Iguaçu Falls Brazil & Argentina

This morning we had an early start in order to cross the border into Brazil with the hope of beating the crowds to the falls. A stone path leads through the park to several platforms with excellent views of the falls from many different angles. You can get close enough to the thundering torrents to feel the power and the spray. Walkways take you over the waterways to some impressive falls and a very different view than from the Argentinean side. We spent a leisurely morning walking all the trails and finally getting soaking wet on the last boardwalk when the wind shifted and brought all the spray our direction.

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After lunch we returned to the Argentinean side of the falls where we could approach, view, and feel the falls from a number of angles. It is an awesome sight and photos cannot do it justice but I tried.

 

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We returned to our hotel late afternoon just as  the rain started, how’s that for good timing!   Two brave souls decided to take the boat ride where they traveled  through the Iguaçu River Canyon, passing through a few river rapids, before reaching the calm side of San Martin Island. From there they sailed on for upclose views of two of the park’s waterfalls—first to Tres Mosqueteros for a view of both the Argentinean and Brazilian sides of Iguassu, and then to the largest and most impressive waterfall, the San Martin.

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Meanwhile back at the hotel we were sitting in our room reading when I looked up and the sky was darkening, within minutes the thunder and lightening began, strike after strike; all I could think about were Mary and Mike out in the boat. After about an hour we went down to the bar to wait for their return. It wasn’t long before Mary’s husband joined us, he was worried so we helped distract him until Mary and Mike walked in soaking wet from head to toe leaving puddles as they made their way across the lobby – home safe.

Listening to their description of the ride I am glad that we opted out.

 

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Iguaçu Falls

Yet another flight, this time north to Iguaçu Falls on the Argentina/Brazil border, the falls at Iguaçu are among the world’s most impressive sights; we will get to explore both sides, I am very excited.

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After arriving at Iguaçu, we drove to the Argentine side of the falls, it was about 3 p.m. and the park closes at 5 p.m. so we boarded the last train to the Devil’s Throat and then hiked out over a series of grated bridges to the Devil’s Throat, an area where the water rushes over a 262 foot drop into a chasm seeming to have no end. Any bottom that does exist was completely blurred by the dense mist. It was mesmerizing! As we stood and watched the sun would peek out from the clouds and as it did the rainbows appeared.

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Train to the Devil’s Throat

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A series of bridges lead out to the falls

Compared to the Brazilian side, here I was standing right at the mouth of the most powerful fall in Iguaçu. To me, it was incomprehensible how much water could flow through that space in such a short amount of time. The thunderous sounds, the mist, the visual of water breaking into millions of drops and splashing in disparate ways. Yesterday I saw the Devil’s Throat. Today I was feeling it.

The Argentinean side has about 80% of the falls, and many of them can be seen from up close through a series of walkways known as the Upper Circuit and Lower Circuit but this is all for today, the park is closing and we need to get back.

The Devil's Throat

The Devil’s Throat

The Devil's Throat

The Devil’s Throat

Pano of the Devil's Throat

Pano of the Devil’s Throat

Back at the hotel we get settled before dinner and then take a look around the lobby and outside. There is a beautiful pool area that I don’t think we will have to time to take advantage of but that’s okay; it is not the reason we are here.

American Hotel at Iguaçu

Dinner is delicious and we are eager for tomorrow to see the Brazilian side of the falls and the remainder of the Argentinean side. Sleep comes quickly.

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Parana Delta

All of the flights had been changed and we had received our new itinerary last night; it was impossible to get everyone on the same flight so the group was divided, one group leaving on the red eye last night for Buenos Aires and the rest of us flying out this morning via Santiago, Chile  to Buenos Aires.

The flight was delayed 2 hours in Santiago due to a problem with the oxygen . . . that’s a long story and I will post more on Travelpod, it seemed the travel gods were against us.   Eduardo met us at the airport, again long story – short version he did not know our plane would be delayed until he got to the airport – we picked up our luggage and transferred to the hotel.  It had been a long trying day of travel and we were tired so rather than go out for dinner opted to grab a sandwich in the hotel restaurant.

