Wednesday, 23 April 2014


4th - 7th Apr 2014

Part of the Iguazú Falls. The Garganta del Diablo bit. (The Devil's Throat).
Got to the bus station in Retiro, central Buenos Aires, just in time to get a ticket for the 2000hrs bus to Puerto Iguazú. This is a 20 hour overnight journey and this time I was in a Cruzero del Norde 'Cama Suite' bus which was incredibly luxurious and, for the comfort and service provided, remarkably cheap (£50) considering it replaces the cost of a hotel room and includes drink and meals. 

The seats (left) are within curtained off mini-cabins and go completely horizontal to make a comfortable bed. There is also an 'entertainments' console which, for once, showed up to date films in English. It is a two storey bus and I had an upstairs bunk; much better for viewing.

We were also treated to a pre-prandial 'aperitif' (whiskey) and a little 'amuse-bouche' before dinner was served. The three course meal was delicious and served with unlimited wine by a rather attractive, and attentive, 'hostie' (right). A somewhat better service than that provided by Aerolinas Argentinas! 
I slept very well. Whether my snoring allowed any of my fellow passengers to do likewise I never discovered. Actually there were only a few of them on board and at a relatively safe distance from me.

The route follows the Río Uruguay up the north-eastern border with Uruguay and passes through grassy pastureland with plenty of cattle farming in evidence. At the northern end it then follows the Río Paraná, the second longest river in South America after the Amazon, along the border with Paraguay, through the city of Posadas, into the north-eastern province of Missiones. This is so named because it was the region successfully developed by Jesuit Missionaries before the Spanish kicked them out in the late 18th century. Remember the film 'The Mission' starring Robert de Niro, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons? This was what it was all about and was filmed in the Iguazú area.

We arrived in the small town of Puerto Iguazú at 4.00pm. It is a pleasant enough, if rather sleepy place, but nothing to write home about. It is surrounded by some smart chalet style hotels (I was staying in a relatively modest establishment in the centre) and it's whole raison d'être seems to be to cater for tourists visiting the Falls. There are one or two decent restaurants and bars, but it certainly doesn't push the boat out when it comes to entertainment. On the Sunday I was there just about all the shops in the  town were closed. There is a rather good Japanese restaurant which presumably caters for the large number of Japs who visit the place. Iguazú Falls is on the Japanese tourists' 'life-time list' of places to visit.

Left: Plenty of tourist tat on sale and, as always, rack upon rack of mate mugs.

The next day on down to the Falls National Park, about a 30 minute trip by road. The Falls themselves occupy a large area on the river Iguaçu. The border between Argentina and Brazil runs down the centre and the Falls can be viewed from both sides. The more comprehensive viewing area is on the Argentinian side.

There are two main 'viewing' routes to follow, the upper and lower. A little train (left) takes you (unless you want to walk) to the upper route and a series of well constructed paths, elevated walkways and viewing platforms take you across the wide river, between islands, to see the dramatic 'Garganta del Diablo' section. (photo at top and above).

As said, the waterfalls cover a wide area on different levels and, unlike Niagara or Victoria Falls, you can't see all of them from one spot. Each waterfall is given an individual name. Below are some random photos of different parts.

This sub-tropical rainforest boasts much exotic wildlife. Large carp-like fish were visible in the upper parts of the river, while  totally different species live in the lower river. A few caimans were lurking around  The place was swarming with different kinds of butterfly. They were very pretty and tame and harmless....

....Unlike some of the monkeys, and especially rather nasty racoon-like creatures called coaties (left) which infest the place. These greedy little beasts are aggressive in scrounging food. They have become used to being fed snacks by tourists who think they look 'cute' and therefore associate bags being carried with food. They would attack a carrier bag and it's owner if given half a chance. Mine was hidden under my jacket.

Warning signs are in place to try to stop people feeding them. They have unpleasant looking long snouts and viciously sharp teeth and make squeaking noises. The sign here (right) shows the sort of injury they can inflict. I most certainly gave them a wide berth but some punters were actually going up to them to stroke them. I didn't see anyone get bitten (unfortunately, as it would have provided some spectator amusement), and I am sure the stupid victim would have tried to sue if they had been.

Left: A boat ride goes from a riverside jetty on the lower level. All things you don't want to get wet are put into a waterproof bag, including socks and shoes.

Initially it goes upstream and, after a last chance to take a photo, takes you right into and under a couple of the cascades (such as this one, right). Yes, amongst much screaming and yelling from the passengers, you get absolutely drenched. What fun.

At least the weather was very warm which made drying off easy.

Then the boat travels a few miles downstream to a jetty where you get onto an open truck for a 'jungle safari' with a guide who tells you all about the various exotic birds (such as toucans, parrots, macaws etc.) and animals (such as monkeys, tapirs, pumas, jaguars etc.) which live in the area. We saw bugger all. Not surprising considering the number of vehicles and humans about the place. We were then told about all the different types of tree (which couldn't run away) including the capok tree with it's bulb-like fruit in which the fibrous strands grow. I hadn't realised that is where capok stuffing comes from.

There are plenty of park wardens, such as this charming young lady (right) who politely gave me instructions on where to go. Interestingly she, and all the others, carry 9mm pistols. Im not quite sure what the threat is. Coaties perhaps.

The following day I took a trip to the Brazilian side. Immigration is very relaxed here; just a quick passport check.
Before we got to the Brazilian Iguazú National Park, I was encouraged to stop off at the Parque das Aves (bird park).  It is an impressively large and well maintained 'walk-through' aviary containing every species of sub-tropical bird you can think of, plus snakes (anacondas; nasty looking aquatic things), reptiles and butterflies. An ornithologist's dreamworld.

Lots of toucans (left) which were so tame that you could stroke them. I didn't. Not sure if those beaks could take your fingers off and I wasn't going to risk it.

....and hundreds of different species of parrots and macaws etc. I saw one Japanese lady being attacked by a parrot (I think she was trying to feed it) which was quite amusing,

Although not so extensive, and no boats, this side has a couple of more dramatic viewing stations, one of which is reached by going up in a lift to a high platform.

There is another platform from which you can, should the urge take you and you can spare $30, abseil down one of the higher gorges.

The Brazilians also do helicopter flights over the Falls. This is a contentious issue and the Argentinians want to stop it as it wrecks the tranquility of the area (as per Victoria Falls).

Below: More photos of the Falls from the Brazilian side. So many of these, but once you've seen them you won't need to go there.

Left: Some marvellous rainbows are produced through the water vapour.

Right: This anorexic lady was getting close up to photograph and feed a coatie. I was hoping.......but it didn't. They say when an anorexic person looks into a mirror they see a fat person looking back at them......

So that was my tour of the Iguazú Falls. Most educational and enjoyable it was too. 

Onto a 'cama suite' bus the next day for a relaxing and well catered-for trip on the long road back to Buenos Aires. It pissed down with rain overnight. Only the second bit of rain I have experienced in 6 weeks.

Arriba arriba..........

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