Ituzaingo Wildlife

Some days, it’s rough to be in rural Argentina. In general, it can be tough to be in a town of 2,000-3,000 people, but it’s even rougher when the nearest city (and, to be honest, next bit of civilization) is an hour away and when you’re still very much considered the “outsiders.”

One of the higher points of living in this area, though, is the wildlife. From huge tegu lizards walking across the beach, geckos walking across the sliding door, and a herd of parrots squawking  in the palm tree–there’s a lot of stuff here that’s different from the US. No one here has ever seen a squirrel, but they don’t blink when a huge tarantula runs across the road. Every morning I get to watch the wild guinea pigs scurry on the side of the road. And then, I get to see the Rodents of Unusual Size…

24549861293_336197c171_k

Every day we see carpinchos (capybara) on our way to work. Carpincho is the Argentinian word for these hundred pound guinea pigs, whereas Capybara is actually the Brazilian Portuguese term. Traveling in herds of up to dozens of individuals, these semi-aquatic animals are some of the coolest things we get to see here.

25083302841_4a11fce8bb_k

They’re surprisingly fast for a short, squat animal. We’ve stopped multiple times to try and just take a closer look at them, only to have them take off like a shot in the opposite direction.

24880888600_8b4fb08eba_k

I was surprised to learn that carpinchos make a much different noise than guinea pigs. Like guinea pigs, they can make “clucking” and “purring noises” to indicate happiness, but carpinchos can also make almost birdlike “chirps” as well as some crying noises (almost like a bird crying) when they are in distress.

24549734253_c96275ba2b_k

They are incredibly social, and we’ll often see what we refer to as “daycares” in a certain hollow, where it’s all mothers and dozens of babies. It’s very cute.

24545895784_7fe29068ad_h

The other animal we get to see every once in a while are marsh deer. Notoriously shy, these animals (very similar to the North American mule deer) are categorized as vulnerable. Where we live, it’s illegal to hunt these deer at all–but it does happen. The area we live and work is has been the site of some particularly interesting environmental impacts, so Ituzaingo and the surrounding marshlands are considered a prime area for marsh deer breeding and reintroduction. We often see a solitary deer peeking out of the bushes sometimes in the mornings. We’re not sure if it’s the same deer every time, but it’s always a treat to spy him.

24881026220_fc76034a3f_k

#FuriouslyHappy

12003390_889240133647_5845613455680944455_n

The local supermarket had this guy just hanging out in some gaucho clothes. “HELLO! WOULD YOU LIKE TO BUY SOME GROCERIES?”  He seems absolutely  furiously happy.

Which brings me to a non-Argentinian post. I’ve read the blog from The Bloggess (aka Jenny Lawson) for years now. I love her irreverent humor, honesty about her life’s challenges, commitment to philanthropy/do-good-ism (often with the assistance of a poorly taxidermied boar’s head named James Garfield), and sharing the horrifyingly hilarious taxidermy she runs into in Texas’s thrift shops. She’s a nerd with an offbeat sense of humor–one of my favorite types of people.

And today her second book, Furiously Happy comes out. If you haven’t read her first book (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened)–do it now. It’s one of the books I always keep on my phone, just in case I need a laugh. The first time I read it, I couldn’t read it in public because I kept laughing too hard. Now, it’s my own personal pick-me-up.

Furiously Happy is all about looking on the positive side of life, despite terrible things happening. Despite every reason that you’re broken, you have a reason to be furiously happy. It’s a message that remains relevant, delivered in the funniest way possible. Come for the uplifting message, stay for the crazy Texas stories.

Fiesta Nacional de la Yerra y Doma Correntina 2015

Each year, our sleepy little river town comes alive for a weekend full of gaucho culture. The local fairgrounds fill up with horses and cattle for the yearly Fiesta Nacional de la Yerra y Doma. Ostensibly a festival where the guachos bring cattle for branding (which does still happen), it has more a a country-fair-meets-rodeo. A decent number of people live in houses on sprawling ranches outside of town limits, and this is one of their excuses to spend a weekend in town celebrating their way of life with other gaucho families. (An aside: “going into town” in this context sounds very “Little House on the Prairie,” doesn’t it? In this case, it’s really true–a lot of these gauchos see going into town as a rare treat.)

