Finally reached Iguazú after a brief detour to Uruguay

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Published: January 23rd 2023

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Puerto Madero ReservePuerto Madero ReservePuerto Madero Reserve


Special machine to collect rubbish as plant floats on water

Iguazú January 2023

I didn’t blog before Christmas on my last adventure. I had no excuse, just too lazy, although an excuse did present itself when I caught Covid. However if I am totally honest everything went too smoothly and there wasn’t a lot to blog about! This time I plan to add to the blog every few days so it doesn’t become a chore, and as I am travelling alone to begin with there might be more to report.

After a lovely Christmas with the girls and partners in Worcester then a week cat-sitting with Jet in Swaffham Bulbeck I took an early BA flight from Heathrow to Madrid. The plane only had 60 passenger so it was a calm and comfortable flight with a row to myself and no-one in front or behind. It was only as we prepared to land in Madrid that I realised I didn’t have a boarding pass for the next flight. Although booked as one journey, the second leg, Madrid to Buenos Aires, was with Iberia and their systems don’t connect with BA. Thankfully we landed on time so I

Jacaranda, love the feet!Jacaranda, love the feet!Jacaranda, love the feet!

had half an hour before the gate for the Iberia flight closed. Not knowing how far away the gate was I did break into a run but it all worked smoothly once they found a machine that could print a boarding pass. The first four they tried weren’t working. Again that plane was no more than a third full so we could change seats at will and I had two seats to myself with no-one behind. However, Iberia still take the prize for the worst plane food that I have encountered.

I arrived at Hotel Urbano very quickly and settled in. Jim and I stayed close by in January 2020 so I know the area and it is within easy walking distance of the main square where the Casa Rosado building can be found, ( where Eva Perón and her husband, the President appeared to crowds of thousands). If anyone would like to see more of the city look back to January/February 2020 on the blog where you can find lots of picture. It is an easy and interesting area to stay in but as I have seen the main sights I decided

Silver TealSilver TealSilver Teal

I would like to visit Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, only a one hour boat ride across the Río de la Plata. Jim and I had wanted to do the trip but didn’t have enough time to spend a night there and so decided a day trip was too short to appreciate it.

Hotel Urbano advertise that they have a tour desk. They don’t! Nor do the staff on the desk know anything but their hotel checkin/checkout procedures, ( not quite true, a very helpful young man recommended a good restaurant) so I was on my own when trying to make arrangements to visit Colonia and the Iguazu Falls area.

I started by looking online for the ferry tickets and decided the ferry terminal was so close it would be easier to walk around and do it face to face as it looked complicated on the website. So off I set, phone in hand to help with directions but as I don’t leave it switched on I had to stop regularly to see if I was heading the right way. Somehow I

Southern ScreamerSouthern ScreamerSouthern Screamer

overshot and had to retrace my steps. It took me forty-five minutes to get there.

When I reached the terminal I started to understand why it looked complicated on line. Because the ferry is going to another country it is necessary to go through immigration and this is done when you book the ticket. On entering the special offices within the terminal you have to take a numbered ticket then wait until your number shows on a large screen. Mine came up after fifteen minutes. It then tells you which desk to go to in another office where you sit down and explain what you want. The lady helping me was very friendly, I chose the ferry times, she took details from my passport, printed off the tickets in another room whilst presumably checking whether I had anything undesirable showing up on the system, took my payment, told me what time to turn up and then I was free to go.

I was feeling a sense of achievement until I walked back to the hotel and found out it was only ten minutes away!

The way beer is served here, my ice bucketThe way beer is served here, my ice bucketThe way beer is served here, my ice bucket

How I missed it earlier I don’t know but it was an interesting walk and I achieved my 10,000 steps in no time at all that day.

Next I decided to book flights to Iguazu directly with the airline online. It seemed easy until it came to paying. Every time I put in the details it said I hadn’t done it correctly. I tried with different cards but the message was always the same. I admitted defeat and went to reception for help, thinking I might be missing something on the site. The receptionist was as bewildered as I, saying it didn’t make sense. So she recommended another site which worked fine. Just hope I have tickets when I get to the airport!

