Hello my dear readers!
This is going to be long, but I shall reward you with a lot of pictures of the most beautiful place I have ever been if you stay with me!
Last week was our “spring” break (it’s actually fall here), so my wonderful travel buddy and I decided to go a-travelin’! We started our journey with a 13 hour bus ride to Rosario, Argentina- the third largest city in Argentina after Buenos Aires and Cordoba (both of which I have already visited). Mendoza is the 4th largest city, if you were wondering. Since we were using Rosario mostly as a stopping point on the way Puerto Iguazu, our primary destination, we only gave ourselves a day and a half there. The city itself I didn’t just love, but the walking path along the Paraná river, that lead to the National Monument to the Flag was very pretty!
The ship in the distance is floating on the river, but it’s hard to tell from this picture because the river is very red from all of the sediment in the area. One huge change between Mendoza and Rosario is the climate. Both Rosario and Iguazu are very humid, sub-tropical zones. After the dryness of Mendoza they proved to be an interesting change!
As we always do, we found plenty of time to goof around while we were visiting the city!
As much as I love murals, paintings, and sculptures my favorite kinds of art are the kinds that are functional, that serve a purpose. I think that is why I like plazas so much, they are very pretty and fun to sit in, but they also serve a purpose. In the event of a severe earthquake plazas would be free of debris, so people could use them as a meeting point and as an open area to stay in until the rest of the city is cleaned up or declared safe. Much like the plazas of Argentina, in Rosario we found these little road block poles.
They serve to keep cars from turning down the walking path, but they have been beautifully decorated with mosaic tiles!
After our walk by the river we decided to visit the National Flag Monument.
It was pretty cool and reminded me a bit of Washington D.C., which made me happy!
The Monument is also houses the crypt of General Manuel Belgrano, an Argentine Revolutionary who fought during the Argentine War of Independence and also designed the flag of Argentina.
Some people say that when Belgrano chose the colors for the flag, the blue he choose was the blue of the sky of Argentina: celeste.
Looking at this picture, it’s not hard to see why many people believe that, the colors are almost identical.
Despite neither of us really caring for Rosario as a city we had a pretty good time there, with one very important exception: Ice Cream. We asked at least 4 Rosarinos (people from Rosario) where a nearby ice cream shop was. They all gave us directions, but either these ice cream shops didn’t exist, could only be seen by Argentinians, or the people could not give directions. After hunting for almost 2 hours we finally decided to go to the grocery store and just buy a 1/2 kilo of ice cream. After waiting in the checkout line for 20 minutes (not atypical here) and walking back to our hostel we finally had our ice cream! It was pretty good, but not as good as from the shops!
With our time in Rosario done we headed back to the bus terminal to get on a bus for another 20 hours to go to Puerto Iguazu, in north-eastern Argentina.
As has become tradition, we took a pre trip selfie on the bus. We both look so happy, so optimistic. That’s because this was before we found out the AC on the bus was broken. When we got onto the bus it was, as my Paternal Grandmother would say, stifling. It was hot and humid and gross. We just assumed that the bus had been sitting in the sun all day and that it would cool down shortly. When it didn’t cool down at all after about 10 minutes the guy in the seat across the aisle from ours when to go ask what was going on. That’s when we found out about the AC. For the next two hours we sat there and dripped sweat on a very hot bus, with very little warm air blowing on us. The only saving grace was that we were in the front row on the second level of the bus, this meant that we had lots of windows to look out of.
About an hour into the first two hours of the trip we realized that their was a thermometer on the bus. It read 38 degrees centigrade. As I am a physics major I know the conversion equation between Celsius and Fahrenheit. Turns out that 38 degrees C is a blistering 100.4 degrees F. It was a very long two hours. Thankfully while stopped to pick up more people a technician got on the bus and fixed the AC so over the course of the next hour and a half the temperature went down to something more reasonable. That night we even used blankets while we tried to sleep. I’ve never been so happy for AC in all my life.
We got to Iguazu at about 9am the next morning and then the real fun began. The city of Puerto Iguazu isn’t anything very special, just a rather expensive, though clean and quiet, tourist town. But one doesn’t go to Iguazu for the town. One goes for this:
But I get ahead of myself, before we went to see some of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls in the world we took a walk around the city of Puerto Iguazu. We walked along the Iguazu River, with Brazil directly across from us until we got here:
This is the place where three countries border each other. I am standing in Argentina, to the right in Brazil and to the left in Paraguay. At no point does the US border two other countries at the same point. It was very cool and also made country lines seem very subjective. Janelle and I talked a lot about how just over the not terribly wide river was another country, where they spoke another language, and that we would need to have our Passports to go to. After our mini-existential crisis we finally found some ice cream! It was some of the best I’ve had in this country too!