21289975180_a4bbe5aa43_k 21289989378_a4b6140651_k

You may remember we went to the festival last year as well. Whereas last year we saw the Argentinian gaucho equivalent of barrel racing, this year we saw the bucking bronco competition. What seems to happen is that they take a half-broke horse in from the pasture, and then challenge all of the gauchos to see who can ride the bucking horse longest. There’s a lot of horses in the fields that don’t seem to be broken at all, so it doesn’t appear to be hard to find a “wild” horse for this event. T got some incredible pictures.

21477737435_2756542ca5_h 21290774319_d1eb1d0f89_k

One of the advantages of living in rural, rural Argentina is that we see gauchos every day. We pass them riding their horses to the fields every day, and see them in their traditional clothes in the grocery store. Cultural heritage in our area isn’t just something that they engage in on special occasions–this is indeed their lifestyle. It’s been amazing seeing this side of Argentina.

21477602075_90749de910_k 21466541962_4a24ecc226_k

The gaucho is considered the Argentinian national folk hero and symbol–so much so, that one of the greatest Argentinian literature pieces is the epic gaucho poem Martin Fierro. They’re seen as industrious, feisty, rebellious outsiders–in stark contrast to the corruption and riches of the city. In reality, gauchos don’t just belong to Argentina–the word is used anywhere on the pampas or Gran Chaco, and includes Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and southern Brazil.

Also, if you’re liking the photos, be sure to check out T’s Flickr Page. He’s a great photographer.

Animal Adventures: Green Anaconda and Burrowing Owl

Sometimes, at work, life gets interesting. Our work area borders a nature preserve, so we see lots of carpinchos (capybaras), yacare (crocodiles), and other assorted animals on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, we met two more of the area’s inhabitants.

This is a green anaconda. And this is the baby.

20856912803_751660452c_k

It was about seven feet long, and they can allegedly grow up to 29 feet and weigh up to 550 lbs (thanks, wikipedia).In reality, they’re the biggest snakes on the planet by weight.

21290177528_e3d905fba1_k21466989492_0e4f096094_k

They’re constrictors, so they choke their food to death and swallow them whole.. A group of anacondas, which is what we have somewhere on our island, is referred to as a “bed” or “knot”.  We saw this guy crossing the road, and T stopped to grab a few pictures. They’re pretty slow on land, but incredibly fast in water.

We also have a  family of burrowing owls on site. They’re adorable little owls that often steal ground squirrel nests to make their homes.

IMG_0932Since rattlesnakes also tend to steal ground squirrel nests (ground squirrels must spend a lot of time making holes…), the owls have learned to make rattling and hissing sounds to scare away predators like our friend the anaconda.

IMG_0936

You’ve probably seen burrowing owls in the movies before–they were the Mariachi owls in “Rango,” Digger in the insufferable-but-beautiful “Owls of Ga’Hoole,” and one appears in Pixar’s short “Boundin’.” We’re hoping that since we’re  moving into spring, we’ll be able to see some owelets at some point! They aren’t terribly scared of humans, and tend to congregate near roads, so whenever we drive by, we see little owl heads peeking out burrows.

IMG_0939

Felices Pascuas!

I know I’m a few days late here, but Felices Pascuas a todos!  Happy Easter, all!

Easter is a huge deal in Argentina and Paraguay. Our site was off from Wednesday to Sunday for Semana Santa festivities. Last year, T and I were in a bit of an existential funk, so our Easter enjoyment was pretty much limited to chocolate. This year, with a regular internet connection (albeit a slow one) and beautiful weather, we were feeling more adventurous!

Let’s just start with the obvious–a lot of this week focuses on going to Mass. Not being particularly religious, T and I did not partake in that. (Instead, we made it through all two seasons of “Dead Like Me.” Sacrilegious?) So, what I can report on is what happens outside of the church.

We didn’t see or hear of anything interesting happening Maundy Thursday, but on Good Friday at dusk there was a HUGE procession for Via Crucis, or the Way of the Cross. I’m not entirely certain if this is the same thing as the Stations of the Cross or not–can any Catholic readers clarify this for me?  Essentially, the procession starts at the church door with a crowd full of candles (and a truck with a very large loudspeaker blaring prayers).  The assembled crowd parts to let through the priests, followed by some of the more important men in the village carrying the statue of Jesus. They walk around town and pray as they go.

