"Poor Niagara" --Eleanor Roosevelt

Trip Start Jun 14, 2007
Trip End Aug 04, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, June 29, 2007

Since I last wrote we've been having a few days of vacation. Starting from the bus terminal in Buenos Aires where we said good-bye to Mariano and Natalia Carbone, we traveled to the northeastern corner of Argentina. I'm convinced Argentina kept that loop of land to have the Iguaçu Falls. If you look at a map you will see a tiny piece of land that jabs into Brazil and borders Paraguay, kind of like Maine. This is the province of Misiones-where the Jesuit missionaries came and had Catholic towns or "Reductions", because they reduced where the natives lived from all over the territory into these compound/towns. But I'm getting ahead of my story.

Overnight on the upper level of our bus we had 5 comfortable chairs that pulled up a footstool and laid back flat for our 1200 km (700 mile) journey. After a late-night, hot supper on the bus we settled back. Jim and I added eyeshades, warm socks and I even had earplugs. We slept for 8 hours and woke up traversing the rolling green hills of northern Argentina.
The land was sparsely populated from what we could see, and although mostly uncultivated, we passed orchards of orange and grapefruit trees and fields of the mate herb. There were palm trees, deciduous trees, and trees that didn't lose their leaves all growing together with plenty of small plants and grass in between-green, green everywhere.
Our hostel was just two blocks from the train station where we disembarked 15 hours after we started. It was small, clean and adequate-lacking only an Internet connection! That afternoon we wandered the 1.5 miles to the point where you can see the three nations at once, divided by the Paraná and Lower Iguazu River. We aren't allowed to even set foot on Brazilian soil without a $100 visa each, so we won't be adding that country to our check-list. 
Heading for the falls early, we had 8 hours in the National Park, which is well organized and beautiful. The Falls themselves are spectacular. There are sturdy metal grate walkways that take you right to the edge of the falls where you can look down at the water falling, or look up through the mist to the crashing on the rocks below. The thundering waters are stunning, incredible, magnificent. One Argentinean told us that when you see them you'll want to sing "How Great Thou Art". When Eleanor Roosevelt saw them, she is reported to have said, "Poor Niagara." The largest falls in terms of volume is 'The Devil's Throat', but one of the believers said, "I don't know why they called it that. To me it should be "The Majesty of God."
The Park has 67,000 hectares (about 150,000 acres we believe) of land and kilometers and kilometers of walkways. Included in the $10 entry price are a train that takes you .6K to the top of the falls trails and a launch ride across to the large island between the falls, where you can hike around to different vistas. We figure we walked about 6 miles altogether and I did fine, only needing my inhaler when climbing the steps up to the top of the island. Thank you for praying.
We saw some wild animals in the park, too. A caiman, a south American alligator, was resting by the side of the river. A large rodent with four inch legs and the body of a chinchilla, nibbled grass in a small clearing. About 8 coatis (a light brown, long-snouted relative of the raccoon) sought what food they could beg or steal from visitors. At the end of the day dozens of dark brown guinea pigs grazed in the grass. Christina was delighted!
After 9 hours of sleep we were refreshed and ready for the trip back down through Misiones to Encarnación, Paraguay. On the way we visited the Mines in Wanda where semi-precious stones-topaz, amethyst, quartz, and others-are mined. It was fascinating to see the cutaways of the bubbles where the crystals are formed. We also stopped in San Ignacio, at the ruins of one of the Jesuit communities are. It was intriguing to walk through the buildings built nearly 400 years ago and abandoned over 250 years ago. It was interesting to see the prejudice against the idea of trying to evangelize the Guaraní Indians, changing their culture and thus, their religion.
We drove on from there in our Renault Kangoo-wide enough that the four of us in the back seat weren't uncomfortable-to Posadas, Argentina. Our tour driver negotiated two taxis to take us across to a hotel in Encarnación, Paraguay.
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