Iguazu is a real challenge to plan. The falls are close to where the three countries of Paragua, Brazil and Argentina meet, but Brazil and Argentina contain most of the falls and each of those two countries has an airport close to the falls, a small town and a national park. The complication comes as both airports seem to have the

Lighthouse in Colonia, Lighthouse in Colonia, Lighthouse in Colonia,


Easy to lose sight of in trees

same name, so I had to find their code. I am flying to IGR hoping that is in Argentina. The Brazilian airport is IGU. I want to view the falls from both sides but gathering information to do this is almost impossible. I am hoping it will become clearer when I get there. I have booked accommodation in Argentina and then hope to move into Brazil for a few days. Most hotels say they have a tour desk but after Urbano I am not relying on that.

After my planning session I went for a meal to the recommended restaurant which was a typical Uruguayan large basement eatery, very heavily skewed ( or skewered?) towards meat dishes. It was decorated with lots of pictures of local people and scenes as well as sayings. One saying I liked, probably because I could understand it, was, ‘ if you want fresh milk, keep your cow in the shade’. I ordered a beer with the meal and the waiter asked large or small. I went for large and he said was I sure. I said yes. It arrived in an ice bucket covered by a napkin.

The 17th Century gateThe 17th Century gateThe 17th Century gate

It was huge. I couldn’t see the volume on the bottle, partly because it was too heavy to lift, but it looked like it was at least a litre so I think perhaps the napkin was to save my embarrassment as people passed the table! What made it stranger was the waiter poured it into a wine glass so the glass had to be replenished constantly. I thought it was a quirk of that particular restaurant but it seems to be the normal way of drinking beer.

The following day I took the ferry. I was only going to be away four nights so I left my big case in storage at Hotel Urbano and became a real bag lady. I took my backpack and a carrier bag with a few clothes in. The fewer possessions I carry around the more comfortable and free I feel but I am beginning to think I have to monitor this tendency as I might end up with just spare underwear and bank cards.

Colonia del Sacramento came as a surprise despite reading about it online. The contrast with the

One of the oldest streets, Street of SighsOne of the oldest streets, Street of SighsOne of the oldest streets, Street of Sighs

big bustling city of BA could not have been greater. The old town is a small place, more village than town, founded in the middle of the 17th Century. It is on a tiny flat headland which stretches out into the river. The buildings are mainly one storey, running along by the river, but as the whole area is covered by trees which run down to the sandy beaches and rocky coves the buildings are hidden and it is difficult to spot them. What you do see are the tiny inlets, beaches and bays where people fish or sunbathe and it is only as you move a block inland that the streets and buildings become visible. It is very pretty as well as having a town gate and robust sea walls which protected it in turbulent times. Just offshore in the river there are small islands.

Something about the town reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. Little oddities that made it feel unreal. For example, in places the rocks by the sea are covered in a grass like plant which makes it easy to walk over them, but also makes them

Street of SighsStreet of SighsStreet of Sighs


Most original buildings are single storey

look artificial. When the sun sets Argentines clap! Then there is the traditional Uruguayan dish of Chivito, sold everywhere. The word means little goat but in fact the dish can contain any meat, apart from goat.

They have eight tiny museums and when you buy a ticket in the main one, the Museo Municipal, they explain that the ticket entitles you to visit all the others. Mostly the museums deal with different periods of history, one covering the period they were colonised by Spain, same for Portugal, another displays tiles, yet another has agricultural tools, and bizarrely there is an Origami museum. Each museum closes one day a week but on different days. I was keen to visit the Indigenous Museum to learn about the Guaraní people so I checked with the cashier, who spoke English, if they were open the following day, Monday. Yes she said, they close Tuesday. So along I went on Monday. They didn’t open as signed at 11.15am ( nothing starts early in Colonia!), so I waited 15 mins in case they were late, as the Museo Municipal had been the day before. Then I returned to the

Another styleAnother styleAnother style

same receptionist in the MM to ask if it would open later and she explained helpfully that it is not opening at all at the moment. I did not ask for an eighth of my ticket price to be refunded but it heightened that sense of being in a parallel universe.