IMG_0412We went to Posadas on Saturday to grab some necessities, since store hours are a little unpredictable on holidays (or, honestly, all the time). We thought we were being smart by going on a holiday when everyone would be busy with family. We were incredibly wrong. Apparently we did the Argentinian equivalent of going shopping the day before Thanksgiving. We spent an hour in the checkout line–bless you, iPhone and your Kindle app.

IMG_0414You can see the Prioridad line above for pregnant ladies, families with children under 2 years old, and senior citizens. They can, and will, throw you out of that line if you do not apply to one of those groups.

Sunday was a slow day, with our only real marking of the holiday with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate bunny. Normally, Argentinians eat giant chocolate Easter eggs. They are ornately decorated and can be as tall as two feet high. (Our butcher has one, but they make fun of us for taking tourist photos, so I didn’t grab a photo.) We settled for the bunny instead of the mass produced Bon o Bon eggs.

IMG_0415 IMG_0416 IMG_0418I clearly like chocolate far too much for my own good, as evidenced by so. many. chocolate pictures on my phone.

Sunday ended with a bit of a surprise. There are a LOT of stray/random dogs in Argentina. A lot of them belong to people–they just let their dogs wander around the neighborhood in packs, and trust they will come home for dinner. Others are legitimately strays. It’s often difficult to tell the difference, since there’s a lot of instances of abandoned pets as people move.

A dog showed up at our gate, looked at us expectantly, and then circled the block only to sit in front of our gate again. We opened the gate up, and she spent the next few hours at our feet watching tv outside. That night, we went on our evening walk (about 3.5 miles!), and she miraculously followed us the entire way. I caught her still snoozing on our porch at midnight, but by morning she was gone and we haven’t seen her since.

IMG_0419Mooch was incredibly jealous of and displeased by our guest. I don’t blame him–the dog ate some of his food.

 

Also, I have to apologize for the low photo quality on this post. All of these are from my iPhone–I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me. Whoops!

An Ode to the Argentinian Cat

Back in November, a cat adopted us. We didn’t adopt him–he completely adopted us. We were sitting outside, digging in the garden, when I hear a faint mewling coming from under our car.  I see the skinniest orange cat ever crawl out from under and stare at us, mewling. T asked if we should feed him, and remembered we had a leftover empanada in our fridge.

_DSC0720

Twenty minutes later, I had a purring, orange fluffball in my lap giving me cat hugs.  We’ve named him Mooch, because we’re pretty sure that he’s a Six Dinner Sid and he is quite insistent with mealtimes.

DSC_0948

He is absolutely an outdoor cat.  T is incredibly allergic to cats, so he’s never coming in. But I think he’s cool with being an outdoor kitty. He has no urge to use the litter pan we bought (actually, it’s his naptime spot), and the only times he’s coming in the house are to run from the front door to the back door in order to expedite dinner time and when a bunch of dogs started chasing him and the nearest escape was our front door.

DSC_0945

As the months have gone by, he’s brought the family along. Fred (a girl cat we named before we realized she was very pregnant) and her two kittens (one of whom we’ve named Ferris Mewler) make an appearance, and Derf (who used to be called “Not Fred” because T has a problem distinguishing which tabby cat is which) and her two kittens also swing by the food dish.

DSC_0946

This isn’t an uncommon thing–to just place a bowl of food out, but not really “own” any of the cats. Most of the Argentinian cats we’ve encountered have been strays like Fred and Mooch. They just have their regular porches to sleep on, but aren’t terribly friendly. (Except for Mooch, who would like to be involved in everything and loves to be petted.) There’s a completely different theory about animals down here–there are no trap and release or trap and adopt measures. There’s much more of a “live and let live” feel to it.

_DSC1095 _DSC1101 _DSC1113

Mooch isn’t coming back with us to the States–we know that. I don’t think he would like not having the run of the neighborhood, and he’s clearly not learning litterbox etiquette anytime soon. But for now, he’s a good companion.

