Argentina and Antarctica 2008/2009:
Day 13 - Iguazú Falls


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Antarctica 2008: [Day 1 - Buenos Aires] [Day 2 - Uruguay] [Day 3 - Ushuaia] [Day 4 - Drake Passage] [Day 5 - South Shetland Islands] [Day 6 - Antarctica] [Day 7 - Antarctic Peninsula] [Day 8 - Antarctic Sound] [Day 9 - Drake Passage] [Day 10 - Cape Horn] [Day 11 - Ushuaia] [Day 12 - Iguaçu] [Day 13 - Iguazú]

Friday, January 9: Dawn came to the falls. Debbie got up, took a photo, and went back to sleep for two more hours.
We headed into the park and got a good look at the giant tree by the hotel that serves as a tent canopy for the hotel spa's massage services. Do you suppose those are figs? We don't know.
We followed the path past the old hotel.

It's an abandoned building that is being slowly reclaimed by the jungle.

This sign indicates the height and volume per second of other major waterfalls in the world, including our very own Niagara Falls. Some are taller and some have more water volume.
Here's a little landmark that we were always in too much of a hurry or too exhausted to explore.
We got to the middle train station in the park and were dismayed by the wait (25 minutes) and the long line of people already. We figured there was no way we'd get on the next train with so many people waiting already, so we got brilliant and decided to take the jungle trail through the park to get to the first train station. We planned to board it there and then stay on board at the middle train station.
The jungle walk was a short, pleasant walk through the shaded forest. We stopped when we heard rustling and watched a pair of brown animals forage for food. They looked like foot-long rats, so we dubbed them Rodents of Unusual Size.
We made it to the main train station and grabbed our seats. The seats are very close together, and four adults are expected to squeeze together on each bench.
Off we went.
The scenery was pretty much the same the whole way -- just jungle.
We made it to the middle station and made a horrifying discovery -- we had to get off the train and wait in line for a different train to take us to the final stop. Somehow, everyone else seemed to know this but us. We never found anything that explained how this worked, but now you know. So, we waited in line with the mob again, and endured the cramped ride to the final station.
We finally made it to the entrance to the catwalk that leads to Garganta del Diablo -- the Argentine side of the big part of the falls.
So, we're walking ...
... and we're stopping to admire these three turtles resting on a rock.
At one of the many tiny islands in the river along the way, we saw a slightly disturbing sign. Fortunately, snakes are some of the wildlife that we never saw. We also never saw any monkeys, jaguars, or pumas, and we were sad we missed those. Well, some of us were sad.
Here's one of several birds doing a little Karate Kid routine on a rock. In Costa Rica, we learned that this was probably an aninga.
Another crowd gathered on the bridge means that there's another interesting thing to see in the water.
Yes, this caiman is interesting indeed!
Those black birds with the blue markings on their faces refused to cooperate with us but we stalked them anyway.
We're getting close!
Here it is, from left to right, ...
... and here ...
... and here. Although the Brazilian side offers instant gratification and amazing views, the Argentine side matches it with a great payoff of being right next to the top of the falls..
It wasn't easy finding a safe place to photograph Orchy, so we wrapped his little pipe-cleaner arms around the wires at the bottom of this photo.
Here's the view downstream.
Yes, it was a little moist up there.
The catwalk expands into a large triangle with plenty of room for a lot of people.
This section stretches right over one of the streams that makes up the falls.
Here's the last part, closest to the falls.
On the walk back, we took this highly artistic photo of the falls and two kinds of flowers -- it's easier to see if you look at the larger view.
And we're walking back ...
... and we're stopping to admire a butterfly on Tom's shoe.
We made it back to the train station and decided to grab some lunch and cool off before the next train arrived. Tom used his napkin to wipe some of the gallons of sweat coming off his forehead. Did we mention it was 1,000 degrees out?
After waiting in line with the mob for the next cramped train, we had a brilliant idea again, but this one turned out to actually be brilliant. The park offered an eco-tour, which was a boat tour that floated downstream and ended at the second train station. We threw some adorable Argentine money at them and waited patiently to put on our life jackets and go. The little shelter where we waited was lined with life jackets and covered with butterflies everywhere.
Ten minutes later, we were on the river. Here's our guide/boat-rower, Ruben.
A butterfly landed on the hand of one of our fellow passengers. We saw butterflies landing on people a lot.
Down the river we went.
In the bamboo patch up ahead, our guide pointed out a rare bird.
It's called a potoo. We later saw one in Costa Rica.
Let's continue downstream.
More scenery.
We saw another caiman, ...
... and he swam slowly right in front of the boat.
We were starting to get into denser jungle now.
