Simply put, I find waterfalls to be incredible. To see this cascade of water rapidly flowing down a valley or gorge before dropping off into those couple seconds of nothingness until it rejoins another body of water at the bottom, mesmerizes me. When I was eight, my family visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls which holds the record as having the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world with a vertical drop of more than 165 feet. The things I remember most from that trip are getting extremely wet on the famous Maid of the Mist ride even with wearing the requisite ponchos and the movie at the IMAX theater that told the stories of individuals who had gone over the falls and survived. A couple of years ago D and I made the trip to Niagara Falls as I was anxious to go back and experience them again. Although our trip was during the winter making the temperatures frigid, nothing prepares you for their sheer majesty, for the almost deafening noise they produce. My favorite scene in the 2002 film Gangs of New York is at the very end, when the camera shows the formation of the Manhattan skyline. That scene has always stuck with me and so whenever I visit a historical attraction, I try to do the same with my mind as the cameras did with that scene, imagining the look of a place over time. Although tall hotels and other buildings surround the falls along with busy streets and thoroughfares, I pictured how the falls looked centuries ago, long before there was any settlement and instead only the lone explorer and his party passing through, taking notes that would later become historical eyewitness accounts.
When my friend and I visited Argentina, we contemplated going to Iguazu Falls since from a South American distance perspective, we were “so” close. We ultimately decided against it as domestic airfares in Argentina were extremely expensive, and also we weren’t quite mentally up to the thought of a 20+ hour bus ride. However, five years later I regret not doing it. Although the bus ride would have been excruciatingly long, a return trip to Argentina is definitely not planned for my immediate future, especially considering that plane fare from the East Coast generally costs upwards of $1,000 so in retrospect, it’s a bus ride I should have endured. The falls extend for 1.7 miles and are nearly three times wider than Niagara falls. They are divided into 275 waterfalls or cataracts and the water of the falls, the Iguazu River, forms the boundary between Brazil and Argentina. The beauty and wildlife of the falls is protected by two separate national parks, Iguacu National Park in Brazil and Iguazu National Park in Argentina. Although I’ve read that the falls are better on the Brazilian side, since Brazil requires a tourist visa for Americans, I’d most likely visit them from the Argentine side and wave to Brazil.
During my semester abroad in Costa Rica, I spent spring break in the area of Arenal, home to the famous active volcano of the same name. On one of the days I was there, the group I was with decided they wanted to check out la catarata, the Spanish word for cataract (a large waterfall). Although it was a slightly long hike for my somewhat out of shape body, the view of the waterfall once you traversed down the extremely steep and slippery steps (it always amazes me the lack of safety regulations when outside of the United States), was striking. It was not the widest or tallest or most majestic waterfall, but it was a beautiful oasis of deep hidden greenery. While the water at the bottom of the waterfall was freezing, it was still an incredibly neat place to visit.
As expensive as plane tickets to South America are, they’re even more to Sub-Saharan Africa and so I don’t see myself making multiple trips to Africa in my lifetime. However, I am aiming for one in which I would hopefully see the Big Five (lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros), as well as Victoria Falls. Located on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls was christened (by someone from the West that is) by explorer David Livingstone in honor of his queen. However, its indigenous name Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘Smoke that thunders’ is also officially recognized, While not the tallest falls in the world, it does claim to be the largest with a width of approximately 5,600 feet and a height of 354 feet forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Although just like with Iguazu, I’m sure airfare from Johannesburg, South Africa to the relatively small airport at Victoria Falls is most likely quite costly, it would be one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, and when in travel doubt, splurge so you won’t need to look back and regret it.
The last time I saw waterfalls was on our trip to Maui this past November. Along the Road to Hana (an extremely popular and beautiful drive) are small but striking waterfalls. The Road to Hana is incredibly narrow and curvy and some of the waterfalls are so near to the road that as soon as you step out of your vehicle you could almost touch them. To me the waterfalls represented the epitome of a tropical paradise, one that is definitely Hawaii.
Although I think it would be spectacular to see waterfalls like Iguazu and Victoria, seeing the smaller and simpler ones like those along the Road to Hana or in Costa Rica are equally special.