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Perils of Polly: Road to Iguazu Falls: Is it worth the wait?

Posted: July 20, 2012 - 9:41am
Iguazu Falls in northeast Argentina.  Polly Crawford
Polly Crawford
Iguazu Falls in northeast Argentina.

Editor's note: Polly Crawford was a reporter and associate editor of The Peninsula Clarion from 1985-1988, when she wrote "Perils of Polly." She also has written a series of "Peril" columns about Australia, Asia, and Central America. Her perils continue in Argentina and Chile.

It was now day two of being stuck in Purmamarca, Argentina, because of the flash flood. It was a beautiful village to be stuck in. The sun fairly glowed off the hill of seven colors, where gold, green, red, purple, and brown rocks glistened.

While we had spent a lot of the day before watching the dump trucks painstakingly work at filling the huge hole in the road, we left at nightfall, convinced there was no way they'd be able to finish. Thunder rumbled. If we had another thunderstorm, I'm sure all the dirt they had just dumped into the hole would wash away into the riverbed. Luckily, it stayed dry.

When we awoke, I glanced toward the vehicle of a fellow camper. Since it was still here, I figured the road had not been completed. He was quite worried about the extra money this rental was costing him and was going to leave the moment the road was opened.

My sister and I were fairly flexible in our schedule. We had another week left before our plane took off. We wanted to get to Iguazu Falls and Ibera wetlands, but if we couldn't, oh well. Other English-speaking travelers weren't so lucky. They were busy changing flights and hotel reservations. There is a fun type of camaraderie that builds up among people who are stranded together that makes the stay quite pleasant.

Convinced we would probably be able to leave today, we packed up and headed toward the chasm. We were fourth in line. Finally at 10:45 a.m., the last truckload of dirt was laid, and we inched across the one-lane dirt patch job. We were free! We were also amazed. Traffic was lined up on the other side for the two miles down to the intersection with Route 9, and then beyond that. Had they been there for two days, uninformed of the huge repair job that had to be completed? Or are Argentines just that patient?

We were now on a bee-line to Iguazu. Any deviation to national parks along the way that we had previously planned were now canceled. By nightfall we had made it halfway across Argentina to a village called Pampas del Infierno. It lived up to its name. Even as the sun set, the heat just about conquered us as we set up our tent. We lay inside the van, river of sweat running down our heads and necks.

On to Iguazu. Northeast Argentina is more populated, and with more people comes more traffic. With more traffic comes more tricks to catch motorists. One trick I'll never really understand is their roadsigns and speed limit signs. Absolutely nobody pays attention to them, and it's obvious why: they make no sense. We could be traveling on a perfectly good paved road with a speed limit of 110 km, and suddenly, for no apparent reason, the speed limit will drop to 40 km, which is like going from 70 mph down to 25 instantaneously. Of course nobody does it. It would be dangerous to do it.

However, there is a place in Argentina, Garupa, which is known for its unreasonable ticket giving. They post a camera at a 40 kph sign -- one of the silly ones next to a 110 kph -- and anyone who is not adhering to that speed is mailed a ticket.

We saw the camera. Sue was driving. She was at 50 kph being pushed by a semi truck to go faster. Not willing to get run over, she edged it up to 55 kph. Then we held our breaths for the next two months. We still haven't heard, so apparently we didn't get a ticket.

We arrived at Iguazu at around 6 p.m. and headed to the Camping America resort. The price wasn't that high -- not as high as the Lake District -- so we paid and camped. I even took a dip in the swimming pool.

The next morning we arrived at the national park entrance as early as possible. We'd heard about the huge crowds. We hopped the little open train for the Devil's Throat, the largest part of the falls.

I'd been to a lot of falls, and most didn't really impress me. Even Niagara was just OK. As a world traveler, sometimes I see too much and natural wonders become commonplace. I wasn't holding my breath that this was going to be anything spectacular. We jumped off the open train and headed down the boardwalk. The thundering roar became louder. I could see the cloud of mist. Maybe I'd be wrong.

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