I chatted to a young Argentine couple as we wandered through looking at displays, then I went off in a different direction as a group gathered around something and blocked the way. I few minutes later the young man I had chatted to raced up and said, ‘you must see this’. We went back, the crowd had dispersed, and he opened a draw of letters and leaflets. One was of a British sailor produced when we invaded. I wasn’t sure whether I should apologise for the invasion but the guy just seemed very happy to have found something British to show me.

My hotel ( more hostel like than hotel in facilities, basic but adequate) had one of the soft toilet seats which Jim and I encountered a few times previously. They are

Restaurant where I had a meal, this is the front on roadRestaurant where I had a meal, this is the front on roadRestaurant where I had a meal, this is the front on road

white, look like a normal toilet seat and have a standard white solid lid. It is only when you sit that you realise the seat is soft and like a whoopee cushion, it makes a noise when used. Makes me feel as if I am sitting on a large marshmallow, not that I have ever tried that!

I loved Colonia. It was so relaxing. I had assumed I would be able to make a couple of trips to other towns but it is so remote there is really nothing else to see for a very long way.

One morning I wandered down to the tiny harbour and spotted a wooden sign advertising a trip round the bay. Immediately the boat owner appeared asking if I wanted to go, saying he went out four times a day. This was the first time I had seen any trip advertised in Colonia. I decided I would go on the 3.30 trip so if it was a very hot afternoon I could enjoy a breeze. I returned at 3pm and we were joined by a young man, Alberto,

Other side of restaurant overlooks riverOther side of restaurant overlooks riverOther side of restaurant overlooks river


No Pińa Colada so I tried Kir Royal

who was the deck hand.

As we sat and waited for other customers they brought out an illustrated book and in Spanish explained the history of Colonia, including the period when selling slaves was a big part of the economy. No one else arrived so off we went for an hour, riding around the bay, threading our way through microscopic islands, and whilst the captain drove the boat, Marco and I practised English and Spanish.

He has a dream of going to Miami ( prompted by the pictures of all the beautiful girls there) but worries that his English is inadequate to find a job. I think getting through the immigration process would be a much bigger problem but if he manages it I am sure he will be popular as he is very handsome! It only cost £6 and was a wonderful afternoon. As I walked away down the road away from the harbour I met two women who asked if I knew if there was a boat to take them out in the bay so I directed them to the captain and

Another tiny beachAnother tiny beachAnother tiny beach

felt pleased I could help him get some more business, not that he had seemed worried about his lack of customers.

Eventually I dragged myself away from the lotus eating atmosphere of Colonia, retrieved my case at Hotel Urbano and settled in for a couple of nights.

The following day I set out to walk through the Puerto Madero Reserve, only fifteen minutes away from the hotel. When I reached the gate I saw a sign saying it was closed. I stood there wondering why when a security man came out of his hut on the other side of the fence and explained that it was because of fire. I couldn’t see or smell evidence of a fire, and as it is a swamp it seemed strange but maybe the heat creates a fire risk. It was well over 30 degrees that day. So I walked alongside the reserve on the wide boulevard, and saw the lakes which run for a mile or so and are covered with water plants and hundreds of birds.

It

Pretty open spacesPretty open spacesPretty open spaces

was soon time for my flight to Iguazú. First I had to have a quick shower. I had washed and luckily was just rinsing off when I saw a shadow on the shower curtain. I could see it was a cockroach and a very large one! I told myself that I had bonded with cockroaches after seeing one give birth in Madagascar but the brain works in mysterious ways. Being naked and wet I felt vulnerable, a totally illogical response but I jumped out, switched on an extra light and that encouraged it to hide under a fold of the curtain. It was huge, body at least three inches with two inches of antenna waving around 180 degrees in front of it. But as I was in a hurry I ignored it and dressed quickly.

