Monday, November 19, 2007


Here´s the summary from our trip to Iguazú Falls.

Last Wednesday night, we boarded a Via Bariloche bus bound for Iguazú Falls in the northeastern rainforest of Argentina. No one´s ever excited about an overnight bus, but I particuarly detest them, since I have a fair amount of trouble sleeping on moving vehicles. However, as soon as we boarded this bus, we wondered if we would ever have to get off. The seats lean nearly all the way back (at least as far as your friendly dentist chair, but a lot more comfortable), and leg room isn´t at all an issue for anyone smaller than Yao Ming. As soon as we got on, they served us coffee and cookies, followed by dinner, with wine, and then champagne after dinner. All the windows are blocked by curtains, and it gets nearly completely dark on the bus. They played one movie after dinner, in English with Spanish subtitles, and then another the next morning after breakfast, so before we knew it, we had arrived in Iguazú.

We dropped our belongings off at the Residencia Noelia, a charming though (very) rustic family-run lodging in the town of Puerto Iguazú, some 15 km from the actual national park containing the waterfalls. Our Brazil fiasco detailed in a prior entry ensued, so we headed to the friendlier Argentina side of the park.

Being relatively late in the afternoon already, we walked around the relatively massive visitor center, hiked a short jungle trail, and then boarded a quiet gas-powered train for the far end of the park. Although the train didn´t go faster than about 5 mph, it was a pleasant ride. We disembarked at the trail called the "Garganta del diablo" (Devil´s throat), and walked for perhaps a mile along a catwalk sort of trail over a series of branches of the main river, lagoons, etc, through the jungle wetlands en route to the view of the falls.

To attempt to describe the initial view of the falls without pictures is extremely difficult, but I suppose I have to try. Anyone who has visited the Grand Canyon has known a similar feeling. The initial breathless moment when one first comes into view of the falls is one that can´t really be put into words. We were standing on the end of the catwalk, not quite completely over the edge of the falls, but close enough to make us glad that we weren´t on the construction team that built the trail. An unbelievably powerful surge of water was falling several hundred feet to the river below, and although I never found an exact report of the volume of water flowing, I can state scientifically that it was "a lot." We stood there for a while, noted that we were delighted to not be afraid of heights, and then went back toward the train.

We took the train back, and then walked the set of trails known as the Upper Circuit, which walks for a mile or so along the upper rim of the falls, providing less spectacular, but more panoramic views of the overall falls. As the falls run for at least 2 miles, it´s quite a sight to behold.

The next morning, we got up and did a relatively long hike into the jungle that allegedly was good for wildlife viewing. I´ll list below the animals we saw, but it was a nice hike to get us away from the tourists that clog the main trails in the park. This one is on the other side of the park from the falls and requires a bit more fitness, repelling a lot of the tour groups closer to the falls. The hike culminated with a trip to the top and then the bottom (not in a barrel) of a smaller (100 foot) falls, and it was quite a view to have to ourselves.

We came back to the visitor center, cooled off a bit, and then walked the Lower Circuit. It was, not surprisingly, similar to the Upper Circuit, except it was lower. Shocking. The trail allowed us to walk down closer to some of the falls, providing similar panoramic views, with the added advantage of getting wet. The trail went all the way down to the river, where all sorts of boats take off to go under the falls.

Animals we saw on our hikes:
2 Toucans
Ridiculously large lizards (over 2 feet long).
Coati (look like insanely huge raccoons, we even saw some in trees)
Idiots feeding the coatis from their hands, despite them carrying all sorts of diseases, and standing 2 feet from signs discouraging feeding the coatis.
Red Deer
Some marmot-looking thing.
Vultures (tons of different types, circling above the falls)
Hummingbirds (really bright, many different colors, some got within feet of us)
Numerous other birds I´d never seen before.
A poisonous butterfly
A non-poisonous butterfly the size of an adult human hand
Ants over an inch long
Sparrows - not exciting in and of themselves, but they actually live in the cliffs behind the waterfalls, and to get to their nests, they dive through the falls at fantastic speeds...quite a sight.

I think that´s it.

We had our favorite dinner in Argentina at a restaurant called La Rueda. I had homemade ravioli, Erin had gnocchi, and we split some smoked surubí, a fish caught locally in the Rio Iguazú. Combined with the atmosphere in the restaurant and a bottle of Torrontés, it was hard to beat!

Ok, this is long, so I´ll sign off and write more tomorrow.


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