Sunday, August 6, 2023
We were picked up by our driver reasonably, but not impossibly early. The airport for internal flights is in the city so pretty close. In the airport, it felt like the golden age of aviation; we were right in the city with lovely views out over the river.
Definitely recommended though after our cosseting in BA we were slightly outraged to find that we had to check in all by ourselves.
Argentina is huge and it was a two hour flight up from BA to Iguazu in the North. After some fumbling around we were met by our guide in the airport which she firmly attributed to our ineptitude in going out through the wrong exit from the small airport. We hopped into the car and, thrillingly, drove straight into Brazil and into the national park. Our guide sorted out our passports and we went to a buffet with a view of the falls (the main Iguazu attraction) for lunch. Our guide was Argentinian and, until confirmed by our Brazilian driver, refused to believe that there are loads of Brazilians in Ireland. Strange but true.
Our guide was slightly obsessed with ensuring we had as many bathroom breaks as we needed and, as she led us to our table she said proudly, “See right beside the toilets!” Lunch was a bit forgettable and extremely pricey compared to Argentina. Great view though.
As we went into the park after lunch we saw a young man in a Kerry GAA shirt proving that Irish people are not inactive in this area. Daniel experienced considerable regret that he was not wearing his Dublin top.
In the park we saw lizards, toucans, vultures and very cool butterflies including one with 88 on their wings (it’s the pattern).
We also had another look at the waterfall. It was extremely hot and humid. Our guide told us that “The Mission” was filmed there. Mr. Waffle told her that he was at college with the offspring of the stuntman in the poster who went over the waterfall backwards and upside down. Flex as the young people would say.
Our hotel was amazing, right in the jungle with beautiful pools. Swimming in the pool before dinner I saw a monkey sitting on a nearby tree. The children were less delighted as, for reasons of economy, we put them all in the same room which they regarded with very low levels of enthusiasm.
We discovered that there is a lot of wildlife in a rain forest. We were slightly ambivalent about the frog sitting on the wall over the dinner table.
We fell into bed that evening having had a busy day of adventure and excitement. I have to say that I hadn’t expected the lap of luxury to be quite so exhausting.
Monday August 7, 2023
Up again at the crack of dawn. Herself had some college work to do and having seen enough of the waterfall the previous day sent us on our way with her blessing. Michael who is very attached to his coat really wanted to bring it but I insisted on his leaving it at home as it had been boiling the previous day and I felt that there was a real danger he might pass out.
There was a huge queue to get in to the park but our special vehicle sailed to the top. V pleasing. There was a train to travel within the park and our guide placed us cunningly so that we got on easily. Apparently, traditionally the Brazilian side of the falls is regarded as giving the superior view but I actually thought that the Argentinian side was better.
It started to rain. Michael was raging.
I remembered that we were in a rain forest (you would think I might have expected “rain” in the rain forest but no). It continued to lash. Even though we all had rain gear, it was back at the hotel so we bought plastic ponchos and basically went around wearing bin bags.
I quite enjoyed it – views were amazing and Mr. Waffle and Dan were reasonably ok but Michael was soaked, frozen and furious. Unlike Michael, I was sustained by a local delicacy, a kind of cheesy scone called chipas that he in his fury refused to touch. At least we were still being offered bathroom breaks at half hourly intervals, I comforted him.
One of the highlights of our day was to be a boat ride under the waterfall. I thought that was an exaggeration. We had to queue to get on the bus to the boat but again were wafted to the front of the queue. I did feel a little bad but I also had a sodden furious Michael and I was keen to get through the final bit of the day and get back to somewhere dry. An open top bus took us down to the boat ride. The tropical rain continued. The mood was, frankly, poor.
The boat ride was, in fact, thrilling. Even Michael enjoyed it. We went under the waterfall and we all got even wetter than we had been already. We had special bags to store our shoes and socks but the rest of us was absolutely sodden. Still very worth it.
Notwithstanding the thrill at the the end of the day, we were all pretty glad to get back to our waiting car and put on dry clothes.
Our guide booked dinner in town for us. I suppose we shouldn’t have been totally surprised to be seated near the toilets. I had steak again. Good, but you know, so much steak.
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Our guide, having got the measure of us, offered us a late start. This was 8.45 rather than 7.30, but look, any port in a storm.
We were surprised to see our guide in the morning as we were supposed to be meeting our bike hire people. But the guide said, slightly through gritted teeth, I thought, that Corinne (you remember Corinne our travel agent) felt it would be best if she drove us to the bike hire place.
I think Corinne had intended for us to have a mountain bike ride through the jungle (we had sent our heights and weights from Ireland so that our bikes could be set up for us) but one look at me – somehow I always seemed to be the weakest link – and they proposed a much tamer ride. As they kitted us out, the bike hire man reminisced fondly about the Irish group he took cycling across the Andes and how their rucksacks clinked because of the presence of alcohol. I mean it is a stereotype and personally, I hardly drink at all, but yet.
The cycle was a little dull but we saw various local flora and fauna (of the leaf cutter ant rather than the tapir variety). To Mr. Waffle’s great disappointment, we didn’t go across to Paraguay which is apparently an electronics mecca.
That afternoon we were slated to visit the Guarani village. Daniel and herself both bailed but Michael, Mr. Waffle and I went. This was the only part of the whole trip that was really pretty grim. The Guarani are indigenous people and Argentina is mostly made up of white European immigrants with only 20% of the population being indigenous, most of whom are elsewhere in the north (more of which anon). This was a bit like a poverty tourist trap and I felt it was unpleasantly exploitative as we were led around the village where people were obviously, extremely poor. The Guarani guide who was taking us around showed us an armadillo trap and various other traps which are not in use. I asked him had he eaten wild animals and he said that yes he had, for example, eaten tapir. I was curious, “Is it like chicken?” I asked. “It tastes like jungle meat meat,” he said. Seeing my puzzled face, he added “Not like meat from the supermarket which tastes like refrigerators.”
The schools on site had a wider catchment area than the village we were visiting and there were 250 in the primary but only 80 in the secondary. I was curious about the numbers of Guarani speakers on the staff. There are only 4. Happily for the future of the language, it is an official language in Paraguay next door. I honestly wouldn’t be relying on Argentinian support. The strong impression I got from our non Guarani guide was “What would these people be doing going to third level? Sure they don’t need it.” Perhaps that’s unfair but the whole thing was a bit grim.
As we were leaving Corinne rang our non-Guarani guide to say that she had arranged for us to meet the cacique (head of the village). Our guide who was about to drop us back to the hotel was not for turning. For once I was pretty glad of her…determination. But eavesdropping on their conversation, it was like diamond on diamond. I might add that Corinne was in Yerevan for a sporting tournament but was keeping a close eye on our movements.
When we got back to the hotel, as penance, I read the UN Rapporteur’s report on the rights of indigenous peoples in Argentina. Actually, on paper not too bad although while we were there they were looking at limiting the rights in granted in the 1994 constitution so alas for the great regime on paper.
A slightly gloomy end to our trip to Iguazu. Tune in next time when out heroes head to Salta.