Rainforests are the lungs of the planet. The jungle is a bountiful pharmacy, the source of at least one-quarter of all prescription drugs developed for the well being of humankind. Seventy-percent of all plants identified by the National Cancer Institute for use in cancer treatments are found only in rain forests. The jungle is the only place on earth where one can breathe pure oxygen that does not come from a tank.
Antibiotics had done nothing to relieve my illness. Bedridden for twelve days, with a temperature of 102, a constant cough had left me drained. The long awaited trip to Argentina that had been planned well in advance, I feared was too much for my bronchial condition. However, when the departure day arrived I crawled out of bed, and dawned a surgical mask for the ten-hour flight to Iguazu Falls. During the flight my constant cough became so irritating the flight attendant asked me move to the back of the plane. Of course I did so, and even covered my head with a blanket during the remainder of the flight. As we deplaned, everyone cut a wide path around me, which was understandable.
By 4:00 p.m. I was exhausted when I checked into the Sheraton Iguazu Hotel, located at the base of the waterfall. Shrouded in mist, I stood on the balcony and observed the natural beauty that surrounded me. Within an hour my breathing became easier, and for the first time in two weeks I slept through the night.
In the early morning hour, a rainbow, like an artist painting, colored the sky. Feeling famished, I entered the main dining room and consumed two huge bowls of acai berries before embarking on the thirty minute walk to the widest waterfall in the world, which is 2 Kilometers wide. From the bridge, jutting out over Iguazu falls, a heavy mist filled the air, and clouds swirled as a violent mass of water cascaded into the Iguazu River. At the base of the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), I watched a boat glide across the river and dock on the Brazilian side. Drenched to the skin, I clung to the railing of the bridge and was overcome by the beauty and power of it all.
Later that afternoon Hank, my tour guide, led me deep into the unique world of animals and vegetation. Danger, mystery, and intrigue followed me as we wound through the jungle maze. “This is one of the last remaining regions where natural populations of rare and endangered plants, animals, and people can still be found.” Hank informed me as we were walking,
On the way back to the hotel I was amazed that I had so much energy. It was like being on a natural high. Dining that evening on lettuce and fresh veggies, a vegetarian such as myself could not help but notice the wide variety of fish and meat dishes that looked delectable. However, I made up for it by consuming four delicious homemade desserts. Ah, will I ever learn?
Awaking to sunshine in an aqua blue sky I felt renewed, and could not wait for my next adventure. Born with Indian blood, I was very interested in the natives that lived within the confines of the jungle. After breakfast Hank drove me to the Guouk Tona Indian Reservation, which is approximately ten miles from the hotel. At the edge of a clearing Keio, a young Indian man, promptly offered to show me around. Brilliant blue butterflies encompassed us as we walked deeper through the dense wall of vegetation. In a canopy of trees above our heads, howler monkeys played catch me if you can. Two red and blue macaws soared above, and a horned owl peered from the limb of a tree like a courtroom Judge waiting to sentence an offender. When we reached the village Keio offered a non-alcoholic drink called Malta. For the next two hours we sat on seats, whittled out of tree stumps, and watched the Indian children play their rendition of soccer. Keio talked of the importance of preserving the jungle for generations to come. When we said goodbye I shook his hand and promised to return.
Later we were off to Puerto Iguazu. It is a small town where tourist may purchase tickets for a train or a boat ride that crosses over the San Martin Island. In the center of town Pico’s restaurant offers a fresh bean and lettuce salad that is outstanding. In the afternoon we visited the point where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet. The view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking.
A bird sanctuary located six miles from the hotel is a safety haven for sick and wounded fowl. A photographer’s dream to find such rare birds that is very difficult to photograph in the wild.
That evening a golden sun emerged from behind a cloud and the jungle reflected a sea of glorious red. The soft scent of gardenias, growing wild alongside the mountain, floated in the evening breeze. As the sun set over the falls I shared a pot of green tea with a new friend who told me, “after a month of seeing three different physicians, taking three different types of antibiotics and still unable to recover from a lung infection, I flew to the falls and I am completely cured.”
I certainly could validate her claim. Only hours at the falls, my temperature and cough were gone. When I returned home I spoke with a doctor, who explained the reason why. “Continuously consuming carbon dioxide and pumping fresh oxygen into the atmosphere, rainforests are the lungs of the planet.
Iguazu Falls offers a variety of things to do: Visit the widest water fall in the world, take a boat ride on the Iguazu River, shop and lunch in Porta de Iguazu, visit the Bird Sanctuary, hike through the jungle, and visit the Indian Reservation.
There are three hotels available within the Park – Sheraton Iguazu in Argentina, $270.00 US dollars per day, the Tropical das Cataratas in Brazil, $170.00 US dollars per day and the Gran Hotel Resort and Casino, $327.00 US dollars per day. Make your reservation now and be assured of a hotel room overlooking the falls. June is a beautiful month to travel. Keep in mind that a visa is required to go from Argentina to Brazil.