 

2014 Wrap Up!

It’s a rush to the finish here in Ituzaingo! Our site closes for the two weeks surrounding Christmas, so that means as of December 20th, we don’t even have to think about work for two weeks! However… that means it’s chaos here trying to shut everything down and get ready for the next year. Both T and I are super-excited to go back to the States this weekend and spend some quality time with friends and family. (As well as time with the “rabbit that should have been in Argentina” and our guinea pig!) We’ve been playing Christmas music in the office the past few days to get into the holiday spirit–despite the fact that it’s in the mid-90s outside! The Argentinians are very much into fake Christmas trees and garlands–very strange to see next to the palm trees and parakeets.

Our end of the year prep has gotten a little more hectic than we could have imagined, though! Last week we accidentally hit a yacare, or crocodile. We had to drive to Posadas for a business dinner, and were driving back late. Since the yacare are so close to the ground, we didn’t see it until the absolute last second… and by then it was too late.  For future reference–don’t hit yacares! They are like rocks. We are both fine, but the car’s radiator is shot and the radiator frame is bent–plus we have no front bumper.  We were planning on sending the car to the dealer for some scheduled maintenance while we are out of the country anyway–but the car had to be towed all the way to Posadas now.  We’ll see how long it takes the Argentinian mechanics to get the necessary parts! We’ve since been told by others that the area where we had our accident is a popular late-night crossing spot for yacares–so we’ll have to keep that in mind if we drive at night again!

Courtesty of Taringa.net

Courtesty of Taringa.net

This means that we’ve been doing everything by bike since then. We do hitch a ride into work every morning with coworkers, but for all of our normal errands, we have to bike around the city. We’re definitely glad we brought our backpacks and have a nice basket to put on the back of one of the bikes. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, especially for grocery shopping!  I’m actually really glad we spent the money to get a water purification system for our tap–now we don’t need to lug heavy bottles of water from the grocery store!

Our vegetable garden (huerta) has been growing like crazy with all of the hot weather and rain! T installed a homemade drip line to keep the basil particularly well-watered, but it’s done wonders for the other plants as well! We’ve already harvested some of the beans, but I think our first crop of tomatoes will be while we’re in the States. You know what’s nice about Argentina, though? The growing season is YEAR ROUND. So we will have lots more where that came from, I am sure.

_DSC0614

Basil (albahaca) growing like crazy!

_DSC0616

Tomato plants, with a row of lettuce, a row of onions, and a row of carrots. Our spinach didn’t fare so well.

_DSC0615

_DSC0613

We also had our company Christmas party, which was a fun experience. We had both the Argentinians and Paraguayans, as well as our customer, at the big dinner in one of the fanciest spots in town. On the menu was a delicious whole leg of beef that the cook lit on fire at the beginning. It was perfecto. We also had a wide variety of salads (not the lettuce kind–more of red beets, potatoes, and rices). We made friends with the venue’s dog and a teensy, tiny kitten, but left before the karaoke got into full swing. (We made it 1am! We’re getting somewhat closer to being Argentinians!)

 

The patio of our venue... with some leftover decorations from the previous weekend's quinceanera celebration

The patio of our venue… with some leftover decorations from the previous weekend’s quinceanera celebration

All of the salsas!

All of the salsas!

Just some of the delicious carne.

Just some of the delicious carne.

_DSC0624

It wouldn't be an asado without a copious amount of bread!

It wouldn’t be an asado without a copious amount of bread!

Teensy, tiny kitten!

Teensy, tiny kitten!

Leg of Beef

Leg of Beef

The whole spread, minus the salads

The whole spread, minus the salads

The whole crew!

The whole crew!

We’ll miss the main festivities of Argentina at Christmas–I’m told it involves a lot of beach time–but we are so happy to go back to the States and see some snow! We’ll see if I blog at all while I’m back in the States!

Feliz Navidad y un prospero Año Nuevo a todos!

Foz de Igaucu, Brazil

We knew that a trip to the Falls wasn’t complete until you had seen it from both sides (Argentina AND Brazil).  However, being US citizens, we needed a visa to get into Brazil. Thankfully, Puerto Iguazu in Argentina has a Brazilian consulate that grants quick visas.

