Iguazu Falls, Argentina

March 15 – 18, 2019

We knew that we wouldn’t explore much of Argentina this time around but would be limited mostly to Buenos Aires. This limitation was based on our finances, time, make up of our family with 3 kids of different ages, abilities and interests and our desire to experience one place a bit deeper than a typical vacation spot of 5-10 days. We wanted to live in Buenos Aires for a whole month so that we could experience it a bit more like locals do (but we were kidding ourselves, we definitely did not end up living much as locals do). We knew that we wouldn’t make it to Patagonia since we were limited by Nina’s mobility. If we were going to do one side trip in Argentina, we decided that it would be Iguazu Falls.

Iguazu Falls are located on the border between Argentina and Brazil. The falls are 1.7 miles/2.7km long varying between 190-270 ft/60-82m high. These falls were chosen as one of the natural wonders of the world and I can truly say that they were overwhelmingly impressive.

We flew from BsAs on an early flight on Friday and came back to BsAs late on Monday evening. We only traveled with a backpack each. You can see Iguazu from both Argentinian and Brazilian sides. We decided that we only had enough in our budget to visit Argentinian side. In order for us to go to Brazi, even for a day, we needed to get $100/person visas plus organize for additional entrance fees, transportation and another night at Iguazu. All in all, it was a great decision for us and we do not think we have missed out by not seeing the falls from the other side.

I picked accommodations a few miles out of town of Puerto Iguazu. The place we stayed at was not fancy but it was clean, safe and the staff was incredibly friendly. Nothing around Puerto Iguazu is worth much of a mention – typical tourist trap with unjustifiably high-priced restaurants and mediocre tourist activities. However, the falls themselves were beautiful, overwhelming in their size and strength, they brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Organization and infrastructure around the falls were great. Our family spent 7 hrs walking more than 7 miles/10 km and no one ever lost their cool, we laughed a lot, saw some (new to us) fun animals (coatis, toucans, some beautiful blue birds), met a new friend from Ireland, and overall enjoyed a day without a single one of us having a meltdown. That, in itself, is a great accomplishment. It was a hot and muggy day with an hour-long period of heavy rain.

We did not have to pay entrance fee(s) to the falls for Nina (+caregiver) since he is classified as disabled. Overall, I was impressed by several inclusive and disability-sensitive aspects of Argentina. I observed that all of the children’s playgrounds in Buenos Aires had swings for the kids that use wheelchairs, people were super friendly and understanding of Nikola, he always got a seat on the subway, his entrance to Iguazu and several other public venues were free, etc. There is probably a lot more on the subject of disability in Argentina but my first impressions were positive. At Iguazu, we got Nina a wheelchair since we thought that it would be easier for him and us (since he is still dealing with a brace for a broken knee). However, it turned out that the all-terrain chair was extremely difficult to push so we ditched it after the first mile and he walked with us (with no issues) for the rest of the day.

We also experienced the most incredible rain in those 3 days at Iguazu. Petra, Pedja and Maksim got out to pretend to take a shower in the rain that was coming down at higher volume and pressure than in the shower of our bathroom. While they played in the warm rain, I managed to slip and break a toe (3+ weeks later and it’s still hurting a bit).

On another note, a bit more serious note related to this side trip. I can write and talk for days on the subject of privilege. We live in a way that is difficult for majority of the planet to comprehend. Here is just one example of what we experienced at Iguazu, that made me once again think of our privileged, comfortable lives.

While at Iguazu, Petra and I went on a horseback riding excursion that took us to a jungle village where we were offered to buy local handmade products at tourist prices. That village was a home to 60+ families. The whole experience was an eye opener for Petra since that was her first time encountering people who are far on the other side of the spectrum of the lifestyle we live. The whole experience was also a bit disturbing for her. Our privilege made her uncomfortable, especially seeing kids even younger than Maksim working to earn a penny/dollar in most impoverished living conditions. We did not take any pictures from that encounter because she was very sensitive to the fact that these people were not there as an exhibit for us. She was touched by all of this in a way that is impossible to teach in the classroom. She will have many opportunities on this trip to deal with her discomfort about our privileged life. I am of little help to her on this subject. I also struggle with feelings of guilt due to our privileged life and my inability to define my role in sharing the benefits of this privilege with the world. Both Pedja and I were lucky to be born into stable families, growing up in happy and comfortable environments for the first 18 years of our lives. The next 2 chapters of our lives were intense, going from becoming practically refugees almost 30 years ago as high-school students to getting onto our wobbly feet as college graduates to then having a child with extensive medical needs and extraordinary healthcare expenses that brought us to our knees until only a few years ago. Even so, all these years, we were living in a stable environment, among most amazing friends with all the privileges of a progressive society that is Seattle. Our privilege is something all of us will need to process more while traveling and hopefully grow in understanding of our responsibility towards this world in the most helpful way.

This side trip to Iguazu Falls will stay as a memorable experience for all of us and I’m glad it turned out as well as it did.

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