Waterfalls: The Opus

It was still dark when I woke and silently made my way through the soft pink halls of the hotel to watch the sunrise. From a perch in the hotel’s tower I could see nothing, but I knew what lay around me: tangles of trees cut through by the hotel lawns and the pool out back, the only still body of water around for miles.

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I was surrounded by that deep morning stillness you can only find when even the birds are still at rest.

In many places that stillness is accompanied by absolute quiet, but here at Iguaçu Falls, there would never be a silent night. A low rumble, perhaps akin to thunder or maybe an unending tremolo of double basses, drifted over the trees and through the darkness to interrupt my solitude. Slowly, others added to this symphony. The birds awoke, each with their tune or trill. The whir of all manner of bugs came with them. And in the forest, the snorts of coati and padded steps of jaguars blended with the monkey’s howl. Below the trees and in the waters, the occasional snap of a caiman made its debut. And around me on the hotel grounds, my fellow man also came to life with the creak of a wooden door, a flutter of conversation, or the rattle of a breakfast tray.

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And those were just the sounds. What I had originally woken up so earlier for was the view from the tower. I had gotten up too early, though, and there was still a long wait before the sun came. But in the waiting I was able to listen as the edges of night receded to reveal a clear new morning.

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Later I took the path that winds through the edge of the woods and reveals glimpses of the falls along the way. But the more spectacular experience is at the end of the path where there’s a walkway constructed over the water, and you can peer into the abyss created by these forces of nature. Iguaçu Falls (also written as Iguazú or Iguassu) is unlike any other body of water I’d ever seen. The enormous volume of water that spills over cliffs 80 meters high is noteworthy alone, but so is the span of this natural phenomenon: the cataracts spread the width of nearly three kilometers. But the beautiful part to me is the variety of cascades all around—the lightest trickle of water to the all-consuming rage of the river, which serves as a border between Argentina and Brazil. I found the better example of nature’s power on the Argentine side where metal walkways lead you over the river to the Devil’s Throat. That is a place where you can easily imagine being swallowed by nature without even time to cry for help, so fierce are the falls.

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Back in Brazil though, I wasn’t thinking of the Devil’s Throat or the number of gallons slipping past me each second. I was listening again to the morning symphony as I stood at the edge of the water for a long while. Long enough for the sun to drip in from the east and turn the grasses scattered among the falls from dark green to a glossy lime color. Long enough to see a flock of birds emerge from these grasses, soar for a moment, and then seamlessly blend back in. Long enough to be soaked by the mist swirling around me before I turned and headed home.

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