Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: National Park

South America – 5 – Iguazu Falls

Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 December 2017

Monday morning and it is time to say farewell to Buenos Aires.  A lunchtime flight to Iguazu for the falls limits our time at the destination somewhat – it would have been nice to transit earlier in the morning, especially as our flight is then delayed and the small size of the Argentine airport means there is a single tractor to move luggage from plane to terminal and one bag is on the last of  the three trips!  Not as bad as Tenerife a few years ago – that was a complete standstill.

We are staying in the Melia Iguazu which is the only hotel inside the Argentine National Park, entry to which costs 500 Pesos, the size of which had not been overtly mentioned earlier (although we had checked).  This was the prime reason for visiting the ATMs as they only accept cash for this payment – no credit cards (Argentina still requires credit card signatures – chip and pin does not appear to have arrived)!  A former Sheraton hotel it is a very “concrete” structure of the ‘70s but the new owners have certainly renovated the interior.

We take our bags to our room and then we have time this afternoon, so Jackie and I head off to do the “lower” walk on the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls.  On our way into the Iguazu National Park our guide has already explained to us that most of the falls are on the Argentinian side of the Iguazu river but that the best views are those we shall see tomorrow from the Brazilian side as are the most impressive falls.

On this side there are three ways of seeing the falls – two of which are simple walks from the hotel – the lower walk we proceed along plus a longer higher walk.  The third way is to take the train to a location above the falls and walk along a walkway to a throat at the centre of the falls.  (The fit can use the path alongside the railway to reach the same walkway).

The lower walk supposedly has a “wet” bit as part of the route goes close to some of the secondary falls and I decide to wear my anorak to prevent getting soaked as I did on Sunday.  However the water flow is limited and we have no real danger of getting wet this afternoon – and it is hot wearing an anorak!  It is inevitably humid and also pretty hot so both of us are feeling damp by the time we reach our room.  Towards the end of our walk we spot some little monkeys.

The photos of the walk this afternoon are here.

In the interests of taking life easy we order a couple of burgers and a bottle of wine – room service; the bill was the equivalent of £75.  The absence of competition and being situated inside a National Park being the explanation of the pricing.

On Tuesday we are off to Brazil and we take a coach to wend our way round by road to the other side of the falls via the town where most of the hotels are located.  Border staff deal with transits such as ours on a daily basis and ease the movement – we stay on the coach and the guide takes our passports to the Border office, together with a list – no individual passports are stamped.  To prove we are in another country the bridge colours change halfway across as we cross the river.  And here the falls in the local language are known as Iguacu Falls in another National Park.  On the Brazilian side the coaches drop off at the lower end roughly opposite the lower walk on the Argentinian side and the visitors walk up to the top where the coaches line up for the return trip.

We then walk along the Brazilian side of the river and not only do we see the falls we saw yesterday but we also see the falls much further along and these really are spectacular.  We understand from our guide that since we visited the falls yesterday the authorities have opened a dam above the falls and have significantly increased the water flow so even the falls we saw yesterday look more impressive today!

I think we were slightly underwhelmed at Niagara Falls when we visited – that does not apply this time – this is magnificent.  On the Brazilian side they have also built walks out into the river – most visitors to these platforms put on ponchos or similar but I brave it in a T shirt and inevitably get another soaking for my pains.  I put the camera away when I get to the most distant platform as I do not want it get too wet.

The main photos from this trip are here.  Some camera phone photos taken down at the very wet platforms in the river and of more animals running wild are here.

We return across the border to our hotel in Argentina and Jackie goes to the room.  I take the train up to the top of the falls.  Neat train – it is a diesel at the front end going up the hill and there is a control trailer at the back end so it merely shuttles back and forth.  The train runs on down the hill to a station near the main entrance where people leave cars and they travel up and down using the train – so the vehicles do not move in the park.

The train photos are here.

There is some spray from the falls which helps cool down – but it is pretty warm this afternoon and the walk is some distance.  Jackie would not enjoy the walk which I guess is nearly 1km long all above the river.  The walkway is a fine mesh grating and one can see the water flowing past beneath your feet and I know she hates piers and the concept of walking above the water.

