Part 1: San Diego to Iguazu Falls, Argentina


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The Experience

We had long flight to get to Buenos Aires: San Diego to Dallas, Dallas to BA, BA to Iguazu Falls with a total "seat time" of 16 hours and an elapsed time of 23 hours.  Iguazu is on the other side of the world (literally) and is as far south latitude as San Diego is north.  And, due to our arrival time, we missed the "morning flight" to Iguazu which required a lay-over to evening.  We finally made it to the Hotel Melia just at sundown.  Our plan was to stay two nights at the Melia Hotel at Iguazu Fals and then move to Puerto Iguazu about 20 km away for one additional night then fly to Cordoba.

A screen shot of the Bing maps satellite photo of the Iguazu area.  Our path for later in the day is shown in blue dots.  The key item to note is the white spray due to the various falls.  The "small" semi-circular trace in the upper part of the photo is the upper and lower trail.  The large spray area is Garganta del Diablo, the "Devil's Throat", which is the main falls.  The white line is the border between Argentina and Brazil.  The red dot is the Hotel Melia.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Our hotel room on the top floor had a view of the Iguazu Falls.  The noise was tremendous and we were more than a mile away.

The plan was to walk to the trails around the falls from the hotel.  As we left the hotel, we passed this odd tree that had fruit growing on the trunk.  These may be some kind of figs.

The hotel Melia was nice but pricey due to its exclusive location in the National Park.

From the lower falls trail we could see the outflow downstream from the falls.  Above, a RIB with tourists heads towards Devil's Throat to get a good dunking.  The water level was rather low, but the river still produced powerful currents.  We also saw white water rafters on this stretch of river.

A "small" side falls.

From the trail we got a view of the main falls area known as Devil's Throat.  Note the viewing area on the Brazilian side of the river.

Kathleen spotted this baby iguana.

The lower trail took us to a view point for the small side of Iguazu Falls.  Note that in this context, "small" is quite relative.

Note the walkway at the upper right.  There were hundreds of individual falls.

Another small side falls.

The amount of water going through the throat on the left was staggering and the noise was tremendous.  Huge curtains of spray were thrown into the air.

The lower trail ended in a viewpoint that required a backtrack.  Kathleen was enjoying the view.

This side fall was a sheet of water.

En route to the upper trail we passed more small side falls.

These funky creatures are called coatimundi.  In Costa Rica they were called pesote, in Argentina, they are called coati.  I call them odd, but they are highly effective hunters and beggars.  This fellow is clearly not scared by people.  There were dozens of signs warning against feeding or petting them; they have sharp fangs and can give a nasty bite.

There were tons of butterflys of various sizes, shapes and colors.

While I was taking the butterfly photo, I was leaning against the hand rail and this pesote bull-dozed past me.  Not just brushing against be, but pushing to get by.  Not seeing him coming, I jumped and yelped as I did not know what it was.

The upper trail brought more outstanding views.  Note the walkway on the right.

The entire flow of the Parana River goes over Iguazu Falls.  I never saw what the fall count was, but I am guessing many hundreds and the count changes with the water level.  I am sure this is a sight to behold during the rainy season.

The upper trail winds its way along the crest of the cliff providing excellent viewpoints.

Check out the flow going down the throat.  Absolutely stunning.

As the day wore on, the volume of tourists increased.  The upper trail was hundreds of feet above the lower trail.

From one of the upper trail overlooks we could see our hotel on the far ridge.

There were tons of vultures circling overhead.  Seeking what, I do not know, but it seems that their roost was in the tree above the viewpoint.  We were careful not to pass underneath for fear of being bombed.

The trail passed over many small branches of the Parana River.  On one backwater we spotted this turtle sunning on a rock.  We hiked back to the hotel for some lunch and a refresh on the water bottles.

After lunch, we headed back to the train station to catch a ride to the Garganta del Diablo (AKA" Devil's Throat") area of the falls.  Along the way we spotted this good-sized iguana.

Iguazu Falls is a natural wonder of the world.  While these are a wonder, they are far from natural.  Her boyfriend was a brute; about 6'5" or so.

We rode the train from Estation del Cataratas to the falls.  The train ride was quite a distance away (maybe 5 km) and took 15 minutes.  Then another 15 minute walk from the falls station via an elevated walkway to the Throat overlook.  The upper area of the Throat was not that impressive, but 10 feet further.....

The noise was tremendous and huge volumes of spray were ejected during the river fall over the cliff.  The spray produced a persistent rainbow.

The Throat is a trench that has been dug by the flow of the river.  The water descends from all sides into the trench.  In the photo above, structures on the Brazilian side are visible.

There were a ton of folks at the viewpoint and everyone was jostling for a chance to get to the railing to have an unobstructed view of the falls.  When I got my turn, I un-zoomed the lens to 16mm (very wide angle) and managed to get a shot of the throat.  The power generated by the falls was stunning.

Kathleen and I stayed at the viewpoint long enough that the crowds abated; they headed back to the train station for a return to the shore.  We got unobstructed views free from jabbing elbows.  Note the small island in the center of the photo above: it is being separated from the cliff by the erosive power of the water.  Tannins from rotting plants leave dark streaks in the water.

Kathleen was enjoying herself.

I was having fun as well.  Iguazu is awesome; a truly memorable experience.

Looking into the maw of the Throat, all you could see is spray.  No view of the bottom of the gorge was possible due to the amount of water in the air.  The bottom of the photo above is water going under the walkway we were standing on and, of course, the persistent rainbow.

When we checked in, we were given an emphatic and explicit briefing on the local monkeys ("mono" in Spanish).  We were warned that they could open doors, could get into the mini-bar and would steal stuff left on the patio.  We were told to keep the balcony door locked at all times when we were not in the room.  And, we were told that if the monos got in the room and trashed it, there would be a $200 cleaning fee in addition to replacing whatever they broke/stole.  Thinking this through, I wondered if the monos were able to open the liquor bottles in the mini-bar.  They could surely open the candy and chip packages.  A drunk monkey, what could possibly go wrong?  When we got back to our room after our hike, the monos came and stole something from a terrace on a lower floor.  We caught them in the act.  Note the red object in the lower mono's hand.  His buddy looks on with interest.  Not sure what it is, but I am pretty sure that the owner will not see it again.

Iguazu Falls is truly a wonder of the world.  While we were here in the so-called dry season, the falls were still impressive.  I can only imaging what they look like when the river is at full flow.

Tomorrow, we leave the Melia and head for Puerto Iguazu, about 20 km distant.  The Melia, being the only hotel in the National Park is rather pricey at $600/night and did not have an opening for the 3rd night, so we are breaking camp and moving on.

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