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Day 8 – Iguazu Argentina to Iguassu Brasil and back again

Day 8 – Iguazu Argentina to Iguassu Brasil and back again

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.

Day 5 – Santiago to Iguazu Falls via Buenos Aires

Day 5 – Santiago to Iguazu Falls via Buenos Aires

Day 5 was the day I was dreading. It was another travel day, and we were at the mercy of many things over which we had no control. Overall it all went smoothly.
We had a transport booked from the apartment to the international airport in Santiago which arrived on time and whisked through the still sleeping city quickly and quietly. At the airport we attempted to use the self check-in, which worked for me but not Kingsley so I was furnished with boarding passes for the flight to Buenos Aires and the domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Iguassu Falls. Kingsley had a neatly printed slip of paper saying something had gone wrong.
Staff at the bag drop desk were able to assist however and we soon both had boarding passes for the first flight.
The flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires took us about an hour and a half and gave us a spectacular view of the Andes as we flew over.

I have a What The? For the city of Buenos Aires. Why build the international and domestic airports so far apart (45 km) Our connecting flight was domestic, so we needed to disembark, clear immigration, collect our bags, get through customs and trek across town in time to check-in, drop our bags and present for boarding on the new flight. We touched down in BA at 10:50 am, as scheduled. Originally our connecting flight was due to leave at 14:20 pm, but LAN had kindly pushed that back by an hour, giving us more time for which I was thankful.
*i have since learned that the Jorge Newberry airport is an international airport so probably my own fault. Even so…
We managed to clear customers etc in 40 minutes, and the airport transport service I had booked form home was waiting for us at arrivals with my name printed clearly on a board. I saw lots of other people waiting with names scratched on a piece of paper so I felt quite special. Our driver was also in a suit! He didn’t speak any English though, and we have already established that my one day of Spanish in duo lingo doesn’t get us very far. He knew where we were going though so we followed him to his car.
The car was a Renault. Kingsley’s suitcase fit in the boot. Just. Mine did not. It got wedged into the passenger seat, which would have been fit had the car been an automatic. It wasn’t and our poor driver kept prodding at it to make room to change gears.
The drive across town to the domestic airport took just under an hour. We were travelling between 11:30 and 12:30 and there was very little traffic. Being in a strange place the traffic is always the killer. On arriving a possible reason for the distance between international and domestic terminals presented itself. The national Argentian carrier does have international flights arriving at the domestic terminal.  This would clearly give tham an advantage as if we’d flown AA we wouldn’t have had to make the dash across town. I could be wrong. I don’t think I am. I also which I’d done my research as I could have booked our flight from Santiago with AA. Live and learn. 
We had arrived in plenty of time for our flight, in plenty of time if the time had been the original easier time too. It was a big relief. A friendly LAN staff member helped Kingsley check-in and we were ready I for our next challenge, local currency. 
We had come armed with USD to exchange in country, but had heard that the rates oat the airport are unfavourable. We were going to need cash for our transfer form the airport to hotel in Iguassu and the entry fee to the park (260 ARS per person). And we were ready for a drink and a bite to eat.
So I thought an ATM on this occasion would do the trick. I was aware that the banks have a daily withdrawal limit or either 1000 or 2000 pesos. In our case 1000 pesos (approx $100 AUD) was going to be very tight and leave us nothing for tips or spending money on arrival in the park. I couldn’t find an ATM that would give me any more than 1000 pesos.
I should have listened to Kingsley and stopped to work out how much we’d need before heading to the departure lounge area. Then we could have bitten the proverbial bullet and changed some USD at the exchange place there. I figured there would be one at Iguassu airport. I was wrong.
There was another ATM that allowed me to withdraw another 1000 pesos though. I will be looking at two lots of withdrawal charges when I get home so my $200 AUD will cost me $216 plus whatever pain is associated with exchange rates that I haven’t anticipated. Live and learn.
On arrival on Iguassu I was feeling we were on the home stretch. We had been on the move since 5:30 am and as it was now 16:30 we we’re feeling a bit done in. Kingsley had booked a remiss to collect us and take us to the hotel. We stood around and waited until the arrivals hall was empty of passengers except us. No remise.
A friendly taxi driver offered for drive us for less than we had been quoted for the remise, and Kinglsey suspected there had been some mix up with the date he had booked so we jumped in the taxi, where both our bags fit this time and off we went to the park.
There are only two hotels inside the national park. One on the Brazillian side and another on the Argentinian side. We are staying at the Sheraton on the Argentian side making this the decadent honeymoon part of the trip. One of the reasons is that I am very keen to squeeze as much as I can out of the four hours each day between 6am and 10 am when all the bus loads of other tourists arrive.
Our hotel room has an amazing view. You can get a similar view form the patio bar, but as we discovered the seats their are quickly monopolised by the roving packs of octogenarians than seem to be the main residents of the hotel. 

The funny thing is about staying in a more expensive hotel, you seem to get less included. No free wifi in your room here. We signed on to their loyalty program ( I’m expecting spam in my future) which give us wifi in the common areas. Very odd. So I’m blogging from the lobby.
We survived the day without arguing, arrived in the right place, on time, with baggage,  enjoyed a cocktail looking out over greenery to an amazing waterfall. I’m calling it a win.