Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Iguazu Falls, Argentina (2008)

After our second short stint in Buenos Aires, we flew to Iguazu, to see the famous waterfalls.

On the morning of our flight, I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffy nose, and was afraid I was getting sick, but it went away soon after we arrived in Iguazu, so I later concluded it was due to smoke inhalation.

For once we had a lazy morning; we did do a little more shopping at the Galerias Pacifico but otherwise just hung out at the hotel until it was time to go to the airport.

We arrived in Iguazu in mid-afternoon. There was a small hiccup when one person went looking for a bathroom and ended up outside the baggage claim area, but she had all the baggage claim tags. In the end we apparently looked sufficiently clueless that the guy was convinced we weren't luggage thieves and let us through.

It was a short ride by car ($12.50) to our lodge, the Riotropic. The lodge grounds were quite pretty, and our room was large, but wooden walls meant poor sound insulation and encounters with some creepy crawly things on several occasions.


When the first person went to take a shower, the rest of us heard a blood-curdling scream a few minutes later as she'd discovered a gecko on the wall of the shower. She soon reported that the shower pressure was absurdly bad, and the shower "stall" was basically the entire bathroom.

For dinner, we headed into the town of Puerto Iguazu. We ended up at a place called El Quincho del Tio Querido, where we had a fabulous dinner. The entrees were about $7-8 each, the decor was nice, with colorful tablecloths and lights strung up along the ceilings, and there was even live music. I ordered the "Lomo Michael" special which turned out to be beef loin wrapped in pancetta with a delicious gravy, served with cooked apples, prunes, onions, carrots, and bits of jelly (almost like cherries). The overall flavor was a little sweet, almost Asian, and they'd cooked the meat properly medium rare, for once. Yum!


I also had a "licuado"; a shake of sorts with papaya, peach, banana, and pineapple. In the end we were all really happy with our meal. Afterwards, we stopped by a souvenir shop and discovered the T-shirts were really cheap there, so we bought a bunch.

The travel day had been somewhat rainy, but luckily for us, the next morning dawned bright and clear. After our hotel breakfast (quite tasty, and served on a patio), three of us caught a taxi to Iguazu Park. The entrance fee was about $10, which we later agreed was very reasonable. We spent some time trying to book a moonlight tour for that evening, and decided on the $23 option with dinner at La Selva, instead of the $13 option without dinner.

By the time we actually entered the park it was after 9:30am. We walked the Green Trail to the station, and then continued on the Lower Circuit (aka "Circuito Inferior") to San Martin Island.


Along the way, we saw some great views, some with rainbows, and lots of small animals (lizards, birds, butterflies, and other insects).





I think this must be some kind of giant rodent; they were all over the place.


These coatis were too fast for me; I only caught their tails.


We met up with the fourth person for lunch; she'd stayed back at the lodge that morning. Lunch was not exciting (pizza) and not cheap. Afterwards we took the train to Devil's Throat (aka "La Garganta del Diablo"), through which flows half of the overall volume of the river. It was an amazing feeling just to stand there at the top getting sprayed by the mist and looking all around. My camera kept getting wet, but it was well worth it.



We rode the train back down and then took a "Grand Adventure" tour. As we were waiting for the tour to start, there was a small commotion among our fellow tourgoers, and we looked up to see several toucans.


The first part of the tour involved riding in a 4x4 through the jungle. After that there was a boat trip, during which we got drenched by several of the falls, including the San Martin (the second largest fall). I thought the jungle part was kind of hokey and we'd spent plenty of time walking around the jungle earlier in the day already, but the boat part was really fun.

We spent our last hour on the Upper Circuit, until we were subtly herded out by a park ranger. The moonlight tour got cancelled due to weather and/or lack of a moon, so we got refunded and went back to town for dinner. This time we ate at El Charo, which was about the same price as El Quincho, but the food was noticeably worse in comparison. The four of us ordered various types of lomo, with pimienta, ajillo, champignon, etc., and it was all okay but not awesome like the previous day. We did discover caipirinha by accident; someone ordered it because she saw "azucar" and thought it would be a soft drink, but when it turned out to be alcoholic, she had the rest of us help her finish it. I decided very quickly that I was a fan.

Back at the lodge, we had an incident with someone discovering ants in her hair, and I managed to break the flusher on the toilet, but eventually we all got to sleep.

On the day of our return journey, we slept in and got up around 9am. Our air conditioner had gone wonky overnight so we were pretty cold in the morning, but luckily no one got sick from that. At breakfast we ran into a couple from Los Angeles who spoke excellent Spanish. Their month-long itinerary included Mendoza, Bariloche, El Calafate, and Ushuia. I was madly jealous.

We caught a taxi to the airport at noon and arrived at 12:20pm. The check-in agent automatically moved us up from our 2:10pm flight to a "12:25pm" flight which he said was leaving 20 minutes late anyway. It ended up leaving at 1:10pm, so we got to Buenos Aires a bit before 3pm. We claimed our luggage and found a car to take us to Ezeiza (the international airport) for $25. The air was even nastier than before, and it was at this point we finally found a newspaper and figured out what was happening. It took us about 15-20 minutes to get the car, and the ride took another 40 minutes, with me covering my nose with my sleeves practically the entire time.

Once we got to Ezeiza, the rest of our trip home went smoothly.

I'm quite amused reading through these notes now, because I wrote that I bought a Peruvian alpaca scarf at the airport, because "who knows when I'll be in Peru?". I guess there's no way I could have known that I'd be hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu only a year later.

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