07 March 2012

Week 81: Trip to Foz do Iguaçu Day 3

We stayed at the Pousada Caroline while in Foz do Iguaçu. This little hotel was located on a street just off the main highway that led to the national park. Rebecca found this hotel through www.hostelfinder.com. The hotel looks like a small house from the front, but extends back and down the lot. Most of the rooms have a king size bed made from two twin mattresses placed together and a bunk bed. We rented three apartments, one of which had enough beds to sleep seven. This was not advertised on the third party websites, and we probably could have fit all of us into two rooms. The arrangement we had ended up working well for our family.

Besides being cozy, the staff their were quite friendly and a few of them spoke English. The evening clerk was actually from California. Guests could also make reservations and pay for tourist attractions through the hotel front desk, usually at a discount. They also had a shuttle service and tours available. Like most hotels in Brazil, they also had a nice continental breakfast featuring an abundance of cakes and breads. We ate on an outdoor porch and we enjoyed watching the sparrows snag bits of cake from abandoned plates.

Foz do Iguaçu National Park

The falls national park was about a 25-minute drive from the hotel. Personal cars are not permitted in the park, so we parked in the park's lot and went to the ticket booth to pay the admission fee. We then hopped a bus that took us to the start of the main trail along the canyon overlooking the falls.

It has been said that when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguaçu Falls, she said, "Oh, poor Niagara." And she was right. These falls are super big and stretch along for several kilometers. From the Brazilian side, we were able to get good views of the various steps of the falls as they pour endlessly and tremendously into the river canyon. They are pretty amazing. It took us about almost two hours to hike from the beginning of the trail to the main Devil's Throat, the most famous and largest drop. The trail was paved and had a good rail. There was also a restroom and snack stand about half way and at the end of the trail.

At the beginning, we saw several coatis, which are the South American equivalent of a raccoon. They seemed to be fairly tame and they got very close to park visitors. Several signs advised us to not feed them, though the coati seemed quite capable of finding the garbage and crumbs around the snack stands. Joseph was particularly interested in the coatis, and took several photos.

About hour an hour into our hike, Abby was getting pretty grumpy. It was a long walk, I didn't bring enough snacks, and all there was to see were a bunch of trees and waterfalls and no animals. Rebecca asked her what was wrong, and she explained that she wanted to know where the zoo was since we said we were going to Igua"zoo" today.

There were all kinds of butterflies and colorful moths along the trail feeding on the various flowers. I managed to get a photo of this red-bottomed moth when it was resting on a hand rail.

We even saw a yellow-billed toucan, the largest of the toucan species living in the park.

My nephew sent us a Flat Stanley, and we took him with us on our adventures. He here is with a view of the Devil's Throat.

We finally arrived at the exciting part, the Devil's Throat, where a walkway had been built to take visitor's out over the falls. Here we got wet from the spray and got a good look at the immense wall of water pouring into a giant pit. It was also nice to feel the cool spray on this warm and sunny day.

The trail ended with an elevator ride up to the top of the falls. Each step up gave a different view, and it was quite extraordinary.

The river above the falls is very wide and gives an impression of calm before the fall.

We had intended to buy lunch on the park, but the selection was poor, lines long and food was expensive, so we caught the bus back to the visitor's center, and then walked through a little exhibit that explained the natural and culture history of the falls, showing that they were formed by a series of volcanic eruptions and lava flows and the wildlife in the area, and various human occupations.

Parque dos Aves

Our next stop was the bird park, an aviary with hundreds of birds representing Brazilian species located just across the street from the national park visitor's center. We didn't realize how close the bird park was, and I drove and paid for parking again and thus supporting the local economy.

Surprisingly, there was no food at the parking lot snack stand, so I bought everyone some ice cream from a guy selling ice cream. I though this would sustain us over until we reached the park's snack stand. Unfortunately, that was situated at the end of the tour, and it took about two hours for us to walk through the park.

The kids saw some brown flamingoes and called them "lamemingoes" because they weren't pink. I was surprised at how long the trail through the bird park lasted. Highlights for me were the walk through aviaries with several roaming birds, seeing several species of toucans, and the aviary with about 30 or so macaws. They even had enough room to fly.

Zoológico Bosque Guaraní

The zoo in Iguaçu is small and underfunded. It was built in 1996, and looks like no money has gone into it since then. The animals featured were local to this region of Brazil and Argentina. The admission is free, and that might be part of the problem. The kids complained about not having had lunch and called us horrible. Rebecca responded by letting them know they were the most entertaining things in the zoo. We also had an interesting discussion on the engineering needed to make a bra work without a center strap.

We parked on the street along the zoo since it had no lot. I had some trepidation about doing so, but there really was no other place to park. When we returned to the car, Jacob noticed that a piece of the roof rack was missing. It appears that someone may have been trying to remove the bars but after jabbing a screwdriver in the holes and finally pulling off the shield, discovered they didn't have the tools to complete the job. It's too bad that they didn't leave the cover. Now I will need to find one.

Dinner was at a pizza rodizio featured in the Quatro Rodos guide book. It was inexpensive and included ice cream, pasta, fried chicken and French fries. The pizza was mediocre even by Brazilian standards, but the kids were too hungry to complain. We also were seated at the table next to the front door. It was a tight fit and one chair was on the doorway ramp. All the other tables were reserved for a tour bus group. Fortunately, we finished up and got out just as the bus was unloading.

That evening, I played with the younger four kids in the hotel pool for about an hour. It's a really narrow, long pool, and we managed to keep ourselves entertained by going back and forth in various manners. I also pulled out the waterproof camera, and we took some underwater photos. This camera was very handy for our ride to the falls the next day.

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Location:Foz do Iguaçu