Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Mighty Iguassu Falls

Warning - photo special! No complaints, I've filtered out 90% of them already - think of how tedious that job was!!

These falls are regarded as one of the most spectacular sights in South America. Apparently on seeing them, Eleanor Roosevelt said "Poor Niagra", in reference to Iguassu being four times wider. I haven't seen Niagra yet, but this takes some beating!

The panarama from the Brazilian side

The impact of the water on the basalt rock below creates a 30-metre cloud of mist in which rainbows appear whenever the sun shines. One side of the river is Argentinian, the other Brazilian. The Paraguayan border is a couple of kilometers away. I'm not sure whether it is the same river, but close by at Itaipu is an enormous hydro-electric installation, the largest power station in the world, which supplies 80% of Paraguay's electricity, and 25% of Brazil's, which is incredible given the size of Brazil, the third (4th?) biggest country in the world!


By now it's 2pm, so I head over to the Iguassu Falls, the Brazilian side. This is regarded as the better side for an over-all view of the falls, but has less to do, and less far to walk, so was perfect for the afternoon. I wander along the trails. [GPS: 25.69158S, 54.43803W]

Asking for a squashing

One of the few with tails..

If only all showers were like this..

There are large national parks on both sides of the falls, which are packed full of all sorts of animals, most of which (pumas, monkeys etc) you don't usually see. What are abundant around the paths are butterlies, birds and lizards. Apparently there are over 100 species of butterfly that have been identified locally.

Five species of toucans in the park

Beautiful birds of prey soar above the falls, particularly over Isla San Martin

Waiting for me to collapse in the heat no doubt

Interlude: Smallville on TV, ahhh how much do I love Kristen Kreuk?!

Gratuitius shot of self

Next day, to Argentina. Border formalities are quick. Interesting to note that the border is completely open - locals cross with ID cards, but no one checks them, or at least not consistently. Anyway, similar smart visitor centre here too. In, and on to the trails, Circuito Superior and Inferior.

Mariposo in Spanish..

Took a boat across to the Isla San Martin for a marvellous view with rainbow. [GPS: 25.68587, 54.44201W]

Okay Chris that's your allowance of photos of me for the year!

Awwww, priiiddy

Graceful in flight

But almost frightening in such numbers!

Apparently one used to be able to take a helicopter ride to really close to the falls, but it was disturbing the birds' breeding, so now the helicopters hover far above. I can't think of anything worse than being in a noisy helicopter, when it's such a lovely noise to listen to the rushing water.

What those with more money than sense did. Sponsored by Timotei perhaps.

Back, and on a train (Tren de la Selva) from Estacion Cataratas (Cataratas = Waterfalls) across to the top of the falls, a point known as la Garanta del Diablo. Dictionary is on other bed, so don't know what Garanta means, sorry! (Update: think it's something like "throat")

Lots of silly words on the instruction board on the train

After a fair walk along the raised boards, alongside old ones destroyed in a flood..

This point is the highlight of the Argentinian side, and what can I say? It is magnificient. The water roars over the edge of the rock, spray periodically dousing the spectators, swifts darting up and down over the cliffs, rainbows fading in and out as clouds roll over. I would have stood there for ages but for the thousands of kids, plus I was getting wetter by the minute.

The view from the Garanta

One of the main flows

Looking down the valley

Small bits

With the temperature and spray, it really is like a sauna!

The swifts dart about over the water, nesting in the cliffs

A pool of something sweet perhaps

Absolutely soaked on the way back to the entrance - train was filled with kids so I chose to walk, then the heavens opened, tropical Brazil stylee. Occurred to me that this is the fourth soaking I've had today - first from sweating in the baking sun, then a paddle in the water, then from the waterfall spray, and finally this torrential downpour. Did briefly chat with a Columbian chap as we both jogged along jumping puddles!

On the way back into town went to the Garden of Beer (Jardem de Cervesa in Portugese) with the chap who has driven me both days, Marcelo.

Favourite beer: Skol

Favourite beer: Eccleshall's Top Totty from Staffordshire or RCH's East Street Cream

Chatted with him about South American international relations (before getting on to traditional grounds of beer and women!). Apparently Brazil tends to get on with all the other South American nations, unlike most of the others, who have spats with each other. I suppose they are probably as laid back at a diplomatic level as they are in person! The exception to this is with Paraguay, who are Bush supporters, in return for monetary support. This is all allegedly of course, and was gleaned through discussions in Spanish so comes with the usual disclaimer!

Tomorrow a wander around town then back to Rio and along the coast. Feels weird that it's almost Xmas, I guess a mixture of the weather being all wrong (how do Australians make do?), being far away from friends and relatives, and being alone. Somehow you just need cold and miserable weather to make snuggling up at Xmas so much fun! Decorations just look out of place when it's in the mid-30s degC and 100% humidity!

Random observations:
There is no queuing etiquette here. I walk to the bar (of a coffee shop if you must know!), and wait. A chap arrives just after me, and stands next to me. Very clear that I am first, he knows I've just arrived and am looking for attention. Waitress comes along, to him first, but does he refer her to me? No, gets his order in. Now this sort of outrage occurs occasionally in England too, sad to say, but I only note it here because it has happened several times, probably not exclusively in Brazil, but the whole continent! Not impressed!

Taxis are expensive in Brazil. 5 minute drive into town from Hotel Luz costs about £3!

Brazilian Portugese is very hard to understand! Even when they speak Spanish, es muy dificile!

Banking here is a nightmare! Things may not have been helped by my Barclays debit card being blocked for a day or so, but still - it would seem that Brazil doesn't play the international banking system game much. Cirrus? Pah! It seems okay to pay for stuff by cards, but when it comes to using ATMs, if you're lucky, the bank you're in will have one ATM of the many which supposedly will work with the international networks (anyone heard of these new-comers called Visa and Mastercard? No, oh never mind then..). If not, they'll direct you somewhere else, and the bank of last resort is the Bank of Brazil, which is always crowded and doesn't work anyway (in my case!). Usually in this situation, i.e. abroad, you're safe as long as you go for an "international" bank, like Citibank, or HSBC. Here, however, HSBC identifies my Visa debit card as a Mastercard for some undiscovered (as yet) reason, then decides it's not a valid card for the network! No great surprise there! I feel vulnerable! My only access to cash is via nasty expensive cash advances on my credit cards, not something of which I wish to make a habit!

It's hot! Really hot! Did I say this before? Hot! Everyone seems to be suffering though, sweat patches are the unpleasant norm! You know it's hot when you start finding air-conditioned places hot! Hot!! I feel a slight longing for the temperate climbs of Huaraz in Peru again!

Colours of skin are totally mixed up here. Black and white, brown or yellow, all blended together. The guy who drove me to the falls has a black father - you would never believe it looking at him - he has a similar complexion to me! Errr, hang on, Mum...! There seems to be real racial harmony, at least where I've been. I don't know if it's different in areas that are predominantly one colour, for example Salvador de Bahia is mostly black. Well, I will keep you informed! Somehow it's obvious that I'm a gringo - no one confuses me - in other places I would have thought it would be clothes that give it away, but here it's all fairly standard casual gear, so I don't know how.


Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Do dates have any relevance?? Could Mr Blogger make dates refer to content??!!

Anonymous said...

having reread i'm even more confused!

what order is this bloody blog in??

the scottish masses demand the truth!

Anonymous said...

its 17:25 uk time on 28th and no entry yet!!!!!!!!!

i demand a refund