Since the process is ever-changing (hello, South American official paperwork) and the information in the internet is slim, here’s our process. Fill out your Brazilian visa form online here, print out the form (and make sure you save a copy of your confirmation number!), and attach your approved passport photo. Remember–no smiling, needs to be a white background, and adhere strictly to the size limits.  The online form is experimenting with uploading some documents, but it’s still in beta stage, and assume you’ll still need to bring your documents and paperwork with you. Also, when they ask for your hotel information in Brazil, we just chose a random hotel. They never checked to see if we actually had a reservation, and I assume most people coming through are day trippers.

If you’re a tourist: bring a copy of your driver’s license (front and back), a copy of your passport (including a copy of the page with your Argentinian entrance stamp), and  a copy of your bank records proving sufficient funds.  Also, we brought along a copy of our birth certificates, a copy of our marriage license, and, of course, our reciprocity fee papers. To be honest, the workers at the consulate just seemed impressed that we had all of our ducks in a row prior to coming in. (Insert some sort of grumbling about “if it was clear online, maybe there wouldn’t be that many problems” here.)

If you’re a temporary resident of Argentina: all of the above, PLUS a copy of your DNI (front and back), a copy of your residencia temporaria legal papers, and we brought along our precarias just to be safe. Also note, Argentine temporary residents–if you have your own car in Argentina, make sure with your car insurance company that it has the optional “MERCOSUR” insurance that allows it into Brazil. That is one thing that the Argentinian aduana was diligent in checking.

You can pay your fee, which is somewhere around the line of $160USD, in either pesos (subject to Brazil’s current feeling on what a peso is worth) or in reais. We paid in pesos and had absolutely no problem. Just be sure to have exact change (or as close as you can be. I think a 5 is okay if you have a bill that’s 32, but they won’t exchange 100 peso notes. If you need it, there’s a Macro bank in the city center of Puerto Iguazu, about four blocks away from the consulate, that has four clean, well-maintained ATMs. As usual in Argentina, stock in said ATMs will probably be lower around the 1st and 15th of every month as people get their government payouts on their EBTs. So plan accordingly.

So, we submitted all of our paperwork, paid all of our money, and left our passports with the nice Brazilians overnight and picked it up the next day.  And, honestly? Although I had heard some stories about how the Brazilian consulate can be a madhouse of backpackers, tourists, and generally Americans behaving badly on a Friday–we were the only ones there besides the consulate employees. It was a pleasant experience, and not much of a hassle.

We have our own car down here in Argentina, and we double checked to make sure it has the optional MERCOSUR insurance upgrade that allows it to drive into any MERCOSUR country without a problem. There are plenty of buses in Puerto Iguazu that go to the falls everyday, and even more travel companies happy to take your money in exchange for a ride and a tour of the Brazilian side.  We easily drove through customs (although we always get funny looks when the customs agent sees “EXTRANJERO” or foreigner printed on our national ID cards) and made it into Brazil.

Here’s where I talk about the seedy portion of all of this. The border between Argentina and Brazil at Iguazu/Iguacu is not terribly well patrolled for bus patrons. We’ve been told several times that it is absolutely easy for people to just ride a bus and go over to the other side without getting a visa, and without legally exiting/entering either Brazil or Argentina.  Because we work down here, and we’d prefer to not have to call our employer for them to bail us out  of the customs pokey, we chose to go the legal route, and thus, I have no comments about the whole “sneaking across the border” part of Iguazu.

In many ways, Foz de Iguacu is like Puerto Iguacu–all about the tourists. Shops and people selling their wares on the side of the road. And as always, poverty–the likes of which probably shocks those from the First World, but is sadly part of our landscape now. However, in many ways, the Brazilian side is radically different. Brazil has a much more open economy than Argentina. As a result, there are many more imported products–the motorcycles are Harleys and Hyabusas as opposed to bicycles that someone attached a lawnmower engine to. There’s Hershey’s chocolate and clothes from China. (In Argentina, one of the more draconian rules is that it’s incredibly difficult and expensive to import clothing for sale. As a result, easily 95% of the clothes are made in Argentina, with the exception of a few giants like Nike, Reebok, and LaCoste.)  Everything just looks a little bit nicer, a little bit more commercial… a little bit more American. Whereas Puerto Iguazu feels exactly like an Argentinian/South American tourist town without any recognizable fast food brands or chains, Foz de Iguacu felt more like South America’s Myrtle Beach… with waterfalls!

