During the two weeks we spent Buenos Aires we had planned to visit another town in the region. I had researched Iguazu Falls, Ushuaia in southern Argentina, or Cordoba, a medium size city in north central Argentina known for its vineyards. The glacier fields in Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city looked incredible, but we decided to visit Iguazu Falls, as we didn’t pack warm gear with us. The people we asked in the area all said it would be a great place to experience.
The first week in Buenos Aires I found a travel office called Columbia Travel, on southwest corner of Santa Fe and Pueyrredon. There I met Barbara, and her perfect English made communicating a breeze. Constantly using the internet for all my research I’ve never considered using a travel agency, but researching airfare and lodging was more than I wanted to do, and Barbara was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. She planned a two night stay in Puerto Iguazu with airfare, meals, transportation, and tickets to the park with an English speaking guide.
We picked up our tickets the next week, and took a mid day flight up to Puerto Iguazu. We flew from Aeroparque Jorge Newberry, which is a few miles northwest of the city along the coast. This modern airport is smaller and used for regional flights, and only a quick cab ride from our neighborhood in Barrio Norte. The flight was a bit over one hour, but we were again amazed at the service provided by non U.S. carriers as we were treated to a full lunch and drinks.
Arriving into Puerto Iguazu we could see the mist and clouds created by Iguazu Falls, hovering in a giant sphere over the river. Having seen pictures of South American rivers it was amazing to see from the air how wide the rivers were, and the dense forest surrounding them.
After landing we found our bus and were soon at the hotel. The road was surrounded by dense jungles, and I couldn’t see through the trees more than about fifty feet. In Colorado we have thick forests with tall trees, but the ground is moss, dirt, and rock, allowing you to walk around anywhere you want provided the grade isn’t too steep. Looking into the jungle the brush must have been five to six feet high, and it looked as if the foliage would envelope you and eat you alive like giant Venus fly trap.
The hotel Barbara set up for us was a real treat. The Esturion Hotel is located about seven blocks from the center of town, along the banks of the Parana River. With four stories sunken into a hill, beautifully maintained grounds, and an open air design it felt like a small village lodge. And those looking for pampering can find pools, spas, and plenty of quiet spaces to relax and watch the river and wildlife. On the grounds of the hotel we found a giant peacock occasionally spying us from a distance. Unfortunately he, (or she), eluded my attempts to take a picture. As with Uruguay, the first thing I noticed was the contrast between silence and noise of Buenos Aires. I am a city person and appreciate the sounds and noise that comes with it, but sitting in a hammock at night listening to the sounds of the jungle was a tranquil experience.
That evening we walked into town. I forget to pack shorts (not realizing how humid it would be), so we checked out some shops and I found a pair, then visited some restaurants and got a few drinks. The streets of Puerto Iguazu are set up in somewhat of a hub and spoke formation, and most street corners have restaurants with ample outdoor seating.
The next day we were ready at 8am sharp to go to the park, and were greeted by an enormous motor coach the size of a city block. Neither of us are the all inclusive tourist types, so when this monstrosity careened into view we were both immediately thinking about when and how to ditch them.
Our first stop on the tour was the marker of the Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay borders. This border is where the Parana, Paraguay, and Iguazu Rivers meet.
Parque Iguazu is between the city and the airport. The entrance and layout of the park are very much like a U.S. Natl Park: large, laid out well with paths and various trails. Our guide spoke English, Spanish, and Portugese, and lived in Foz du Iguacu, which is a larger city on the Brazil side of the falls.
My fears about being trapped with a group, (or inside a bus), for the day were quickly relieved, as inside the park we were able to split up and explore on our own, but still met our guide in spots for some information on the different falls.
The humid climate and moisture created from the falls caused it to rain every hour or so throughout the day, so we wisely picked up ponchos at the gift shop.
A small train leads to the Diablo Garganta, or Devil’s Mouth waterfalls. We walked about a quarter mile over a catwalk on the river, and I was again impressed at how wide the river was, and from the catwalk we saw a second dismembered catwalk are were it told washed away when the river flooded a few years back. The end the catwalk opened up into large viewing platforms right over the falls and offered some tremendous views of the falls looking straight down at them, and up the river as well.
We enjoyed lunch at a buffet style restaurant inside the park, and after lunch signed up for a boat ride to the base of the falls. To get to the boat we climbed into a large open air 20 seat jeep, and during the 15 minute ride to the riverbank our guide told us about some of the natives that used to live in the area, and about the trees and other dense foliage in the area.
After our boat ride we were dropped off near the bottom, and hiked back up some trails next to the big falls, then through some smaller sets of falls, and ended up back where we started.
We made many different species of friends during our trip:
Later in the afternoon we met up again with our guide and gang from the bus, and were dropped off at our hotel. We enjoyed a second night in the small town enjoying ice cream with dulce de leche, good food and some drinks before taking a flight back to Buenos Aires the next morning.