Day Three - Argentina side of the park

Trip Start May 02, 2009
Trip End May 10, 2009

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Got up early and had breakfast.  Took the hostel van to the Argentina park with two girls from Norway, Sirri and Anna, and a guy from Brazil.  Saw agoutis at the entrance as soon as we walked in.  Found out the boats weren't running because the water was too low.  Decided to book a jeep safari trip instead, for later that morning.  Walked the Green Trail through the woods to the Circuito Superior along the upper portion of the falls.  Saw tons of black vultures, the over view of the long line of smaller falls, and Isla San Martin, an island just off the shore.  On the way back along the upper trail we saw our first toucan, thanks to some other birders.  So cool!  We only stopped watching him after a large tour group came past.  Then we explored the central area of the park near the tower, where we spotted a squirrel cuckoo with a pretty long brown tail.  Then we headed off to meet our jeep for the safari.

We headed out with Alejandro, our guide/driver, and five other tourists from Argentina and Brazil, and drove to a red clay road away from the main portion of the park.  We saw enormous bird-eating spiders
(yes, really, they catch hummingbirds!), tiger ants that are about an inch and a half long.  The guide picked one up off the ground on a branch with weird fruits, and Lisa ate one of the fruits.  Tasted kind of like an apple, but coated in dirt. We saw a small field of Sultana flowers, which are the national flower of Cuba.  Smelled really lovely, and Alejandro picked one for each of the ladies.  He pointed out Palmitos, the source of heart of palm, and other types of trees, plants and orchids.  Tons of butterflies, mariposas, some as big as your hand, and all kinds of colors and patterns. (Megan can you help identify any of them?) Alejandro found a butterfly with a damaged wing resting on a plant at one stop.  He handed it to Lisa and put it on her finger, and it stayed there for several minutes until she handed it to Chris to put back.  At that point it flew away.  We saw a Tegu, a large lizard about three feet long and the same color as the mud, running in the road and then into the woods.  We saw a peccary, a small jungle boar, running far ahead.  Passed some huge anthills with more big ants, just a different kind, carrying things much larger than their bodies.

We stopped the truck at one point and all got out to walk.  Lisa saw what looked like a mini conch shell, but was from a snail.  Apparently the Jesuits used these shells when making concrete for their buildings.  Unfortunately three people on the tour immediately lit up cigarettes, but it could have been worse, they could have been smoking while we were driving.  All got back into the truck to head back to the entrance.  By the way, the drive was insane.  There were huge ruts in the road, it had rained the day before, and the road is made of clay.  We were slipping and sliding all over the place, and occasionally the jeep was at a 45% angle to the road!  We were never going faster than 5-10 miles per hour, but still!

We had our bag lunch with the Norwegian girls outside a cafe where a man was playing the harp, and then went on to explore the Circuito Inferior.  Saw some tiny lizards on the  way down the trail, and another squirrel cuckoo.  We saw so many amazing views of the line of falls, but unfortunately the trail that lead to Isla San Martin was closed, so we couldn't actually go down to it.  Again, the water was too low even for the ferry that shuttled you across to it.  Back at the top of the trail, Lisa stopped to get a popsicle from a shop, and Chris had our first encounter with Plush Crested Jays. 
They are beautiful, and have many different pretty calls, but they are bold.  Not afraid of people at all, a half dozen were hanging out in a tree by the tables, showing off.  One swooped down to grab something off of someone else's table.  Think pigeons, but so much prettier.

Next we took the train that travels through the park to the piece de resistance, the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat).  There was a long metal walkway over the water leading out to the largest falls in the system.  Our view included cranes, cormorants and egrets out among the rocks in the water.  We saw more plush crested jays in the trees, and finally we got to the falls.  An apparently suicidal cormorant was swimming right near the cascade over the top, butterflies were kamikaze diving into the mist, and a rainbow topped off the whole view.  It was at this point we realized we were going to miss the van back to the hostel, so we took our time enjoying the view.  We got back to take the train to the entrance, and Chris split off at the last stop to walk the Green Trail one more time. 

On his walk he ended up seeing tons: a blond-crested woodpecker, toucans, an armadillo, a white-bearded manakin.  At the end of the train, Lisa saw another toucan and giant spiders with tarantula-like legs.  We joined back up and Lisa got to catch a glimpse of the armadillo rooting around in the trees, then Chris got to see the spiders, and we saw some more agoutis hanging out as the sun was setting while we made our way to the exit.  We caught the public bus, El Practico, back to the hostel for only five pesos each.

Relaxed for the evening with a bottle of Balbo malbec, and had our first asado (barbecue) night.  They set up extra tables outside and we served ourselves the salad and side dishes.  Then, similar to a Brazilian churrascuria, they brought the meat around to you at the tables.  Great beef, chicken and sausage.  Mmm!  We ate with a girl from San Francisco, Oren from Israel, two girls from New Zealand, one named Erin, and Ingrid from Germany.  Then we all watched the tango show together.  Two couples danced, then they split up and got hostel guests to dance with them.  Lots of fun, then time for bed.

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Where I stayed
Hostel-Inn Iguazu
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