Argenta Tower Hotel

Next morning, feeling rested we reunited with the group and after breakfast traveled about 40 minutes outside the hustle bustle of the city to an area called Tigre, a popular weekend getaway for locals.    Tigre lies on the lush Parana Delta; the island is surrounded by several small streams and rivers and offers a relaxing atmosphere. The area’s name derives from the “tigres” or jaguars that were once hunted here. Europeans settled here to farm the land; a port developed serving the Delta, bringing fruit and wood from the Delta and ports upstream on the Paraná River. Today, antiques shops, riverside restaurants and pubs, a casino and Parque de la Costa, (an amusement park) along with its natural beauty make Tigre a popular weekend and tourist destination throughout the year. It is also the where boat excursions of the Parana Delta begin.

 

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Parque de la Costa

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Tour Boats

Vintage mahogany commuter launches wind their way through a web of inter-connecting rivers and streams. Humble dwellings and elegant mansions from the “Belle Epoque” to small pensions, upscale lodges, restaurants, teahouses and simple picnic sites sit side by side. There are no roads other than the maze of waterways. Everything moves by boat, ambulance service is by boat, groceries are delivered by boat, the school bus is a boat and travel between the small islands is by boat. It is very peaceful existence and many full time residents call it home.

 

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Life on the Delta

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The cruise was just the relaxation everyone needed after a long night/day of travel and to decompress a bit from our frustrations and disappointment, very calming.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/travel/28tigre-overnighter.html?_r=0

One of our best meals in Buenos Aires, next to the steak dinner, was at Broccolino’s Italian restaurant, a short walk from the hotel. Our guide and the owner are good friends so not only did we have a great meal but the owner was quite entertaining, giving a running commentary on the food, we really enjoyed him just as much as the food. Four of us shared a plate of the sautéed calamari then George and I shared a delicious eggplant au gratin and couldn’t finish it all. Susan and the other Nancy had pasta that looked amazing but again huge servings. The house wine was also very good. It is a family restaurant and most of the people in there were locals, it had a very cozy atmosphere and was packed when we left with people waiting for tables. A good tip . . . thank you Eduardo.

Broccolino’s

We had the afternoon on our own and decided to explore more of the Historic plazas and Puerto Modero area – photos posted earlier in the blog under Buenos Aires. Late afternoon we bid farewell to some of our group who were heading home and we repacked for our trip to Iguaçu Falls.

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

 This morning we meet our local guide, Carolina and she is instantly likable, passionate about her country, nature conservation, ecology, and life in general, looking forward to spending time with her on our 2-hour drive into Los Glaciares National Park to visit the very accessible Perito Moreno Glacier.  Just outside of Calafate we can see ice bergs on the far shore of the lake, these have traveled more than 50 miles from the glacier, blown by the winds.

As we drive Carolina talks about Patagonia and of the special relationship they share with Chile in this part of the world, so far from everything. It can be a difficult existence with the harsh climate; nearly constant winds and great distances between towns but according to Carolina the people that live here do so because they love this dramatic landscape and the beauty that surrounds them – so what about the brutal winters? Well, she says, winter is for making babies.

As we drive out of Calafate very quickly the landscape opens up to vast plains bordered by mountains and the ribbon of highway. Our driver willingly stops whenever he or Carolina sees something that might be of interest; there isn’t much traffic to worry about.

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Guanaco

Breaking up the browns of the plains are bright yellow flowers of the calafate bush or box-leaved barberry, Patagonia’s best-known plant and easy to spot this time of year. Vindictive thorns protect the bushes; the wood is used to make a red dye, the edible berries are harvested to for jams and ice cream and it has some medicinal properties being used like eucalyptus for colds.

Legend says “Él que come el calafate, volverá” (he who eats calafate will return).

Calafate Bush

Calafate Bush

 

On down the road we stop again, this time to get out and watch three enormous Andean condors soaring high above – these enormous birds are second in size to the California condor.  They carry a lot of weight with their 10-foot wingspans and rather than flapping their enormous wings they are able to use the tips of the wings like fingers to take advantage of the currents adjusting their glide.  Awesome sight.

