This year, in lieu of gifts to each other and because we couldn’t make it back to the States for Christmas, Jesse and I decided to take a long weekend trip over the holiday to check out a different part of Argentina. There are so many things to do in this country and almost every day someone is telling us “if you only go to one place, you HAVE to go _____”. It’s always somewhere different and is spoken with such enthusiasm that I have to add another town to our list. We’re trying to make a schedule of trips to make sure we get to see as much of the country as possible and we go at the right time of year (ie make sure we get to the beach in summer months and not think of it in June when it’s cold).
For this trip, we decided to head to the north of Argentina to a town called Puerto Iguazú to see the famous Iguazú Falls (or Las Cataratas de Iguazú). As of May of 2012, the falls are one of the New Natural Wonders of the World, and I have to say, I could not agree with the distinction more. They were seriously magical. (More on that below.) Warning: There are a LOT of photos in this post.
A little geography
The town of Puerto Iguazú is located in the Misiones province of Argentina and borders both Brazil and Paraguay, separated by two large rivers that run perpendicular to each other. It was really cool to take a walk along the river up to their meeting point and be able to see all three countries at once. The falls themselves are situated on the border of both Argentina and Brazil and both countries have parks for viewing the falls. The trip from Buenos Aires was not a short one. Argentina is a pretty long country. It took us a little over 18 hour by bus to get to Iguazú – an overnight trip in what could have been quite possibly the worst seats on a sleeper bus. But we made it. We left Friday evening at 8pm (or thereabouts) and arrived in Puerto Iguazú at about 2:30pm the following day. More of traveling by bus to come in a subsequent post.
As you can imagine, Puerto Iguazú is a small tourist town. There is a central “downtown” location with varying restaurants and bars and not to far from there is the bus station that has some stores and restaurants around it. The town has an array of sleeping accommodations ranging from some pretty nice hostels to high end hotels – some with casinos, others with bungalows in the middle of the jungle, and still others overlooking the falls. To save a little money, we opted for the hostel route. Most hostels offer more than just the dorm style sleeping and we were able to get our own room with our own bathroom AND air conditioning for a fraction of the cost of a regular hotel. The air conditioning was key because summer near the equator = HOT. Reminds me of Florida heat actually. A humid and somewhat stifling heat. We stayed at the Hostel Bambu. It wasn’t the most luxurious accommodations, but it was clean, comfortable, well decorated, and really quite nice for a hostel. The staff was young (18-19) and most didn’t speak much english, but they could not have been nicer helping us with anything we needed.
Saturday, December 22
We arrived in Iguazú on Saturday around 3pm. Unfortunately, the cold that Jesse had been trying to fight off since Wednesday took its hold over the long bus ride. By the time we got there, the poor guy was totally wiped out with a swollen throat and other cold symptoms. We checked into the hostel and turned on the AC and he promptly curled up in bed and went to sleep. In the evening, I decided to take a little walk along the river, while he was sleeping, up to the point where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. Here two rivers run perpendicular to each other, acting as natural borders between the countries. I wish Jesse could have gone with me, but I was happy he was finally getting to have a good sleep.
Oh also, on the way back, a truck came barreling along the road and a guy dressed in a Santa outfit (sans beard and belly) was standing in the back shouting and pumping his fists in the air. It’s especially funny because Santa isn’t really a big deal here, so that was a pretty odd sight.
Sunday, December 23
To give Jesse a little more time to recover before doing the hikes around the waterfalls and also because of the schedules of companies for the holidays, we decided to do some activities in the jungle the afternoon on Sunday. The truck picked us and about 15 other people up at our hotels and then drove us into the jungle where we did ziplining, a little hiking, and got to repel down a waterfall. It was a low impact but really fun afternoon.
There are a couple different groups of people who live out here. Some are just living in the rural area, some are farmers given some land in the forest by the government to cultivate, and some are the indigenous people who live on protected lands. They have some access to government services – they have schools and can go to clinics in an emergency – but they don’t pay the same taxes.
A brief view of the start of Jesse’s ziplining adventure…
No video of me but…
Erin’s Descent (Jesse got a long video. I start coming down around the 1 minute mark. Also I just want to say that the guy on the bridge below has power over you and can pull you in any direction he wants. I was doing just fine and was going to avoid the waterfall and then I got a tug to my left and was pulled straight into it.)
Monday, December 24
The Iguazú National Park is open 365 days a year so even though December 24th is a national holiday, the park was open. We lucked out with the weather. It was a really beautiful day, sunny and hot, but not stifling. Also, because it was a holiday and a Monday I think, the park was relatively empty. It was really nice.
Once you enter the park, there is a train that takes you along the orange line in the map below up to the Estación Garganta where you get of and then walk along a long bridge path over the river and through some woods (:)) to get to the Garganta del Diablo, a HUGE waterfall.
We then took an ecological tour going down the river on a rubber boat that seated about 10-15. The guide was really nice and very knowledgeable. We followed in spanish, for the most part…
A short video so you can see and hear the waterfalls and the jungle around.
Christmas eve in most of Latin America is the night of the big family dinner and gatherings. Jesse was still feeling icky and couldn’t really taste the food or wine unfortunately, but he was a trooper and after an afternoon rest, we went to dinner at a seafood restaurant in town called Aqua. It was delicious and a great way to end our trip.
Tuesday, December 25
Unfortunately our Christmas Day was spent on the bus going back to Buenos Aires. HOWEVER, this bus had more room to stretch out, better food, AND they played some movies including Home Alone!! We watched movies, read, and relaxed all the way back to the city.
The falls took our breath away. They were one of the most beautiful things the two of us have ever seen. Walking up to the various views, you feel like you are stepping back in time to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or are going to some fantasy world. You could imagine that behind the falls lay Rivendell. 🙂 If you are ever in the area, I HIGHLY recommend making a trip to see them. The 18+ hour bus ride was vale la pena (worth the pain) to see the waterfalls.