This feel extended to the Foz de Iguacu park itself. With a modern parking lot (paved versus Argentina’s dirt), the ability to pay with a credit card (versus Argentina’s cash-only policy), and modern buses taking tourists from the fancy queues and gift shops to the actual falls (versus a train in Argentina… or a hike), it just felt more like an American Six Flags safari than Argentina’s side did. This is both good and bad.  We loved the efficiency of just paying for parking when you bought your ticket, being able to easily use your credit card, clean public bathrooms, and obviously announcements in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. But it definitely felt less like a great South American adventure… and more like any other trip to an American tourist attraction.

However–the falls were beautiful! Whereas the Argentinian side  lets you get up close and personal with the falls, the Brazilian side offers some great panoramic views. A concrete pathway winds along the side of the cliff–be careful, it’s much more crowded on the Brazilian side than we ever encountered in Argentina! But, you get some gorgeous photos of the Falls in their full glory–and they have a great concrete walkway that leads right into the mist of some of the falls–great for photo opportunities!

_DSC0299 _DSC0320 _DSC0342 _DSC0345 _DSC0346 _DSC0353 _DSC0357 _DSC0376 _DSC0402 _DSC0403 DSC_7231 DSC_7236 DSC_7240 DSC_7258 DSC_7298 _DSC0331 _DSC0365 _DSC0385 _DSC0412 DSC_7220 DSC_7238 _DSC0296 DSC_7265 DSC_7234 DSC_7209

We grabbed lots of great photos, and saw even more coati trying to steal food from the tourists, but ultimately didn’t spend as much time on the Brazilian side. There are lots of side adventures run by private companies to partake in–zodiac boats, rock climbing, bike tours, white water rafting, ziplining–but the weather was starting to turn, and we didn’t feel like forking over $80 per person just to do a few little activities, most likely in the rain.  Ultimately, we made the right decision: it was drizzling when we made it back to our car, and full-on pouring buckets of water by the time we made it to the border. We’re planning on coming back to Iguazu again before we leave South America–so we figured leave some of the fun activities for the next time!

We didn’t hang out in the town of Foz de Iguacu much this time–but there are definitely some nice-looking hotels and resorts in the area, if you’re looking to stay on that side. We did briefly try to follow the signs for the tres fronteras marker in Brazil, but ended up in a not-so-nice neighborhood bordering on a favela, or shantytown, and decided to call it quits on that.

If you’re in Iguazu, definitely go to the Brazil side if you have the time and visa! It’s worth it to get the panoramic views and to see just how different two countries can be, just on the other side of the border.

Since November 1st was our *real* anniversary (we got married in a courthouse before we got married in the “white dress and tux” sense), we decided to go to Bocamora in Puerto Iguazu for a celebratory dinner. Situated essentially on a cliff on the costanera, or coastline, it is an incredibly romantic location overlooking the Tres Fronteras area. The menu was diverse, as was the wine list, the service was great, and the view was incomparable. We enjoyed a really nice meal on their back patio and toasted to two years! T got the ojo de bife (a very nice cut of meat), and I got a pork loin, both of which were delicious. We aren’t normally “that couple” who takes pictures of their food, but it looked pretty spectacular, so we couldn’t help ourselves.

_DSC0444 _DSC0443

 

Iguazu Falls, Argentina–Lower Circuit and Boat Ride

After our four hour drive from Ituzaingo to Iguazu, we settled into the Sheraton and decided to tackle a part of the lower trail. However, there was a fine but steady rain throughout the entire hike–so we didn’t get many usable pictures. We decided to try it again on the second day, after the Sendero Macuco Trail.

Argentina’s lower circuit is a nice hike, with well-kept wood-slat walkways and stairs. It offers fantastic opportunities to see the falls up close and personal–and we definitely got up close!

DSC_7023 DSC_7030 _DSC0258 _DSC0241 _DSC0240

A lot of people asked us if we had the opportunity to see the Garganta del Diablo–Devil’s Throat. We didn’t–earlier in the year, there was some serious flooding in this area, and it wiped out the entire viewing trail for Garganta del Diablo. We did, however, see some of the wreckage on riverbanks while hiking.

