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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Argentina -- Iguazu Fall 8.31 - 9.1.08

* Brazil Side                                                                                 * Upper Circuit

* Great Adventure & Lower Circuit                          * Garganta del Diablo/Devil's Throat

* Sheraton buffet dinner & Cuban cigars               * De Olivas i Lustres

At 7:30 AM on 8.31 morning, the radio taxi took us to the domestic airport AEP for the flight to Iguazu Fall. We were at the airport by 8: AM. The airline employee that assisted us with checking in at LAN airline counter did not speak English, which was a bit surprising. 

The flight took 1.5 hours from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Fall.  Once we landed, there was a taxi/remis desk next to the exit that arranged an English speaking driver to take us to the Brazil side of Iguazu Fall and back to the Sheraton Resort for 250 pesos.  

Our taxi driver was a middle aged man who spoke very good English.  He told us that he worked in constructions in the US for 5 years after the 2001 economy fallout in Argentina.  He later came back to be with his family.  We talked about his experience in the U.S., the upcoming U.S. presidential election, and how he liked the US government being very protective of its children.  It was probably the most interaction we had with an Argentinian. 

The taxi driver told us that this area had an average of 2 meters of rain annually.  The fact that we had a  very comfortable temperature and sunny weather was very rare.  Also, because we came in the winter time, there were no mosquito problems.  

The trip to the Brazil side of the park, including both Argentina & Brazil customs took about an hour.  He was very helpful with customs, offered to make stops at different sites, guided us with the park entrance, and patiently waited for us while we explored the Brazil side of the park.  It was a delight to have him as our driver.  He was wearing a pressed white shirt and suit pants for work. I wonder if he wore the same thing in the 40 degree humid hot summer.  Being a super impatient person myself, I was curious how he killed time waiting for his passengers.

The Brazil side of the park is called Cataratas do Iguacu.  The park entrance cost about 43 pesos per person. Between pesos & credit cards, we did not need to change any Brazilian reals. We took the park bus to the Macuco trail. The trail was packed with tourists.  There were many quatis wondering by the trail. The panoramic view of  the Iguassu fall on the Brazil side was indeed very impressive.

It took us a little less than 2 hrs to finish the Brazil side of the Iguazu fall.  The taxi driver then took us back to the Sheraton, which was located inside of Argentinian side of Iguazu National Park. We checked in, changed into swimming suits, signed up for the green passport package from Iguazu Jungle Explore at the resort lobby, and just had enough time to catch the last Great Adventure tour at 3:45 PM. 

The Great Adventure tour took us inside the rain forest with a 4x4 Jeep.  After a short ride, we came to the bottom of the fall and took the boat to the fall as close as we could. We were soaking wet despite wearing ponchos.   We later learned  that it was best to avoid the last boat ride as the sun had already  gone down and the pictures would come out dark as you can see here.  However, the boat ride was a lot of fun. We only wish we brought our water proof camera cover so we could capture the whole experience. 
After the boat ride, we headed back to the Sheraton through the lower circuit trail.  There were many stopping points with great views of the fall. 

Once we were back to the Sheraton, we used their spa indoor message pool since the outdoor pool was too cold to get in.   
In the evening, we met up with M & D for dinner.  M & D happened to plan their Argentina trip around the same time with us. We had a few days crossing paths during the trip and happened to stay in the Sheraton on the same night. We had a buffet dinner and moved to the lobby bar for more Malbec.  H got us two Cuban cigars from the resort shop.  They were so good that D and I went down to the shop to get 2 more.  We played cards, smoked cigars, drank Malbec, and talked about Buenos Aires.  It was really fun to get together and share the experience with them.  Somehow, the familiarity of their company made this night and this place less foreign to me.  We did not get back to our room until 2 AM. 

The next morning on Monday 9.1, we woke up with more beautiful weather and a gorgeous view of the fall in front of our eyes.  After breakfast, we began walking the upper circuit trail. Unlike the lower circuit where you looked at the fall from the bottom, the upper circuit allowed you to looked at the fall from the top.  It was a leisure walk that took us less than an hour to finish.  We walked to the Cataratas train station and met up with M & D again for our last trail, the devil's throat.  After a short 10 minutes train ride, we walked through a long scenic river path.  There were so many different types of butterflies surrounding us that D and I became obsessed taking pictures of them.  
At the end of the trail, we started hearing the roaring sound of the waterfall.  On the end of the peaceful river, there was the legendary Devil's Throat.  The view before our eyes was beyond words.  We were in awe of what we saw.  We lingered at the site for over an hour.  It was so dramatic and powerful that we needed the time to take everything in.  I felt so blessed to be able to see it, and I was also glad that we left the Devil's Throat to the last.  Everything else we saw before became plain compare to the Devil's Throat.

We walked back the river path, and enjoyed the peaceful contrast of the scenery.  We spotted some birds and turtles on our way back and took more pictures of butterflies.  At the end of the path, we went on the ecological ride.  The ride was so calm and peaceful that the only thing we heard was complete silence.  Over the 30 minutes ride, we spotted some more animals.  The whole experience of the scenic trail, overwhelming waterfall, and serene raft was such a perfect ending to our Iguazu trip.  We took about 3 hours to finish the trail.  By the time we got back to the Sheraton, we just had enough time for a late lunch and quick shower before our driver came to take us back to the airport for our 6 PM flight.

2 full days were enough time to see what we saw, but H enjoyed it so much that he would love to stay one more night.  I suppose that would allow us time to visit the Isla San Martin trail.  I was glad that we made it to the Brazil side of the fall as it was the second best view after the Devil's Throat. We left Iguazu knowing this was a trip to remember for a very very long time. 

On the plane back to BA,  there seemed to be a family with elder parents and adult children sitting behind us.  Even though I did not understand what the family was talking about, I could hear the excitement in their voices while they were talking to each other and pointed at the window as the plane was landing.  It was endearing to see them so excited. I wondered if it was their first flight or visit to BA.

After we were back in our apartment in BA, we quickly changed into warmer clothes and headed out to the restaurant H picked for dinner.  It was our first wedding anniversary after all. 

H picked a tapas place, De Olivas i Lustres, for our anniversary dinner. The restaurant was within walking distance of our apartment.  I had to admit that after reading some safety discussions on the trip advisor forum, I was a bit paranoid walking on some of the quiet dark blocks at night. However, there was often police presence in the Palermo area.  
 We got to the restaurant around 9:30 PM, and the restaurant was empty! Were we still too early for dinner according to Argentinian standards?  Once we settled in at our table, and took the free shots that the waiter offered us, we actually enjoyed having the entire restaurant all by ourselves.  Being in a tapas restaurant, I thought Sangria was the natural choice of alcohol beverage.  Surprisingly, the restaurant did not offer any cocktails.  It seemed that Argentinians were not cocktail or "wine by the glass" kind of drinkers.  We ordered a bottle of sparking wine instead. 

The tasting menu we ordered came with 13 different tapas.  Even though I had no clue what I was eating half of the time, I enjoyed them tremendously.  I thought the chief was a genius!  The combination of the ingredients he used to prepare the dishes were so creative and the presentations were so artistic.  By the end of the dinner, I wish I could speak Spanish to tell him how much I enjoyed my meal.


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