Andean Condor

Andean Condor

Entering Los Glaciares National Park we stop for a little orientation; Carolina tells us more about the park and the Perito Moreno Glacier one of only three glaciers in Patagonia that is still growing.

CAROLINA

CAROLINA

LAGO ARGENTINO

LAGO ARGENTINO

Created in 1937, Los Glaciares is the second-largest national park in Argentina, and comprises more than 1,700 square miles and nearly 50 large glaciers. These glaciers are fed by a giant icecap, the largest continental ice extension after Antarctica and world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. The Southern Patagonia ice field begins in the Andes and occupies well over a third of the park’s total area.

The glaciers here are unique. Unlike other glaciers, which typically formed at least roughly 8,200 feet above sea level, the icy marvels at Los Glaciares form much lower, around 5,000 feet. The lower points of origin are a boon to visitors, as they offer unique access—visually and physically—to glaciers.

Perito Moreno Glacier is a pristine marvel towering nearly 200 feet above Lake Argentino. The constant, cyclical movement of Perito Moreno’s ice mass often forces the glacier to “calve.” This means that smaller chunks of ice fracture and break off from the glacier accompanied by thunderous noises. It’s quite a spectacle, and can occur at any time. We heard many calving events but only witnessed one.   They seem to patiently wait until you have turned your back or are otherwise distracted.

PERITO MORENO GLACIER

PERITO MORENO GLACIER

PERITO MORENO GLACIER

PERITO MORENO GLACIER

 

East of the ice fields are areas of southern beech forest and the windswept Patagonian steppes. It was a beautiful ride to and from the glacier, along Lago Argentino and passing through scenic forests and the wide-open steppes.

 

 

Calafate

After an early breakfast we traveled to the regional airport for our 5-hour flight to Calafate, a boomtown near Argentina’s border with Chile, (Patagonia) arriving around noon.

For 65 million years, the land here has been raised by chaotic volcanic eruptions and carved by massive glaciers, creating a series of jagged islands, interconnected fjords and channels, and mountainside glacial lakes. The area is named for the indigenous calafate bush—locals say eating its berries will ensure your return to this mystical region.

We transferred to our hotel, settled into our rooms and then took a walk around the small town.

After a quick lunch we met back at the hotel for a walk to the Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve situated about a mile from downtown El Calafate and very close to the hotel. This beautiful marsh area is worth exploring. The Reserve is situated at the edge of a great glacial lake, Lago Argentino. A nice path leads you around the preserve with many prime bird-viewing opportunities.  The nearly flat path is of good quality and easy to walk perhaps 3-4 miles (4-6 km) depending on how many side-paths you explore.  The trail winds beside the lagoons, through grassland, bush, sand dunes, and beside the turquoise waters of the glacial lake.  Panoramic views of Patagonian Andes can easily be spotted in the distance while side paths lead to bird blinds, good places to escape the wind and blend in for better bird viewing.

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Laguna Nimez

Patagonian Andes in the distance

Chimango

Chimango

Laguna Nimez

Laguna Nimez looking back at Calafate

Bandurria Austral (Ibis)

Bandurria Austral (Ibis)

Pato Creston (Crested Duck)

Pato Creston (Crested Duck)

Upland Geese

Upland Geese

Flamingo

Flamingo

Sobrepuesto

Sobrepuesto

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George in front of the bird blind

For dinner we tried a  little restaurant recommended for good salads and vegetarian options.  It was quite delightful.  We thought we had each ordered a  glass of wine but they brought a bottle . . . what are you going to do when you don’t speak the language?  The price was the same for the bottle as two glasses of wine in Seattle.

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Rather than a bread basket diners are served carrot sticks with some kind of mustard dip, it was refreshing and the dip was really good although I have no idea what else was in it.  The walls were adorned with children’s artwork, perhaps the owner’s child.  Lovely little place.

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Our hotel had a very homey feel to it with a large comfortable lobby and sitting areas, a game room and bar.  It had the look and feel of  a ski lodge.

