Waterfalls, Bus Rides, and Wild Animals

Last week, was our “Spring Break”. While some of the other US exchange students still had some of their classes at the Argentine Universities, I was lucky enough not to have any of mine. So of course, I jumped on the opportunity to take a trip across Argentina!

My view for 30+ hours!

After a few days of rest and packing, Amanda and I left Mendoza on a bus headed to the city of Rosario. I surprisingly didn’t mind the long bus rides. At times they were almost soothing. It was neat to see the countryside and smaller towns we passed. Some areas of this trip were cornfields and plains. They seemed so similar, yet just different enough that I have to admit I felt a tiny ache to see Minnesota countryside again. However, the views still intrigued me and were magnificent to see. I also enjoyed the fact that our seats were the front row on the top of our bus. This meant more windows right in front of us and a bit more space for our legs and feet. They both definitely helped make the 13+ hour trip more enjoyable, but I was still extremely relieved to be off the bus.

Paraná River in Rosario.

Paraná River in Rosario.

We only spent 2 nights in Rosario with only one true day to explore. Rosario is the third largest city in Argentina, after Buenos Aires and Cordoba. Rosario was definitely interesting to visit, but I have to admit was not my favorite place I have been on my trip (It may not have helped that no one in the entire city seemed to be able to give us directions to an ice cream store… we literally asked 3 or 4 different people and they all led us no where! But the ice cream from the grocery store after waiting in line for 20 minutes was a nice replacement) I am continuously amazed how each city in Argentina has such a distinct and different vibe. Nonetheless, we still managed to find some pretty neat things to see and do in our one-day exploration of Rosario. We wandered down the streets and spend the majority of our time wandering through parks and alongside the Paraná River. It was odd getting used to the heat and humidity in comparison to Mendoza. It’s now fall in Mendoza and the weather has started to cool down drastically. Also due to the fact that Mendoza is a desert, there is almost no humidity if any. Rosario most definitely is not a desert and a little farther north and closer to the equator, so this was a change. I can’t complain though, I enjoyed a little warmer weather for a while.

Monumento de la Bandera

Monumento de la Bandera

The highlight of our time in Rosario for me was seeing the National Flag Memorial. I was amazed at the grandeur and size of the monument. The monument not only is a tribute to the flag of Argentina, but also is the crypt of Manuel Belgrano, a revolutionary Argentine leader and the creator of the Argentine flag. It was beautiful and neat to see.

Our excitement to be heading to Iguazu...before we realized how long the first two hours of our trip would be....

Our excitement to be heading to Iguazu…before we realized how long the first two hours of our trip would be….

After our quick stop in Rosario, we were on our way to Puerto Iguazu! This meant 22+ more hours on a bus…. yay. :/ And the first two hours of the bus ride were miserable. As I mentioned earlier, it was warm in Rosario (and continued to be as we went further north to Puerto Iguazu). We got on the bus and it was really sweltering. We hoped it was because they had just started the bus but soon enough discovered that the air-conditioning was broken. They were working to fix it but weren’t really sure how. I kept telling myself that it can’t be that bad without it and air-conditioning hasn’t always existed/not everyone has it. Unfortunately, after a while these thoughts weren’t much help. There were no windows near me and the temperature continued to rise. We looked at the thermostat and it read 38 degrees Celsius which for those of you (like me 🙂 ) who prefer Fahrenheit….100.4 degrees. Ughh! Fortunately, this only lasted for two hours and they were able to fix it at our next stop. Later on the trip I was grinning and ecstatic that it was cool enough for me to use a sweater and blanket to cover up. Although the trip after that was long it wasn’t too bad! We watched a few movies the bus had playing (they were pretty decent choices too!), read, slept, talked, and were even given a dinner similar to that on an airplane (nothing amazing, but better than I expected). Our bus was an overnight bus, I took more of what one would call naps than a nights worth of sleep, but when I woke up from my last “nap” around 7ish I could not believe my eyes! I had woken up in the jungle!!!

Puerto Iguazu is the Argentine port city closest to Iguazu Falls. Technically, it is considered a sub-tropical region and not yet completely the jungle, however as a person who has never truly gone to an actual rainforest, this seemed pretty tropical to me. It was a small tourist city that I am almost sure is only as big as it is because of the tourism.

Behind me to the left is Paraguay. The other Side of the River on the right is Brazil.

Behind me to the left is Paraguay. The other Side of the River on the right is Brazil.

The first day, we spent walking through part of the town and along the Iguazu river. I was amazed at the beautiful scenery and with the stunning views. We ended up reaching the intersection of the Iguazu River and Paraná River. This point is where the countries of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet and are only separated by the rivers. Unfortunately, we never set foot in Paraguay or Brazil but I didn’t mind at all as Argentina had plenty to offer.

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The next two days we spent at Iguazu Falls National Park. I could have stayed forever. The waterfalls were some of the most mesmerizing, beautiful, and incredible things I have ever seen! The picture perfect views were too many too count and serenity is unexplainable. What surprised me most about the waterfalls is that they aren’t all in one continuous line. Iguazu falls is made up of many different falls along the river and they aren’t all linearly placed side by side. For me, this was a pleasant surprise and seemed to make every viewpoint interesting because you never knew what exactly you would find or see.