After a relaxing recovery day in the town of Iguazu we were ready to go to the main attraction. The next day we got up early to go see the most beautiful place I have ever been to. Parque Iguazu is a 30 minute bus ride away from Puerto Iguazu. Once you get to the park and buy your ticket you take a 10 minute train ride up the the falls.
Iguazu is different from anything else I had seen because, while it’s technically all one waterfall but the river is so wide and the cliff face curved, they appear as a series of separate falls. We chose to go to the biggest of the falls first: La Garganta del Diablo– the Devil’s throat. As you walk over the river to Garganta you are surrounded by rich, green jungle vegetation. A far cry from the much sparser vegetation in Mendoza, which is a desert, if you will recall.
Once we got about halfway there we could see mist in the distance.
You can just see the rainbow formed by the sun and the mist. There were rainbows all over the park from the same combination! As we got closer we started to hear the rush of the water, then all of the sudden we saw the very top of the falls.
This glimpse itself was impressive, but not so impressive as the view we got at the end of the path:
The mist coming off of the falls was so thick that you could only see the river below if there was a strong wind to move the mist away quickly.
After Garganta we took the train halfway back down and started walking on the upper of the two paths the park has for viewing more of the falls! This means that at times we were walking over the tops of some of the smaller falls. They say pictures are worth 1000 words, I think these must be worth even more; I’ll let them speak for themselves.
After we finished with upper trail we decided to walk a little into the lower trail, which means you are more at the middle or the bottom of the falls, and eat lunch with a view of the falls. What happened next was both amusing and terrifying. We had both eaten our apples and were about 2/3s finished with our sandwiches when it occurred to me that I should put our tupperware container back into my backpack so we could leave if any animals came up to us. I asked Janelle to hold my sandwich while I did that. Just then, in an a maneuver that wass worth of the military one of these guys came up in front of us:
They are called coaties and they are like sort of like raccoons. Except eviler and smarter. The coaties feed off the food left behind (or sometimes stupidly, intentionally given to them) by the human tourists. They are also smart enough to know that food comes from backpacks. When one of them approached us Janelle ran away from them, to protect our sandwiches, naturally. We had seen signs warning that coaties will bite and scratch to get food so we were reasonably afraid. I zipped up my backpack getting ready to run when two more little beggars came up behind where we had been sitting and started to try to open my backpack. I had nothing to beat them off with so I started clapping and making noise but they wouldn’t leave. Fortunately another tourist girl saw our distress and beat them off (literally) my backpack using her backpack. I grabbed my bag and we left. I finished my sandwich while we walked. For the rest of the time we were very weary of the coaties, some of which were about the size of beagles.
There were some nice animals there too though. There were thousands of butterflies all over the park!
We also spotted Capuchin Monkeys a few times. In spanish the they are called Monos Capuchinos so for the rest of the trip I called them capuchinos.
Aparently the monkeys will also attack, but we had no problems with them. Poor Janelle really wanted to see a Toucan, but we never did see one! We did see this cool looking guy though!
The views from the lower path were even better than the views from the upper path! Again I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (more or less).
After taking in the lower path we decided to cross half of the river to Island San Martín in the middle of the river, for an even better and closer view of Salto San Martín and it’s nearby brothers. Do you guys see a naming convention in this county, or it is just me?
After the Island we left the park and went back to the hostel for the night. The next day we came back to the falls once again. This time we decided we weren’t going to take very many pictures and just enjoy the falls! We also went on the Grand Adventure: a 1.5 hour excursion that took us into the falls themselves! We started out on a 30 minute ride through the forest with a guide who told us about both flora and fauna typical to the area. Then we walked down yet more stairs to the docks where we got on a boat and sailed 6 kilometers up river to the falls. Along the way we got to enjoy the river valley and see some smaller hidden falls and beaches.
Then the real fun began.
Having been warned that we would get soaked on our trip we wore rain jackets and clothes we didn’t mind getting wet. As it turns out rain jackets do nothing when you take a boat as close to a waterfall as you can without it being dangerous. A log flume ride has nothing on this! There is water all around you! You can’t see anything, you can only hear the constant spray of the water and the screams of joy of yourself and those around you! We got to go into a waterfall four times and each time it was beyond amazing! If I could take a dip in a waterfall daily, I happily would!
The Grand Adventure ended our marvelous time in Iguazu and thus our spring/fall break! We flew back to Mendoza early the next morning and we got back into the rhythm of classes and studying, but Iguazu left it’s impression on both of us.
Allow me to go ahead and assure you that all of the picture in the world will not prepare you for the splendor of Iguazu. If you can go, go. It’s beauty is beyond anything I have ever seen.