Kosten Aike Hotel

Kosten Aike Hotel

Kosten Aike Hotel

Kosten Aike Hotel

Kosten Aike Hotel

Kosten Aike Hotel

 

Buenos Aires: Parting Shots

Rather than order this blog chronologically I have grouped all of the shots from Buenos Aires right up front.  In reality we were there three different times.  We arrived into Buenos Aires, spent a couple of days before moving on to Calafate.  Then we flew back to Buenos Aires from the southern most point of our trip, spent another day and night before flying to Iguazu Falls and returned once more to catch our flight home.  In all we had 4 days in the city and began to feel very comfortable there, it is a good walking city if you like to walk but the sidewalks and streets are always crowded.

As I mentioned it is not a particularly attractive city so we had to really look for photo ops.  There are lovely little nooks and crannies but mostly narrow crowded streets and a jumble of architectural styles. Here are some random parting shots.

Spires

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Street Festival

Symphony in the street

Symphony in the street

 

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The ever-present Evita

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Fisherman’s Club

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Downtown greenery

Rooftop pool and lounge area in our hotel

Beautiful Building Details

 

San Telmo Neighborhood

Park near La Recoleta

Quiet Sunday

Downtown Hotel

San Telmo Neighborhood

Cartoon figure in the San Telmo neighborhood

Brazilian Embassy

Brazilian Embassy

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Escuela Presidente Roca in downtown plaza

 

Buenos Aires: La Recoleta and Puerto Modero

La Recoleta  is an area with tree lined streets, elegant homes, fashionable restaurants and shops and the famous La Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. You could wander for hours in this amazing city of the dead with impressive statuary, marble sarcophagi, tombs, mausoleums and crypts. The city’s most elite sector of society made it past these gates – past presidents, military heroes, influential politicians and the just plain rich and famous. Evita’s grave is down one of the side streets and easily missed.  For about $50,000 and a $3,000 month fee you can still be buried here.

 

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One evening we enjoyed a home hosted dinner with a young couple and their 6-year-old daughter. Aida and Mario live in a small condominium and Aida greeted us in the lobby then took us on a little tour of her neighborhood as she shopped for some last minute groceries. Within a couple of blocks she had access to a bakery, grocery store. On the walk back to her home we passed a pasta shop where, she said, they make fresh pasta every day. We were surprised to learn that the second largest group of ethnics is Italian.

Aida was originally from Spain and came to Buenos Aires to work on a yearlong project at the embassy. Mario is Argentinean and from La Pampa, land of the gauchos.   When Aida moved here she wanted to learn something very Argentinean and enrolled in tango classes. She would venture out to the tango clubs in the evening to practice her newfound skill and eventually that is where she met Mario, at a tango club. They have a 6-year-old daughter who was very shy, keeping to herself until late in the visit when she finally joined us but still clung to daddy.

Mario is the cook and along with a delicious dinner he prepared for us the traditional dessert of Argentina, flan, the best I’ve ever eaten. We had a delightful evening enjoying the company and conversation very much; they were candid about their life, their politics, their passions (tango, meat, wine, soccer and matte) and made us feel like part of their family. Aida did most of the talking, Mario was a bit shy because he is still learning English but we encouraged him and with more wine he began to feel more comfortable. They are a charming couple. After dinner they surprised us by dancing for us on the patio. It was quite wonderful; their condo is one of a few in the building that has a large patio area that Aida has turned into a garden. We watched as they gracefully tangoed under the stars, it was magical.

Puerto Modero is an upscale redeveloped waterfront area and one of the trendiest boroughs in Buenos Aires, occupying a significant portion of the Rio de la Plata riverbank and representing the latest architectural trends in the city. In the 1990’s this massive regeneration effort recycled and refurbished warehouses into elegant lofts, offices, hotels, and restaurants, cinema and theater. Old cranes have been left in place as a reminder of the past.  Two old saling ships contrast with the modern high rise buildings and the riverside promenade is a lovely open space to stroll or just sit and people watch.

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Puente de la Mujer

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