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Garganta del Diablo

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Garganta del Diablo and looking down the Iguazu River

We started at Garganta del Diablo. This is the largest waterfall of Iguazu and was quite a walk to see, but entirely worth it as we were right next to the top! The sound of the rushing water was so loud you had to shout and it wasn’t possible to see the bottom of the river because of all of the water splashing up. The wind carried water for miles and it seemed nearly impossible not to get wet. We continued on the rest of the day walking past and exploring the other smaller but still absolutely stunning waterfalls.

A Coati. In my opion, this guy must have been crazy to try and touch it!

A Coati. In my opion, this guy must have been crazy to try and touch it!

Other than waiting a while for the little passenger trains to transport us to different parts of the park and difficulties with the ATMS (but those are just a typical day in Argentina 😉 ) we were having an impeccable day. That is, until lunch…. We had decided to eat our packed lunch where we could view a waterfall and stumbled upon a perfect place around lunchtime where very few people were at the time. It seemed perfect and started off to be everything we had hoped. Then we were ambushed by the coatis… Earlier in the day we had seen these raccoon-like animals with long narrow noses. They looked cute and we took pictures thinking they were a little strange but seemed pretty harmless. I still had no intention to go running up to one and pet it like I would a dog.

They seem very similar to raccoons, especially with their ringed tails.

They seem very similar to raccoons, especially with their ringed tails.

We were starting to finish eating our lunch and we both only had about half of a sandwich left. Amanda mentioned it may be smart to put away our Tupperware and apple cores before some animal comes along and handed me her sandwich to hold while she grabbed the Tupperware. Then two coatis started to come up towards us and I thought we had started packing up in time. Holding two sandwiches, one in each hand I started to back away from the coati and where Amanda was. Then Amanda turned around and there was another one right by her backpack. She tried to shoo them all away but the one would not leave and kept trying to grab her backpack. I stood and watched her struggle and was not really any help at all. I was too afraid that if I went up to them with my hands full of food I would have coatis crawling all over me. So I watched not sure of what to do while Amanda tried to swat them away. Luckily another girl who was passing by with her family came over and swatted them away with her jacket. After the fact, I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous this whole incident must have looked to any passersby. After this moment, the coatis were definitely not my favorite. I am sure if you would ask Amanda, I was a little too cautious around them and would go out of the way to avoid them. (I once convinced us to take a different, longer route because there was a coati almost the size of a beagle in the path….). But they were pesky, tricky, and ravenous for human food. At every train station and area full of tables, they got as close as they could to humans. We even watched one steal a pacifier from a toddler (we couldn’t believe the kids parents let it get that close to her!). Over time, I became a little bit more comfortable when they came close and did less to avoid them but I still saw visions that they were going to grab on to my bare legs with their claws if I got to close.

On the beach of San Martín Island.

On the beach of San Martín Island.

Now back to the waterfalls…we spent the rest of the first day walking the trails and found ourselves headed to San Martín Island. This island was in the middle of the river in between some of the falls. We took a tiny boat across part of the river, walked up a lot of steep stairs, and once again were in awe of the views. It was also neat to see views of the waterfalls from the level of the river. It was hard to believe they could seem any bigger! After a long day of hiking, we left exhausted yet pleased and excited we planned to spend another day at the park.

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Day Two was even better than the first day. I had vowed to myself that I would take very little pictures and simply enjoy the views because I had taken enough pictures the first day. (I am happy to say I kept this promise and the only pictures I took were a few of us!) It was so nice to just look and not worry about trying to capture it (although the pictures will never compare). We wandered along a trail we had the previous day in the morning before we embarked on our safari/boat adventure. The ‘Grand Adventure’ as it was called, was most definitely the highlight of the trip. We first got in a jeep that went through some of the park where a tour guide talked about the park, some of the wildlife, and climate of Iguazu National Park. It was interesting to hear and neat to see more vegetation. We ended a little ways downstream from the waterfalls where we boarded a boat. Hearing that we would get wet, we brought our rain jackets, had on flip-flops and athletic shorts we didn’t mind getting a bit wet.

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Boating through the Falls is an experience I will never forget!

The second the boat took off I couldn’t help but grin. The landscape was beautiful! We passed coves of beaches untouched by humans and tiny waterfalls. I had never seen anything like it. Then, we arrived at the falls. I could try to describe what I saw but there are no words that can truly explain it. Absolutely breathtaking. We were all in awe. Then we saw one of the workers put on his rain suit and we knew we were about to get wet. We ended up going into the foot of two different waterfalls both a few times each. It was so much fun and the entire boat was laughing and screaming. The water was forceful and powerful, but it felt wonderful. I couldn’t believe that I was under and getting soaked by Iguazu Falls!!!! I also gave up on attempting to stay dry. I kept my hood down for most of it and just embraced getting soaked!! We got off the boat drenched, exhilarated, and still in shock over what we were just able to do. We concluded that it was pointless to bring the rain jackets and laughed at the looks other travelers gave us as they walked past us dripping from head to toe. We decided to make one last trip to Garganta del Diablo to have a last glimpse and dry off a bit before we boarded the bus back to Puerto Iguazu.

Seeing Iguazu Falls was one of the most marvelous sights I have ever seen. I have always loved the natural beauty and wildlife of our world, but this brought my love to a whole new level.

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