Exploring Argentina: Iguazu Falls and a ¡Feliz Navidad! to you

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.

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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.

Puerto Iguazú

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.

The entrance to our hostel. Re chill

The entrance to our hostel. Re chill

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.

A house in the town, walking on my way to the downtown.

A house in the town, walking on my way to the downtown.

Driving north through Argentina, the lanscape changed and the primary colors became a lush green and deep clay red. The colors and the smell in the air reminded me of summers in Georgia after a rain.

Driving north through Argentina, the lanscape changed and the primary colors became a lush green and deep clay red. Seeing the red dust that covered everything and smelling the air, I was reminded of summers in Georgia after a rain. (This sounds super cheesy but it’s true… also I’m super cheesy so there you go.)

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walking along the river

walking along the river

It seems as though there are random free WiFi zones all over Argentina. Convenient.

It seems as though there are random free WiFi zones all over Argentina. Convenient.

This was so cool. From far away I thought the "mural" was graffiti, but getting closer you can see that it is actually a wood carving that spans the side of the hill. That with the formation of the rocks below makes the walk along the river very interesting.

This was so cool. From far away I thought the “mural” was graffiti, but getting closer you can see that it is actually a wood carving that spans the side of the hill. That combined with the formation of the rocks below makes the walk along the river very interesting.

Just chillin, enjoying the early evening.

Just chillin, enjoying the early evening.

Beautiful sunset over Brazil (on the left) and Argentina (on the right)

Beautiful sunset over Brazil (on the left) and Argentina (on the right)

We had flowers just like this at our wedding!

We had flowers just like this at our wedding! Ixora is the name (I think).

This is the meeting point of the three countries: Brazil on the right, Paraguay ahead, and I'm in Argentina (obviously...)

This is the meeting point of the three countries: Brazil on the right, Paraguay ahead, and I’m in Argentina (obviously…)

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.

In the truck, ready to go!

In the truck, ready to go!

Driving in the rural area on the clay roads, right outside of the city proper.

Driving in the rural area on the clay roads, right outside of the city proper.

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.

As we got into the rural area, the construction and commercial space almost disappeared and stores like this selling drinks or staples like rice and yerba started popping up.

As we got into the rural area and stores like this selling drinks or staples like rice and yerba started popping up. (The sign says: Drinks, Fries, Ice)

Some of the locals

Some of the locals

Getting buckled into my harness to go ziplining.

Getting buckled into my harness to go ziplining.

He looks like a miner ha ha

He looks like a miner ha ha

Ready to go on my first ziplining experience.

Ready to go on my first ziplining experience.

Beautiful butterflies were everywhere!

Beautiful butterflies were everywhere!

This was the ladder to the first point. It was not the most stable and looked like it had been there for a while. This girl from Germany started rocking it back and forth and I started to freak out. I decided, contrary to my previous beliefs, I would not like to live in a tree house like the Swiss Family Robinson.

This was the ladder to the first take off point. It was not the most stable structure and looked like it had been there for a while. This girl from Germany started rocking it back and forth and I started to freak out. I decided, contrary to my previous beliefs, I would not like to live in a tree house like the Swiss Family Robinson.

A brief view of the start of Jesse’s ziplining adventure…

No video of me but…

I tried to take video while I was ziplining, but I think I got nervous and hit the wrong button. So you are saved of my high pitched screaming and get a view of the jungle above the canopy.

I tried to take video while I was ziplining, but I think I got nervous and hit the wrong button. So you are saved of my high pitched screaming and get a view of the jungle above the canopy instead.

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Walking through the jungle

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Destroyed by bugs… I wonder what ate that. My early childhood education from books like the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar tells me it may be the caterpillars? Also there are aphids (I think they’re aphids, they’re very loud) all around.

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A mushroom walks into the bar and the bartender says “Sorry we don’t serve mushrooms here”. The mushroom says “Why not? I’m a funghi!” ba dum ching!

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To be honest, I’m not sure where this is on the map… I think that might be Paraguay on the other side of the river, but I’m not sure…

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Spiders.

