Saturday, March 03, 2012

Iguazú waterfalls

Once back in Santiago Chile at our nice hotel, we had a lazy day before our booked flight out to Argentina and Iguazú National Park in the north which has been proclaimed one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Someone described it as making Niagara Falls look like a trickle.

The park protects a large area of special rainforest containing an enormous variety of plants and animals. We spotted the bright red bird Surucua Trogon, the Great Dusky Swift which nests behind the waterfalls, an unknown yellow bird, and eagle-eye Jordan pointed out to us a Toucan flying by. Coatis that look a bit like raccoons were scooting around everywhere.

Click on for more information about this interesting animal.

But the best part of this National Park is the 275 different waterfalls that can be viewed from both Argentina and neighbouring Brazil. We had planned on spending our first day at the falls on the Argentinean side and then taking a bus to view them the next day from the Brazilian side. But we found out that we would now have to obtain a costly visitors' visa in advance from an embassy to enter Brazil, something that Canadians did not have to do before. What a shame, as we would have liked to see the falls from the Brazil side plus we would have spent money in Brazil - so both sides lose - we don't see the falls and Brazil doesn't gain our tourist spending dollars.

Fortunately, the best up-close viewing of the falls is in Argentina (Brazil offers a more panoramic view only). The temperature here is very hot and humid, even in the winter. The tallest fall, 82 m high x 700 m long x 150 m wide (U-shaped), is called Devil's Throat.

We boarded the Park train through an area of jungle to the vicinity of Devil's Throat where we then hiked across metal boardwalks to cross the river and to the very edge of the falls. The views were magnificent. We took lots and lots of photos, but as usual, photos just don't do it justice - so much better in person to understand the actual scale of what you are viewing. And hearing! The sound of millions of gallons of water crashing right next to you standing there! At some viewing places, the thundering falls shoot out a heavy mist and soaked us. Definitely need a waterproof camera. The views were so captivating and mesmerizing, hard to imagine. Jordan likened the scene as fairytale-like waterfall scenery, too perfect to be real almost.

A small portion of Devil's Throat

After taking the train back to the station, we next hiked the upper level and then the lower level where waterfalls are everywhere. We again took lots and lots of photos and rainbows were very abundant on this splendid sunny day!

1 of many rainbows seen

We also hiked way down to board the powerful inflatable open boat to take the ride up-close and almost beneath the falls. Everyone got completely soaked and when asked by the driver, Y otra? (And another?) everyone yelled Si! (Yes!) We must have done it at least 3 or 4 times and loved it each drenching time. What a thrill! We also purchased the video of the falls and the boat adventure as a keepsake, where everyone is laughing and drenched!

Falls as seen from water level in the boat

As is commonly stated,
From the Brazilian side you see the falls, from the Argentinean side you live them.
When this close, all you see is mist (between wet closed eyes) where you are really living them!

Right after our boat ride, a big black cloud rolled over and it started to rain quite hard. We were already wet and finished touring all the areas that we were interested in so that was good timing!

Other available activities included a photo safari or walking through the rainforest (but as it was raining hard, we decided to bypass), a boat ride to Isla San Martín for more great views of the Devil's Throat (but access to the Island was closed for some unknown reason), and a gentle boat ride through the upper river and islands (but hey, we had just had the wild ride!) There is also a full moon visit to Devil's Throat in the evening but there was not a full moon when we were there.

A slideshow of 15 photos is inserted in our Photo Gallery (on the right of this blog). Once the Photo Gallery opens, click on the green title page of Igauzú Falls which will take you to a new screen. Click again on the green title page and then wait for a few seconds as the slideshow starts. Hope you enjoy...

The following day was when we had expected to be in Brazil, but as that fell through, we spent a lazy day around the hostel swimming pool until it started to pour! A couple of hours later, we caught the taxi to the airport for our flight back to Santiago.

Upon landing in Santiago, we found out that Chile charges some countries a "reciprocity" fee to enter their country by air - including Canada. Only the international airport at Santiago charges incoming visitors. What this means is that we would have to pay a high fee to cross the border from Argentina to Chile as Canada charges this high fee for Chileans to enter Canada. We had to pay $132 US each to get back into Chile even though we had left Chile twice already and paid no fee to enter or re-enter, but we were either driving or boating and entering a smaller city.

Should Canada re-think their practices and amounts charged to foreign countries as we now have to follow the same practices and pay the same amounts when we travel to those countries?

After landing and clearing from Santiago, we made a quick trip back in our rented car to Puerto Montt and Sea Turtle. It's always wonderful for us to return to our home - our boat - especially after covering 7,288 km by car!

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