There are some photos of the throat from the viewing platform at the end to be found here.  Also some ring tail coatis photos – NOT lemurs!

I am tired by the time I get back to the train back down the hill.  The heat is certainly telling.  We are now about halfway through our holiday and so the first clothes pack is just about exhausted and it is time to move things around for the rest of the holiday.  Largely avoided splattering food down myself and so have actually managed to wear some tops more than once.  Unlike Canada and Australia there are no obvious opportunities for some laundry to be undertaken – on both those trips one of the hotels had a small laundry facility!  Time to pack up for the morning transit.

Banff National Park

Friday 15 May 2015

Another day and so the tour continues.  Although it had been looking a little grey overhead it starts to brighten up and we head up towards Norquay for a great view down on to the town which is laid out below plus some more long horn sheep and some praire dogs running around the field.  The latter tend to be far too small to be visible in photographs unless I invest in one of those extreme telephoto lenses – which is unlikely.

Pictures today are here.

Our tour today is essentially to see bits of the huge Banff National Park and to enjoy some of the highlights.  So back on the coach everyone and try to stay awake in the hope of spotting wildlife.  Although I and others can be seen dozing from time to time, particularly on some of the longer runs through the lush fir forests.  The fir trees are in fact very close together which we gather tends to limit the ability of the animals with large antlers to be able to progress through the forest, which looking at the road side is clear as spotting animals any distance into the wood is impossible.

The established view over forest fires has changed in recent years.  Historically the aim was always to seek to extinguish fires to prevent loss of trees – they can happen from natural causes such as lightning strikes as well as man made intervention.  Now the pendulum has swung and a small amount of controlled burning of the woods has happened, although we were told in one case that it had spread further than planned.  Working out the right ecological balance must be difficult.

Our second stop should have involved coffee but once again we are slightly early; the lights in the restaurant are on but the door is locked. Cleaning and preparation for the season is underway!  This is Johnston Canyon where we have time to walk as far as the lower falls before returning.  I saw a variety of small creatures running around whilst stopped here, chipmunk like but even though I was at ground level photos are not worth it as they tend to say.  In the car park was a “Beaumont” car – a General Motors marque used between 1966 and 1969 and in good condition.

The coffee stop is taken at Samson Mall (damn fine coffee in Laggan’s Bakery – no sign of any cherry pie anywhere in Canada so far) plus some sandwiches to eat at our next halting place – Lake Louise; another beautiful piece of scenery which I would love to look at for even longer.  But do not turn around; behind you is a modern hotel, with no style or design; you could find it in Dubai or almost anywhere. And it is huge.  Never mind, most of the time whilst facing the lake it does not impinge on the pictorial quality of the place; just do not turn around.  Shame it is not panto season.

We temporarily leave Alberta for British Columbia and the Yoho National Park.  In theory there is a one hour time change at the border but as we are returning to Banff later this change is not made.  I wonder how local residents popping across the border cope – or perhaps there is actually very little local traffic?

Our purpose is to visit the Kicking Horse river where there is a bridge which has been left by the water cutting through the rock and later we move onto the very peaceful and quiet environs of Emeral Lake; although we are in Yoho the photos to be found at this link.

Our journey then reverses to head back to Banff; I note for the first time Canadian Pacific trains as opposed to CN which has been the mainstay betweenToronto and Jasper; but this more southerly area was CP dominated.

In the evening we decide on something completely different and catch the bus into Banff.  We wander around the town assessing the various eating possibilities but our choice is unaltered – it is time for a greek meal in Balkan, which occupies the Cascade Hall.  Pita bread and three dips is probably to much; Jackie has a moussaka which I acknolwedge looks good and apparently is good to eat whilst I consume some skewered steak, rice and potatoes.

On the journey into town the bus was running late on the timetable and this continued as we found when we returned to the bus stop.  Indeed the gap was such that we reckoned we could walk back to the Caribou Lodge first and so it proved as we were back indoors, walking at Jackie’s usual leisurely pace without being passed by the bus.