Here is the picture of the giant, ponderous rat I promised you. Capibara by name and super cute by nature.
On Day 8 we spent the day being driven around by the lovely Sergei so we could see the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls.. He made the trip quick, simple and fun.
He picked us up at the hotel at 7:30 as requested, which turned out to be ideal timing both for setting out and for our later return as all the traffic was going the other way.
Our itinerary for the day was the Brazilian side of the falls, a helicopter ride over said falls for Kingsley in a Bell Jet Ranger (the same model of helicopter that we had sitting in our driveway for a month or so), the bird park and finally a tour of Guira Ora
, the wildlife rescue centre back here in Argentina.
This final destination was the most interesting. Our guide spoke both English and Spanish so commentated the walk in both. We we the only English speakers but felt included the whole way round.
It was fascinating to hear that they get animals and birds in not only from road accidents and general misadventure, but also surrendered animals from people who have taken native animals as pets but have discovered that the little things that was cute as a wee thing is now trying to savage them (now illegal here) , from seizure or confiscation by authorities and as a result of injury from trapping or hunting.
These included some native cats, porcupines, toucans with missing wings or legs, monkeys and the biggest otter I have ever seen in my life.
The birds and animals that form the tour for visitors are those that have no prospect of re-release. Those that are blind, have had feet or wings amputated or have been kept in captivity as pets and would not know how to fend for themselves in the wild. The animals that will be rehabilitated are kept away from the public which is as it should be.
We learnt that the largest of the toucans is like a pelican in that it can be car versus, devouring the chicks of other birds. That sweet and open demeanor is just a cover. Beware birds bearing large beaks.
In contrast I felt a bit iffy about the bird park in Brasil. Most of the enclosures were relatively roomy and full of stimulation, but I didn’t get the feeling that it was about conservation as much as tourism. The butterfly house was lovely, but they don’t stay still any longer the than in the jungle.
The border crossing, as I mentioned yesterday (well of day 7 seeing as I’ve posting this very late), was the first I’d done on land. As I’m sure all of you already know that me at first going through Argentinian immigration (very slick) and then Brazilian ( looks like it was slick once but now not so much). Sergei took care of it all for us. At the Argentinian border then is a fast lane for tourists and you pass your passport over form the car. We had to slide open the door so the guy in the booth could see us, but it all took about 3 minutes and we were on our way.
On the Brazilian side Sergei just took or passports into a little office then about 15 minutes returned with them stamped and processed. If you recall we had our visas sorted in advance. The return journey worked the same way, except that we needed to show our reciprocity tax receipts at both.
The rain gear came in handy again as we did the other side of Garanta del Diablo.
The other side of the falls is more panoramic. You arrive at the visitor centre then jump on a bus that takes you out to where the water is. This is one we wouldn’t have wanted to walk because it is too far, not all that interesting and there is no pathway. The bus is a double decker so you can look at the rain forest from up high. E most interesting thing to watch on the bus was the very sweet little girl and her loving dad on the the seat in front of us. She was loving the ride and the most beautiful smile. It was a reminder to enjoy the simple things like the feeling of wind on your finger tips.
I may expand on this if I have time, but we check out of the hotel with the very slow internet very soon and I want to get this done, so here are some pictures of the beautiful creatures who live in this part of the world, and one of Kingsley. We did see wild toucans while at the hotel and they look pretty silly when flying.
When planning our trip to Iguazu Falls I was thinking about spending two days on the Argentinian side, and two on the Brazilian side. I wanted to stay in the National Park for our entire stay to extract the most of the experience so the only options for accomodation were Sheraton Iguazú Resort & Spa in Argentina and the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas in Brazil. The Belmond has better reviews, but looking at flights and times I had a reality check and decided that having to cross borders and shift hotels in the middle of a four day stay would just be a pain and likely stress me out. So a day trip to Brazil, or maybe two would have to do. The things I really want to see are the Bird Park (Parque das Aves) and the Brazilian side of the falls. What I didn’t realise until six weeks before blast off was that although we don’t need a visa for Chile or Argentina (or Antarctica) we DO need a visa to transit to Brazil, even if only for a day. I have been very lucky in the past. Between an Australia and EU passport the only visa I’ve had to send my passport off to Canberra for was when we visited Vietnam. Every other country has either been ‘visa on arrival’ or no visa required for Australian or European passport holders. Clearly Australia makes it difficult for Brazillians to get tourist visas to visit here, becuase the visa application process to get into Brazil felt like the trials of Hercules. I may be exagerating slightly, but they currently have a process in place that means you need to apply online first, and then send everything through in hard copyy. The documents required were;
- proof of employment,
- proof of residency,
- proof of funds in your bank account,
- passport photos,
- airline tickets,
- printed and signed copy of the online application form once your filled it out, downloaded, printed, signed and uploaded,
- and a scanned image of your signature
It all felt rather like a recipe for identity theft. Once you’ve uploaded everything electronically, you’ll need to print it all out to send in hard copy, with the original photos and your passports with the appropraite envelopes and AUD $63 per person in the form of an Australia Post money order. On the upside, the embassy staff were very reponsive when I emailed them with a question (they don’t take queries by phone) and the passwport and freshly minted visas were back in our hands ten days later. They say to allow 15 days and I was conceredn we were getting close to the holiday period so that was a relief. Hopefully when we get there everything will be as smooth as… a brazilian.
This proverbial trip of a lifetime has been over a year in the planning. And that’s with someone else planning the important things for us (Thank you Alex Cearns and World Expeditions).
Just like many of the people I’ve spoken to about the trip, I was initially suprised that we would be traveling to Antarctica via South America, and not Tasmania as I had imagined. This is why…
|Map courtesy of http://www.free-printable-maps.com/maps-of-continents.htm
We will be going to the Antarctic Peninsula (the bit in the red square). The trip from Ushuaia, Argentina to the Peninsula via Drake’s Passage should take us a couple of days. Travelling from our side of the world would take us to the eastern side and take considerably longer. So all in all the loooong flight from Perth to South America makes sense, and lets us visit three other countries on the way.
Perth to Santiago, Chile
We fly via Sydney and will no doubt spend most of that time trying not think about Brian and Craig and their Business Class tickets to Europe.
16 – 18 January
We will be staying in downtown Santiago.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina (and a bit of Brazil)
19 – 23 January
Seeing as this trip is actually our belated honeymoon, I thought a few days of luxury were in order. We’ll be staying in the Sheraton, in the national park on the Argentinian side.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
23 – 26 January
Staying downtown we may take a bicycle tour to check out the sights.
26 – 28 January
Before setting off on the boat we have a fun day out planned with Canal Fun Ushuaia which will take us out into the Tierra del Fuego National park.
We’ll meet up with our tour group before embarking on the MV Ushuaia.
28 January – 8 February
Aboard the MV Ushuaia we will spend the first few days hoping for a calm crossing of Drake’s passage and that the sea sickness meds work.
We’ll then make our way around the South Shetland Islands and the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula visiting an assortment of islands and bases.
8 – 10 February
A quick stop to get our land legs before heading home.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
9- 11 February
Just a day.
Buenos Aires to Perth
11 – 12 February
The long ride home.