The water was very clear and often only a foot or two deep.
More jungle ...
... and still more jungle.
Our guide pointed out datura plants on the shore, ...
... and we saw some pink ones further down too.
After a relaxing half hour, we made it to the end point.
Here's the boat we were in, by the way.
We got front row seats in the open truck that took us back to the station.
From here, we could walk back to the hotel, so there was no need to deal with the train anymore.
There's our hotel! The main perk to staying in the park was that we were able to shower and cool off at this point, which was crucial to our well-being.
In mid-afternoon, it was time for our 4x4/boat tour. As we waited for our tour, we made a last minute run to a gift shop to buy some flip flops so we wouldn't get our shoes wet. It turned out to be unnecessary
We saw many of these nests hanging from palm trees and finally saw a bird fly into one of them.
We boarded the truck and circled the front of the park to get to the jungle.
Our guide sat on the front of the truck backwards. She got whacked by dangling vines a few times, but it didn't seem to faze her at all.
She explained that the jungle in the park isn't virgin jungle, because if it was, there would be a consistent canopy of trees all the same height. Before this area was turned into a park, the land had been developed somewhat, and now the jungle is growing back.
It's making excellent progress, as you can see.
We exited the truck and walked down stairs to the waterfront. Markers along the way were presumably there to measure flood levels.
Here's an iguana, one of a half-dozen or so we saw.
Down at the waterfront, we got our life jackets and dry bags.
We were off and the pilot kicked in the speed.
We hit some minor rapids and passed some lovely birds.
Up ahead, we could see the start of the falls, so it was time to put away the standard camera and get out the waterproof one.
It turns out that there are some nice secluded beaches along the river too.
Here's a tiny waterfall, ...
... and here's another one with a bridge over it.
Now here's the start of the real show. On the left is an island, and there is a boat that shuttles park visitors back and forth between the shores.
These are some of the falls down river along the Argentine side. They're absolutely stunning. After a good long look, we headed upstream, but we came back later.
Further up was another set of falls.
We got closer, ...
... and closer. We were mostly soaked by the time we were done here.
We turned the boat to face upstream to the biggest part of the falls. To review, Brazil and its observation catwalk is on the left, and Argentina and its observation catwalk isn't visible in the mist in the distance on the right.
We circled back to the original set of falls, ...
... and got soaked, ...
... and completely drenched.
Freshly soaked, our tour ended at the base of steps across the water from the island.
It was going to be a long walk back to the hotel, but with sights like random iguanas sunning on rocks, it was going to be entertaining as well.
We saw more datura plants.
Here are the same falls from slightly up the hill, ...
... and further up the hill.
More climbing ...
.. and we ended up right next to the falls. It was beautiful.
From there, we continued further up and into the park, passing pretty pink flowers, ...
... pretty red flowers, ...
... and pretty white flowers.
These falls are appropriately named Dos Hermanas/Two Sisters.
We had seen the signs in the park to beware of coatis -- small raccoon-like animals who forage in the trash for food. To quote one of the signs, "They can and will bite." That didn't stop us from being fascinated when we spotted one near Dos Hermanas.
However, further up the road, we ran into a group of at least a dozen, including babies. For a minute, they were everywhere and it was a little scary.
But who can be afraid when they are this adorable?
Or this? The babies were small enough to crawl into the trash bins for their supper.
So cute but we'll give him some space.
This family scene looks heartwarming -- bonding over some spilled food on the sidewalk, but in fact the older one just finished hissing at the baby.
So, we went back to the hotel to change yet again, then headed back past the old hotel to the place where the boat tour started in a doomed attempt to eat dinner at a restaurant outside the hotel, but nothing was open by the time we got there at 5:30 except a snack shop and we were getting really tired of snack shop sandwiches. The walk didn't turn out to be a complete waste of time, though, because the tree pictured here had a special bird in it.
We'll zoom in for you with our very unsophisticated camera equipment. It's a toucan! An actual toucan in the wild and not on a box of Froot Loops! It was so cool to see it.
Back at the hotel, storms were starting to roll in so we settled in our room and ordered room service, ...

... then updated our Facebook statuses and prepared to head home the next morning..

** THE END **


Antarctica 2008: [Day 1 - Buenos Aires] [Day 2 - Uruguay] [Day 3 - Ushuaia] [Day 4 - Drake Passage] [Day 5 - South Shetland Islands] [Day 6 - Antarctica] [Day 7 - Antarctic Peninsula] [Day 8 - Antarctic Sound] [Day 9 - Drake Passage] [Day 10 - Cape Horn] [Day 11 - Ushuaia] [Day 12 - Iguaçu] [Day 13 - Iguazú]

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