A few weeks ago, the Italian composer Ennio Morricone won the Best Original Score Academy Award for The Hateful Eight. But my favorite Ennio Morricone music is from an older movie, The Mission, released back in 1986. Much of the story in The Mission takes place in Argentina, in the jungle around Iguazu Falls. When I visited Iguazu Falls, I took The Mission soundtrack along with me.
The music from The Mission is dramatic, but my experience upon arriving near Iguazu Falls was more like a comedy than a drama. I stayed at a hotel within the Iguazu National Park, which meant that the resort grounds were carved right out of the jungle. A warning sign on my balcony door alerted me that I might have monkey company.
As it turned out, the monkeys kept their distance. But the hotel was a playground for another jungle animal called a coati, which is a type of South American raccoon. The coatis at the resort were comfortable around people, and they scampered playfully wherever they might be likely to score a free meal.
The Iguazu National Park in Argentina boasts an extensive system of trails from which to view the hundreds of waterfalls on both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of the Iguazu River.
One of the trails is accessible only after taking a small passenger locomotive to the easternmost part of the park. I bought a train ticket as part of a package, and I realized my mistake almost immediately. I was stuck in a tour group with over 40 other visitors (I counted) – and the tour guide spoke only Spanish. My Spanish is pretty lousy, so I knew that I wouldn’t learn much from the guide. Nevertheless, I stuck with the group just to get a seat on the train.
The train took us to the trailhead leading toward the most spectacular feature in the park, the Garganta del Diablo waterfall, or “Devil’s Throat.”
The trail began above the falls, where the Iguazu River ran swiftly yet quietly.
But as the trail continued, a sudden spray rose in the distance, and the river began to rumble.
And then, suddenly, the river tumbled over the edge of the plateau.
The plateau ended in a horseshoe shaped chasm over 150 yards wide, and the Iguazu River positively roared over it.
The Devil’s Throat is the highest and deepest waterfall in the park, and its sheer power is both beautiful and terrifying. Like me, most visitors held onto the rails except when posing for the obligatory waterfall photo on the viewing platform.
Everyone in my group was a little bit hard of hearing after standing in the spray of the thundering falls. Perhaps this explains why my companions began chattering so loudly. Or maybe everyone was just excited. Or maybe the crowd had just reached a jostling, noisy, critical mass.
In any event, I was fed up with the clamorous togetherness of my group. So, soon after returning to the train depot, I bailed on the tour.
And this is where Ennio Morricone comes into my story. To drown out the loud and incessant prattle of the crowd around me, I plugged in my earbuds and tuned into the music of The Mission.
I can’t imagine a more perfect soundtrack for Iguazu Falls. I lost track of both time and direction as I trekked along the trails, snapping photos of the endless curtains of smaller cascades.
I hiked out as far as the trails would take me, and I sat listening to the Ennio Morricone score while I enjoyed the view.
The hordes of tourists had effectively prevented me from enjoying the falls accompanied by only silence and birdsong. But I was still a little concerned that Mother Nature wouldn’t approve of me hiding under my headphones in a place of such natural beauty. Then I got a sign telling me to stop overthinking: I looked down, and I saw a rainbow.
If you’d like to see a video of Iguazu Falls set to Ennio Morricone’s score from The Mission, check out this clip I found on YouTube. (It’s a little bit long, but I guarantee it will mesmerize you!)