Let the jealousy ensue.
When discussing Corrientes to my dear friend Amanda Gilbert, who probably never reads this, she said it sounded romantic. That has turned out to be the best way to describe it. In fact, the entire last ten days has been one amazing, romantic get-away. I went from Corrientes to Puerto Iguazú to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. It was like a honey moon, just me and Earth´s stunning beauty. Walking along the peaceful river, lush atmosphere, and incredibly easy-going pace of life in Corrientes. Then Iguazú Falls is still like an enigma that my brain does not know how to comprehend. The shear power and raw beauty of so much water, with complete disregard for how it has and will shape the landscape around it. Finally, the Esteros del Iberá, probably the single-handed most stunning wetland reserve to see bird and animal wildlife. And I supposedly saw it at a bad time when not as many animals are around. Incredible. It should be easy to understand that I have quite quickly run out of space on my camera´s memory card.
Just what I said, a quiet, river front city. My hostel, Golondrina, was literally one block away from Río Paraná. I spent the afternoon walking along the picturesque river to Playa Negra. The weather was splendid, everything was serene, and the drowsy lull of the city put me under a trance. I ran into very few people, and the ones I did see were friendly and full of smiles. I wandered through Parque Camba Cuá on my way back, stopping by the market for some fresh vegetables.
The following day I wandered down the opposite direction of the river, which is lined with a pretty little park area. I saw the artsy block decorated in historical murals, chronicling the city´s history since colonial times. Many places also honor the substantial Italian community. I stumbled upon this music store, La Casa de Chamamé, on the corner of Pellegrini street. The man inside was incredibly patient and helped me to pick out three Tango music CD´s. He literally hand picked CD´s based on my preferences and let me listen to the actual CD´s to see if I liked the music. I should have looked for some Salsa and Folklórica while I was there.
In all Corrientes was a much needed break to get away from people, organize my thoughts, and put my journal and blog together. Golondrina Hostel was very clean and peaceful and everyone pretty much left me alone. Granted I only stayed one night, but it was fantastic.
The resting stop on the Argentinian side for the world famous Iguazú Falls. Which happens to be a World Wonder but not of the Seven [Top] Wonders of the World. The town is not much. I went to Hito Tres Fronteras, the confluence of Ríos Iguazú and Paraná marking the natural border between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. Each country has a symbolic obelisk which can all be viewed from any of the others. Otherwise, I really did not bother with the over-priced, tourist inundated place.
By comparison, I was blown away by Parque Nacional Iguazú, A.K.A. Iguazú Falls. The falls are where the Río Iguazú broadens into 1.8 km then plunges 100 m off a basalt plateau in a series of 274 separate cataracts. I made sure to take the very first bus, earning the first entry ticket of the day, to head straight for the Garganta del Diable (Devil´s Throat). Yes, once again something referring to the devil´s throat… Anyways, it is the most spectacular waterfalls. Truly indescribable. I was among the first few individuals to race across the catwalk, to experience the overwhelming sight and sounds before the view became congested with people. The largest amount of water pours over here and I am still struggling to comprehend the shear magnitude and intense power of it all. I remember Niagara Falls as being spectacular, but even with my exaggeration on life my the eight-year-old perspective, Iguazú was greater. I cannot even come up with an adequate comparison of how grand it was.
I also walked the Upper and Lower Circuits to see the rest of the falls, which are obviously of smaller proportions. Then I took a boat to San Martín Island for the great views looking back on the long run of falls from Salta Excondido to Salto Bossetti. Wow! I end the day walking to the measly Salto Arrechea by the Macuco Trail through the forest. The purpose was for the walk through the jungle. The park boasts over 2000 species of bird, mammal, and plant life. I had the grand opportunity to witness playful Capuchino monkeys, who knew the perfect distractions for passersby to snatch food out of bags; adorable coati as they came in groups sniffing out insects with their incredibly expressive noses; coypu rodents; numerous lizard sightings, as well as several Black Tegus; an uncountable amount of birds (especially the very friendly Plush Crested Jays); and the sighting of the day, a PUMA! That is right, I was stealth enough (and they are numerous enough) that I was able to come upon a puma. Though a rude and noisy boy came up with ruined my slow and calculated approach. I did manage some photo documentary, however.
The following day I went to Güirá Oga, a bird recuperation center, with a woman named Anj. The center was not astounding. I did get to see the more exotic predator birds that are less common to sight. Plus, the center actually focuses on rehabilitation and reintroduction back into the natural habitats. Much approved of by me. I met this fantastic English couple, now residents of Australia, at my hostel. They are literally a glimpse of who I want to be in my late thirties. Happy, intelligent individuals, who are incredibly well traveled, nature loving, outdoor enthusiasts. Justin, an independent environmental scientist has lived more places around the world than I have merely visited. Anj, a water engineer, proves travel is still possible while holding down a professional career. They have been in Southern Chile and Argentina backpacking through Patagonia and are heading north in essentially the opposite direction that I came from. They provided me the company of fellow outdoor enthusiasts and I gave them helpful tips for their future locations. The best part was that they were also heading to the Esteros del Iberá after Iguazú.
