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Published: October 15th 2007
A Butterfly of Iguazu
On the rare occasion that a butterfly stopped long enough for a photo!
Back in Argentina
Just as we were leaving Uruguay a big storm hit the Rio Uruguay area so we abandoned our original plan of going to Concordia and Colon; instead we travelled further inland to Parana, on Argentina´s longest river, Rio Parana. The bus from Concordia to Parana was great - we travelled in Cama class which, despite reclining seats, movies, food and drink, is apparently only the third best class of bus in Argentina. I can´t wait to try the others!
Argentina seems to have gone rugby mad since we left. The soccer authorities even changed the start time of the football match between River-Plate and Boca Juniors, the biggest club game in the football calendar, as it clashed with one of the Argentina's games. I guess, seeing as we're here now and Ireland are out, I'll be cheering for the Pumas from now on.
We stayed in Parana for 3 days before travelling up to Iguazu Falls. Parana was a nice enough town, though very much off the beaten track tourist wise. We had a very entertaining tour of the fine arts museum and we found some good bars and restaurants. Otherwise, there wasn't a whole lot
Garganta del Diablo
This was as close as we got in the boat to Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat), the most popular sight in the park.
to see or do, though if you want somewhere to break the journey north to Iguazu Falls, it´s not a bad choice.
Our trip to Iguazu gave us our first taste of long distance travel in Argentina. We left Parana, in the north east, travelled 15 hours overnight and were still in the north-east when we arrived. This gives you an idea just how huge a country Argentina is. However, the buses in here are so nice compared to those back in Europe. Bus Eireann could learn a lot from them! We didn't get champagne or a nice meal with this particular service, but the seats (more like beds) were great and they showed "The Motorcycle Diaries", a pretty appropriate film given the trip we're doing.
So on to Puerto Iguaza...on our first day we arrived at 11 am after the long trip. The temperature was 40 degrees, very humid, and as we were just starting the malaria tablets we decided to take it easy. We found a nice hotel a couple of blocks form the bus station. Our hotel had a great pool which was just the place to go after the long bus trip.
Roger the Reptile
Unlike the butterflies, the reptiles are very willing to pose!
The highlight of the town is the view of three frontiers, from where you can see Brazil and Paraguay, and also the rivers which separate them from Argentina, the River Parana And River Iguazu. That first day we also saw the biggest lizards I've ever seen. And bear in mind this was in the town - what would it be like once we get to the national park in the middle of the jungle.
According to Guarani (native tribe) legend the Iguazu Falls were created when a jealous forest god, attempting to stop his girl escaping by river with her lover, made the riverbed collapse in front of them. It´s easy to understand why the Guarani attributed a divine intervention to the creation of the falls as they are spectacular, one of Argentina´s, even South America´s, most beautiful sights. Though we had seen the falls on film in The Mission and in pictures before, nothing really prepares you for seeing it for real. I know everyone says that and it's something of a cliche, but it's very true. The name Iguazu means "Big Water" in Guarani and it´s very much an understatement.
The falls are located
Lizzy the Lizard
These guys were everywhere!
about 20 km from the town of Puerto Iguazu. We spent two days in all on the Argentina side and it was just about enough to see everything. Garganta del Diablo is the big attraction, it being the biggest of the falls, and it certainly is an impressive experience. The falls are deceptive as the water seems so calm until it reaches the drop and then speeds up incredibly quickly. You can't see the bottom as there is so much spray. We timed our visit here badly as there must have been about four school tours of Argentinian teenagers on a day trip and they all visited the Devil's Throat at the same time as us. The train ride was packed too so I would advise anyone, when it's this busy, to hike out to here as its only 2.3 km and the track follows the train lines so you don't have to go away from the paths into the jungle.
The other "must-sees" are the Circuit Inferior and Circuit Superior, which take you above and below, respectively, some of the other falls in the park. We quickly took in all the falls from these circuits before crossing to
Garganta del Diablo close up
This is as close as you can get to the Devil's Throat on the walkways. The colours and the sound were amazing.
Isla San Martin on the free boat. The island was one of my favourite parts of the park. After reading Vicki and Lee's blog, I wasn't too sure what we would meet here snake-wise, but we stuck to the main paths and met nothing slithery. We did turn back on one path, however, at a snake warning sign! The best path on the island lead to a viewing platform about halfway the height of San Martin falls; absolutely spectacular views and a real highlight of the park, and very uncrowded compared to some of the other paths. There is a small beach on the San Martin island and officially bathing is prohibited here as the currents are strong but there were plenty of people willing to risk it.
On day two we were a bit more adventurous and tried the Macuco Trail. This is much less visited than other trails in the park. If you come to the Argentina aside for 2 days it's a good option for a second day hike. It starts near the Sheration hotel and is basically a 3km hike through the jungle to a beautiful waterfall. The visitor centre has a useful leaflet about
From the Macuno Trail
what to spot (and more importantly what animals to avoid and what to do if you meet a puma or a snake!) on the trail. We saw neither of these though we did see some beautiful butterflies. The trail ends after at a pool which is the only official place in the park you can swim. David and Megan, a nice Canadian couple from our hostel, were already there and it was very quiet. I jumped in and swam across to sit under the waterfall. Bliss! Though it was so powerful you felt like you could be swept away.
We ended our visit in style by taking a boat trip under the falls. This isn't included in the entrance ticket, in fact it costs more at 50 pesos but we decided to give it a go. It was great fun and we got absolutely soaked under the San Martin falls. It's a good idea to bring a swimsuit for this though you are given waterproof bags for clothes and cameras.
Aside from the waterfalls the big attraction in the national park is the wildlife. We saw the biggest butterflies we´ve ever seen though they fly around so fast
Waterfall on Macuco Trail
At the end of a 3km hike, you come across this secluded, beautiful waterfall.
you can only catch a quick glimpse of them. Their colours are beautiful. Other animals to look out for are Coatis, which look a little like racoons. They look cute though you should watch out for them as they will come near you and try take any food you have, even if you're carrying it in a bag! We saw a good number of reptiles too though no snakes thankfully. I was surprised at how much the animals wandered on to the footpaths and into crowded areas. I guess they've become accustomed to visitors given the huge numbers that come here.
It's difficult to leave Iguazu Falls. We're in a cool hostel, have met some nice travellers and continue to be impressed by the falls, no matter how many times we see them. The national park is also run very well. Despite the huge numbers of visitors it´s not overly intrusive on the jungle or the native flora and fauna. Visitor facilities are excellent there are cafes, restaurants, a hotel, bins everywhere, warning signs in the dangerous areas and very helpful park staff. I would recommend any visitor to Argentina to make a detour here.
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