DSC_7031

Also, due to high water levels, we couldn’t go to the island in the middle of the falls–Isla de San Martin. However–I don’t think we missed much! The views were fantastic, and several times we had to just stop and pinch ourselves that they were real.

_DSC0283 _DSC0176 DSC_7021 DSC_7037 _DSC0269 DSC_7091 DSC_7079 DSC_7074 DSC_7070 DSC_7053 DSC_7041 DSC_7015 _DSC0233

One thing that is a “don’t miss” activity on the Argentinian side is the Iguazu Jungle boat ride. You strap into a life jacket, head onto a boat, put all of your belongings in a watertight bag, and then prepare to get wet. After a cruise to both sets of waterfalls for photo purposes, the boat takes you back around and absolutely drenches everyone by essentially parking underneath a waterfall. We’re glad we did this as our last activity on the trail! By the time we got off the boat, my sneakers were filled with water.  Pro Tip: The Sheraton offers a drying only laundry service, and it’s 20% the cost of a normal laundry service. Unfortunately, they don’t do shoes. So bring several pairs if you’re planning on doing the boat ride.

_DSC0263

We also saw some fun animals along the way–lizards, birds, and of course, more coati. The coati aren’t afraid of humans at all, and in some cases will try to steal the food right out of your hand! Don’t try to pet them, though–they are still wild animals, and there are some pretty graphic signs around the park showing what a coati can do to someone’s hand.

DSC_7011 DSC_7012 DSC_7043 DSC_7159 DSC_7198 DSC_7134

 

Iguazu Falls, Argentina–Sendero Macuco Trail

We decided to stay on the Argentinian side of the falls at the Sheraton. The advantage to the Sheraton is that it’s the only hotel inside the park, with rooms that overlook the falls (although they’re pretty expensive!). We opted for the less expensive jungle view room, which overlooked the forest. (In reality, it overlooked the driveway and parking structure, with the jungle in the near distance.)  Overall, we highly recommend it–the rooms were all well-appointed, the restaurant was good, the breakfast buffet was the best we’ve had at a Sheraton in this country, and the staff was wonderful. Also, add to that a really great pool area that overlooks the falls. While we were lounging by the pool and enjoying an (expertly made) pina colada, a few cuis, or guinea pigs, were running around!

DSC_7009

On our first full day at the falls, we decided to take the 3.75km long Sendero Macuco Trail all the way down to the Arrechea waterfall. In all the tour guides, it mentioned that this trail had some of the best wildlife watching and hiking–and that you could swim in the waterfall at the end of the trail! Sold.

_DSC0136

We were the first ones on the trail in the morning. It was still cool and quiet, and we were surprised we didn’t see too many animals on the trail–just a few beautifully colored butterflies.  We could hear lots of birds in the trees, but didn’t have much luck spotting them. We did the overlook of the waterfall first.

_DSC0070 _DSC0072 _DSC0080

Then, we hoofed it down some very steep steps to the waterfall. We kicked off our sneakers and walked into the water. A bit cold at first, but it was totally worth it to be swimming in a pool directly underneath a waterfall! The mist got to be too much to get completely under the waterfall, but we got some great shots.

_DSC0085 _DSC0087 _DSC0090 _DSC0099_DSC0100 _DSC0106 _DSC0103

On our hike back, we saw lots more animals–and lots more hikers! We encountered a whole troop of howler monkeys in the trees, and spent a good amount of time watching them swing around and find their breakfast. Very cool!

_DSC0119

_DSC0131 _DSC0127

Our advice for conquering the Sendero Macuco Trail? Start early–it opens at 8:30am, and we were there right on time. Be quiet when you walk–you’ll probably see more animals that way! Bring bug spray–it’s pretty buggy out there, and over the weekend we got our fair share of mosquito bites despite generously applying Off! Also, it wouldn’t hurt to bring a pair of water shoes for the waterfall swimming. We did it barefoot, but some of the rocks were a little sharp, and we definitely would have felt better in some water shoes. While we’re on the subject–bring water!! It’s a long hike, there are a lot of stairs, and it’s HOT. Stay hydrated.

This was definitely one of the best portions of our little vacation–we can say we’ve swam underneath a South American waterfall now!