I had had to get up at 5.00 to make sure that there was time to get a taxi to the local airport only a few kilometres from my hotel. The flight was at 8am so I needed to be there by 6. Unfortunately the taxi can’t be booked in advance.

Tried peeping at this lovely house & gardenTried peeping at this lovely house & gardenTried peeping at this lovely house & garden

I didn’t sleep well. I think I was worried about oversleeping so at 4.45am, I decided to get up and on my way, far to early for breakfast at the hotel of course. After the cockroach visit I was happy to be moving out but the first hitch in the plan came when I asked for a taxi that I could pay by card. They all require cash. The receptionist is not allowed to change money. I had plenty of Uruguayan pesos, Euros, US dollars and pounds but no Argentine pesos as I had used my card everywhere. Eventually the young man changed some dollars from his own money for me which was very kind.

In just a few minutes I arrived at the airport with plans to find an ATM for Argentine pesos and get something for breakfast. The flight is two hours.

I had seen that the luggage allowance for carry on was good but hold bags had a maximum of 15kilos. As I had to take my case this time and I knew it weighed 22 kilos I wasn’t

Fortified wallsFortified wallsFortified walls

sure what would happen. My plan B if they wouldn’t take it was to put some items in an airport locker. Anyway, it wasn’t too great a problem. I checked the bag in but then had to go to a cashier and pay for excess baggage and only then could I have a boarding card. It cost $10 but the queue for the cashier took 20 mins. I congratulated myself on having arrived so early.

Then I looked for an ATM. In my part of the terminal was a small bank kiosk but it only changed money however they explained there was an ATM in the next segment of the terminal which meant going outside, along a few hundred metres and back inside. I did that, found the ATM and stood behind the only customer, who did take a long time, but eventually took his money and it was my turn. I put my card in, it asked for my pin, then greeted me by name and asked me to wait. I waited and waited while it spun around. I decided it wasn’t going to work so tried to cancel but nothing happened.

Gun positionGun positionGun position

Whatever I did it still said wait but retained my card. At that moment a young woman came to queue behind me but I explained it wasn’t working. She said welcome to Argentina!

She popped her head into the car rental shop next door to see if they could help and luckily found a policewoman lurking in there. The policewoman came out and explained that I needed to go to the bank ( where I had started) and ask them to retrieve my card. In the meantime, she would guard the machine so no-one could remove the card. I went out, back in and to the bank. Eventually the manager was found and he set off with a worried frown to find my card.

I waited with the cashier and asked how I could get cash. There was no other ATM and he was only allowed to change money. He said in panic, ‘don’t go back and use the ATM again’. As if I would! So I changed some Euros. Then I waited 15 minutes for the manager to return ( not sure why

Colonia lighthouse at nightColonia lighthouse at nightColonia lighthouse at night


To the naked eye the whole of the glass tower is red but camera only picks up light

it took so long), but he was smiling happily and waving my card in the air. What a relief.

By now I had less than an hour before the flight so I started to think I would have to give breakfast a miss as I hadn’t even been through security. However that was speedy and I managed to buy coffee and a bun just before they called the flight. Thank goodness I had arrived so early.

The flight was easy and I had a lovely chat to a very nice American woman and we didn’t stop until we landed two hours later.

The next day I left the hotel and, following instructions, walked to the bus stop directly in front to wait for the bus to the falls. A bus came but it was the company bus that took people to work in the park. So I waited for the next bus which was the airport bus. The driver beckoned me forward but I had been warned not to take the airport bus as it

Sunset, get ready to clap!Sunset, get ready to clap!Sunset, get ready to clap!

doesn’t go to the park. Then the driver signalled me to get on. At the same time another company bus had pulled up behind. So I climbed on, he took my 600 pesos for a ticket, than told me to get off and get on the bus behind. By this stage I was bewildered but did what he said and the driver on the company bus was waiting for me and was happy to take me as he had space and I had a ticket. I wasn’t sure what that was all about but it worked.