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The air plants are cool. They live up in the trees but their roots fall all the way to the ground to soak up water.

River looks so calm, but right on the other side of the bridge I'm standing on is a waterfall.

River looks so calm, but right on the other side of the bridge I’m standing on is a waterfall.

The top of the waterfall at the take off point for repelling.

The top of the waterfall at the take off point for repelling.

I was having fun playing with the shutter speed here... Slower shutter speed.

I was having fun playing with the shutter speed while waiting for Jesse to go down… Slower shutter speed.

Faster shutter speed.

Faster shutter speed.

The swimming pool for the kids... the water was really calm and very refreshing.

The swimming pool for kids and families… the water was really calm and very refreshing.

Jesse’s Descent

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.

Bus to the waterfalls

Bus to the waterfalls

A picnic on the bus...

A picnic on the bus…

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.

Map of the park on the Argentine side.

Map of the park on the Argentine side.

On the ecotrain that takes you from the start of the park up to the top.

On the ecotrain that takes you from the start of the park up to the top.

The snake here looks like a disney snake from the Jungle Book.

The snake here looks like a disney snake from the Jungle Book.

Walking along the bridge. It's amazing how these little trees can get such a hold and survive in the rushing water.

Walking along the bridge path to get to the Garganta del Diablo. It’s amazing how these little trees can get such a hold and survive in the rushing water.

First sight of the Garganta del Diablo. As you walked closer, the spray from the waterfalls started to soak you. We had to wrap the camera in a plastic bag and cover it as soon as a picture was snapped.

First sight of the Garganta del Diablo. As you walked closer, the spray from the waterfalls started to soak you. We had to wrap the camera in a plastic bag and cover it as soon as a picture was snapped.

Side view of the Garganta del Diablo. Hard to get a good view of this big waterfall from the Argentine side.

Side view of the Garganta del Diablo. Hard to get a good view of this big waterfall from the Argentine side. Looking over the edge it’s just incredible how monstrous it is.

The calm of the river flowing to its violent fall

The calm of the river flowing to its violent fall

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Another view of the falls to the left of el Diablo.

Another view of the falls to the left of el Diablo.

Yeah that's a hotel at the top of the waterfall. That's the Brazilian side...

Yeah that’s a hotel at the top of the waterfall. That’s the Brazilian side. Also, incidentally, where the spray picks up is no where close to the bottom of the waterfall. There is just so much water that it has A LOT of spray.

Covered in spray from the waterfall, which was refreshing after the heat of the sun on the walk.

Covered in spray from the waterfall, which was quite refreshing after the heat of the sun on the walk.

Love this...

Love this… yeah… cheesy.

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…

Ecotour 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...

The plumes of water shooting into the air are from waterfalls.

The plumes of water shooting into the air behind the palm trees are from waterfalls.

A cormorant sunning himself

A cormorant sunning himself

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Beautiful orchids

Beautiful orchids

Another air plant with it's roots hanging into the water.

Another air plant with it’s roots hanging into the water.

Do you see them?

Do you see them?

Croatis! I dont know the english word because I've never seen them before. They were traipsing around the whole park as if they owned the place.

Coatíes! I dont know the english word because I’ve never seen them before. They were traipsing around the whole park as if they owned the place. They dig their snouts into the dirt to find food. It’s like an ant eater raccoon mix.

A little baby crossing the path

A little baby crossing the path

So after getting close for pictures and thinking these little guys were so cute we see this. eek!

So after getting close for pictures and thinking these little guys were so cute we see this. eek! We were sitting on a bench at one point waiting for a boat trip to start and having some food and one of the coatíes started to mosey over curiously. A woman who worked at the park told us to get up and move away otherwise it would attack us.

Ominous sign. Don't get too close to the waterfall.

Ominous sign. Don’t get too close to the waterfall.

I spy a Jesse!

I spy a Jesse!

On the left is Brazil and the waterfalls ahead are part of the Garganta del Diablo. We don't have a picture of it, because we didn't want to ruin our oh so beautiful camera, but we took one of those boats through close up to the waterfalls and into the spray from the base of a couple others.

