip in and of itself. It was great to read, listen to music, and just think — daydream, and take in the beautiful scenery.
Here are pictures of the waterfalls, the small towns throughout the provinces of Tucuman, Salta, and Jujuy, and all of my journeys in between. A few shots I actually snapped through the window of a moving bus.