I bought my ticket at the entrance, took a mini train 700 metres then started walking towards the falls. When they came into view I stopped and stared, totally overwhelmed. It is an amazing sight especially as they are in full flood at the moment. The sound and mist from the falls was terrific. I took photographs but it is the video which replicates the atmosphere more effectively. It is one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen.

The falls ( cataratas) are 2,700 metes wide

Map of Argentina side of fallsMap of Argentina side of fallsMap of Argentina side of falls


Brazil is the narrow strip of land showing on very left hand side

and occur when water from the Rio Iguazú reaches the edge of a basaltic plateau and falls up to 80 metres into a sedimentary area below. There are numerous cataratas, all with their own name.

It is easy to access as walkways have been built which allow you to view all the way along the top edge, all along the bottom, and a third path takes a longer route to the Devil’s Throat. As the falls were in full spate this last path was closed for safety because of the water level. The top and bottom routes each take approximately 90 minutes to walk around. In places it was quite busy but the magnificence of the views for me overcame the bustle.

When I boarded the plane the day before I had spoken briefly with an English couple. Halfway around the walkway I bumped into them again and we spent the rest of the morning together. They were staying at the only hotel on the Argentine side to actually be in the park. They asked if I would like to stop off there for

First view of fallsFirst view of fallsFirst view of falls

a drink. Being extremely nosy (& thirsty) of course I said yes please!

The hotel is not pretty from the outside but lovely inside and the infinity pool which has nothing between it and the view to the falls is superb. However the cost for a night (£500-£700, not including dinner), was very much more than I paid for 5 nights. So I enjoyed visiting and using their facilities, (no whoopee cushion toilet seats there), but for the price my hotel is fine.

I enjoyed talking to Jenny and Martin as they visit Argentina regularly to see Martin’s 92 years old aunt who moved here from England many years ago. Her family were wealthy and bought an Estancia where she remains even now but supported by only two staff unlike in previous times when it was a working Estancia with numerous employees. The family also had connections with Eastbourne, when, before they moved, they owned a number of properties in the Meads.

I returned back to my hotel by 2pm after an amazing morning but exhausted as

I am not going to name all the cataratasI am not going to name all the cataratasI am not going to name all the cataratas

I had walked nearly 20,000 paces in over 30 degrees but it was worth it.

That evening I toyed with the idea of visiting San Ignacio, a 4-5 hours bus ride away. It looked interesting for two reasons, it is surrounded by ruins of Jesuit missions, and it is near a wildlife reserve. I checked with the hotel that I could leave my case until I returned and they said it was fine. So I went to find accommodation. Nothing available! I searched everywhere with the same result. It is high season and school holidays here which probably explains it but I was disappointed.

This morning, having reluctantly given up the idea of San Ignacio I have contacted a number of birding sites to see if I can arrange anything with them. I hope I receive some replies.

The next day I visited the Brazilian side of the falls. During the night there had been a storm with torrential rain, thunder and lightning, and the day started out overcast. That makes the walking easier but

On top of fallsOn top of fallsOn top of falls

isn’t as helpful when wanting to take photographs. The Brazilian park is a different experience. The walkway is along the opposite side of the river to the Argentine paths. The view is wider so all the cataratas can be seen at once which is amazing but the real difference is the physical sensation. The path takes you right up to the falls and into the spray so without a poncho which most people wore, you get soaked, and the noise is a tremendous thunder. The walkway goes right out above the river to take you as close to the water as anyone would want to be. A truly memorable experience only slightly impacted by the crowds of people, all of whom appear to want to take selfies all the time! On a narrow walkway this causes constant jams but the experience makes it well worth coping with the irritation.

No one replied to my birding inquiries but I managed to find a local birder so I am trying to arrange something with him, more in the next blog. I want to post this today as I have so many photos, hope you enjoy

Same againSame againSame again

them.






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