01 April 2012

Week 81: Trip to Iguassu Falls Day 4

 The fourth day of the trip we went to Argentina to see the falls from that side of the river. I highly recommend that anyone going to see the falls to take a day and go to the Argentina part of the park. This was our first time crossing an international boundary by car, and it was a little different waiting in the line of cars at the border checkpoints. Just before the Argentina check point, there is a large Duty Free mall just in case someone needs to stock up on perfume and chocolates from Europe.

On the bridge crossing into Argentina from Brazil.
 I also got a chance to practice speaking Portuguese and adapting it for Spanish speakers at the various check points and ticket booths. Signs leading up to the park said the entrance fee had to be paid on local currency. We went ahead without stopping at a money exchange hoping they would take a credit card, which they didn't, but they did accept reais as local currency. The lady at the booth also gave us the Brazilian rate since we were residents. I think she appreciated that we were diplomats trying to speak a local language, and that we had a large family.

Sitting outside the visitors center.
Visitor's center exhibit.

We elected to pay for one of the ecotours called the Grand Adventure, and we taken with about 50 other people loaded on troop carrier trucks and driven down a 5 km trail through the rain forest to the river. Along the way the guide pointed out various trees and talked about the forest wildlife, and he spoke Spanish and English, though the English parts of the talk did not have as many details or jokes. We only saw a few birds, butterflies and golden orb spiders. This part of the tour lasted about half an hour.

One of the four trucks for our tour.
We sat in the back row.
The foliage was very thick and appeared dry.
The truck ride ended, and we were directed to a stairway that led down to the river. Apparently the park was developing this end of the trail since a group of men were working in a big hole that looked like the foundation for a latrine. This was a moment that I wish I had had my camera ready because the workers were trying to remove a large basalt rock jutting out from them wall. Two of them were leaning over the edge of the hole, one holding the handle of a jackhammer. A third man was balanced on the edge of another rock in the wall and operating the jackhammer with one hand and holding onto the wall with the other hand. A fourth man was standing in the hole below the jackhammer and the first rock. None of them had safety equipment, and it was clearly a precarious method for removing a jutting stone. Fortunately there was a first aid station nearby.

We walked down a flight of stairs to the river where we were given life vests and big vinyl bags for our stuff before boarding motorboats that would take us up the river to the falls. The boat ride lasted about half an hour and ended with several close approaches to the falls. It was very fun, everyone got drenched. It was totally worth the additional fee. The tour operators also offer a boat ride only version of this tour as well that starts at the end point of the Grand Adventure tour.

Following our tour, we decided to take the ferry over to the island and hike the trails up to the falls there. There is no fee for the ferry, but it only runs for a limited time on certain days. These trails also take visitors very close to the falls, and along the way we got to see tegu lizards and vultures. It was at this point that we were getting pretty hungry, and I realized that I had not packed all the snacks into my backpack, just some granola bars and candy. I thought that we would be able to make it back to the car, but the trails were too long, and it was too far to go. I should also have had the kids carry extra water.
We made our way back to the ferry and started the long hike back up the cliffs. The trails took us up close to the falls and at various levels. There is an incredible amount of water, and it is an absolutely beautiful park.
Up at the top we found a snack stand and gift shop and purchased some empanadas for lunch. They accepted pesos, reais, dollars and credit cards, so it was pretty easy to pay. In addition to other guests, the lunch area was full of coatis. There were several signs warning people to not feed the animals, but from what I could observe, the animals had no trouble getting food from what was dropped and/or abandoned as well.
Next, we walked to the train station and took the train to the other end of the park to see the Devil's Throat part of the falls. The train dropped us off at the beginning of a trail of raised walkways that took us over the river to the falls. The walk was about 1 km over fast moving but relatively peaceful water to the roar of the falls. Along the way, we were able to some turtles and catfish in the river as well.

We took the train back to the other set of upper trails that gave us a view of the falls from the top. The walkways go over the falls, near the edge of the drops, and provide a great view of the river below. These close-up, upper views are what set the Argentina side of the river apart from the panoramic, distant from from the Brazil side.
I think this was my most picturesque photo of the day.

We counted 15 juvenile coatis in this group.
We drove back to the Porta de Iguazu to find a restaurant for dinner. This Argentine town is set up for tourists and has several places to eat and hotels. The food was good, but the restaurant did not take credit cards. Fortunately, they did take reais so we were able to travel this part of Argentina without having to exchange money.
As we were entering town, we encountered a storm.

I like the variations in school crossing signs.

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