Colonia Carlos Pellegrini and the Esteros del Iberá
We made the bus ride adventure to C. Carlos Pellegrini together. I say adventure because we left on a night bus to Corrientes, then caught a bus 40 minute later to Mercedes, where we caught the first, and only, bus to C. Carlos Pellegrini. The lack of a single bus route was a cake walk compared to the complete lack of information out there on how to get to C. Carlos Pellegrini without hiring a private driver. We made it is one piece and in less than 24 hours. Job well done. In addition to having no information on how to get there, we also had this preconceived notion that we were going completely off grid. Thus we made sure to stock up on food stuffs before leaving Puerto Iguazú. Much to our surprise, Mercedes turned out to be quite the bustling little place with at least three full-sized grocery stores. Not exactly the hole in the road we were led to believe.None-the-less we simply shopped again to top off our food supply. Which turned out to be the right choice. Despite having over 100 homes containing the more than 900 permanent inhabitants, Carlos Pellegrini does not really have a store besides the random dispenser, all with highly overpriced products. Luckily I had over-prepared and only had one purchase of two quite expensive tomatoes to round out my onion and garlic dish.
Carlos Pellegrini is a relaxed and slow-moving little place; the perfect level of tranquility to experience the nature of Argentina´s impressive wetlands. Truly all I can is Wow! Any nature lover would be crazy not to want to go. I now know why they keep it such a secret. In the middle of the humid wetlands, the Esteros del Iberá have cultivated one of the most important and unique ecosystems in the world. It is literally the world´s second largest wetlands. Carlos Pellegrini is the town to stay and it has its own special flavor with all dirt roads that are picturesquely lined with street lamps; horses, cows, sheep, chicken, and dogs freely roaming at their leisure; and the friendly shops and restaurants. Despite its quaintness, most of the accommodation more closely resembles luxury lodges. And the finely sculpted campground has a very Argentina feel with the 16 fully functioning asados (fire grills) complete with awnings and wooden picnic tables. The best lake views are also found from the campground´s little dock. Absolutely stunning. There is practically no light pollution, nothing taller than a tree, and endless sky. Across my boat tour, nighttime walking tour, and my own wandering along the walking trails, I saw an incredible amount of the bird and animal wildlife. To overwhelm you I will include the list. 🙂
Two species of cayman (Southern Spectacled Cayman and Broad Nosed Cayman), an alligator type; three species of deer (Red Rocket, Gray Rocket, and the orange-colored Marsh Deer); carpinchos, or capybaras, the world´s largest rodent; Plain Vizcachas, rodents which look like robber rabbits with black stripes across their faces; Coypu, Nutria rodents; two species of fox (red-furred Crab Eating Fox and Grey Fox); Geoffrey´s Cat, a black-spotted, yellow-furred, wild cat about the size of a house cat; armadillos; a large black tarantula which joined us for supper one evening; bats; dragonflies; and butterflies. Not to mention the over 360 species of bird, of which I remember seeing: colorful Kingfishers, delicate hummingbirds, parrots, Snail Kites, Black Vultures, Great Egret, the magnificent Rufescent Tiger-Heron, White-necked Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Neotropic Cormorants, Black-bellied Tree Ducks, Red-crested Cardinals, Scarlet-headed blackbird (Federals; very similar looking to the red-crested cardinals), Yellow-billed Cardinals, the enormous Southern Screamers (and chicks), Great Black Hawk, Giant Woodrail, Purple Gallinule, Wattled Jacana, White-headed Marsh Tyrants, Cattle Tyrants, Great Kiskadee, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Spot-winged Pigeon, Smooth-billed Ani, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Red-eyed Vireo, Saffron Finch, very playful Plush-crested Jay, swallows, and woodpeckers. Among numerous others I could not differentiate myself or remember long enough to ask Anj (a dedicated bird enthusiast). Among the heaps of wildlife I did see, there are plenty I missed: the plethora of piranha in the lake, a variety of venomous and nonvenomous snakes (including the boa and other constrictors), howler monkeys (which I could have seen if I went at an appropriate time for), the rare Maned Wolf, giant otters, and the Giant Anteater.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I stayed at the Casa de la Luna while my companions were at the campsite. I enjoyed the luxury of a kitchen, full-sized bed, private bath, and air conditioning! The most astounding part, however, was that I was told this is the worst time to see a wildlife because it has been unusually hot and dry. I literally could have touched the Crab Eating Fox, Jeoffrey´s Cat, or any Capybara. And I feel like I have seen more wildlife with the least produced effort than anywhere I have every been before. It was sufficient for me.
That is it. My romantic get-away.