On the left is Brazil and the waterfalls ahead are part of the Garganta del Diablo. We don’t have a picture of it, because we didn’t want to ruin our oh so beautiful camera, but we took one of those boats through close up to the waterfalls and into the spray from the base of a couple others. It was really fun!

He was such a show off. He sat there, staring at me, pruning his feathers, and giving different poses. We have a whole photo shoot with him.

This guy was such a show off. He sat there, staring at me, pruning his feathers, and giving me different poses. We have a whole photo shoot with him.

We were walking along the yellow path and all of a sudden the trees opened up to this sight. It was magical.

We were walking along the yellow path and all of a sudden the trees opened up to this sight. It was magical.

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A short video so you can see and hear the waterfalls and the jungle around.

This is on the right side of the waterfalls with the palm trees in front of them.

This is on the right side of the waterfalls with the palm trees in front of them.

Las Dos Hermanas - small but beautiful.

Las Dos Hermanas – small but beautiful. I would love to go swimming in the little lake there.

Noche Buena!

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.

My elegant husband.

My very elegant husband.

Poor guy is pooped.

Poor guy is pooped.

This was an appetizer with some argentine and paraguayan delights. This one in focus is my favorite. Its a quiche type thing with crab and I think artichoke. so delicious.

This was an appetizer with some argentine and paraguayan delights. This one in focus is my favorite. Its a quiche type thing with crab and I think artichoke. so delicious. On the right of that is a type of cornbread.

Suburi fish pan fried with a pinapple mango papaya salsa on top.

Suburi fish (a very popular and local white river fish) pan fried with a pinapple mango papaya salsa on top.

Stuffed fish with cheese and onions and other good things and a salad with hearts of palm and tomatoes.

Stuffed fish with gruyere cheese and onions and other good things and a salad with hearts of palm and tomatoes.

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.

Ready to head back to Buenos Aires

Ready to head back to Buenos Aires

While getting some lunch for us, I picked up some kindereggs (jealous america?) I got a snazzy green car and Jesse got a helicopter blade that flies into the air when you pull the tab.

While getting some bus snacks for us, I picked up some kindereggs (jealous america?) I got a snazzy green car and Jesse got a helicopter blade that flies into the air when you pull the tab.

Yes, those are ham and cheese flavored crackers. I was a little scared to try them but they're actually not that bad. Taste kind of like a smokey cheese it.

Yes, those are ham and cheese flavored crackers. (these were not my bus snacks.) I was a little scared to try them but they’re actually not that bad. Taste kind of like a smokey cheez-it.

Oh yeah... chillin' and watchin' some Home Alone on Christmas Day in the bus.

Oh yeah… chillin’ and watchin’ some Home Alone on Christmas Day in the bus. Also trying to keep my feet elevated so they don’t puff up.

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.

5 responses to “Exploring Argentina: Iguazu Falls and a ¡Feliz Navidad! to you

  1. Wow, I am not sure what to say, except that one could get very jealous by reading this post and seeing those pictures. When I was a teenager, I lived in Panama and the jungle looked very much like those pictures. Brings back good memories. We use to call those Coaties coatimundi and they were pretty prevalent where we lived.

    Looks like you guys had a great adventure, except the 18 hour bus ride. I would do it in a minute if I lived there.

    • I forgot that you lived in Panama! Jesse was telling me about a certain incident with a machete… 😉 The bus ride, while long, was definitely worth it.

  2. loved reading this post, seeing the pics/vids and living vicariously through your incredible adventures! so glad you and jesse are doing-it-up and documenting as you go! love you bernsy bear ❤

  3. I look forward to reading your expressive missives. I can almost palpate the love that you and Jesse share from the photographs. I sense that it really won’t matter where you are. The constant is the love and respect each of you has for the other. You will carry that as a constant no matter where you reside and no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.

    That being said, I am awestruck at the beauty of the country you are in and of the culture of the people who reside there. I thank you for letting me vicariously share in your experience.

    Love to both of you,

    Uncle Michael

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