Iguazu Falls – A trip to the edge

Excited to start the trip to the falls today, we shoveled down a few more (un)healthy servings of eggs and headed to the bus station. We found out the day before that buses every 20 minutes so we knew we’d have very little wait at any time of day. When we got to the station everything was running smoothly and in about 10 minutes we had started our 40 minute bus ride to the Falls. When we got to the Falls we grabbed tickets and headed into the park.

To start we headed to an overlook next to the main falls to see the full power in action. This required us to catch a train and naturally it pulled out just as we got to the station. Luckily it’s a slow train taking a circuitous route for the first stop and we were able to walk to the next station before it left and off we went to the main falls. From the station, there was a 2/3 mile raised metal bridge over the river. There has been a drought so the river level was a bit low and the water flow for much of the walk was very gentle. This allowed us to be able to see and even identify a number of fish and even a turtle along our walk to and from the falls.

At the end of the pathway, the bridge opened up to an amazing view of the main falls. We were at the top of the falls looking down and the roar was quite loud. We stayed there for quite a while, marveling at the various parts of the falls. It was incredible to watch the water go over the edge, turn into streams and then into vapor that hits the bottom with such force to send up a constant cloud of mist. It was raining off and on for most of the day but here the drops were raining up instead of down. We probably could have stayed here for the rest of the day but we had other views to see.

After this trip, we rode back and had some lunch. As is typical of parks, the lunch was quite expensive so we opted for the cheap fast food and Dick and Karen got their first hint of just how prevalent ham and mozzarella are down here. We got hamburgers and they came with a slice of ham and mozzarella (not advertised). After watching the painted jays get their fill off leftovers outside and finishing our own plates we headed on to other views.

Unfortunately, though the park closes at 6 many of the trails, trains and boats, close earlier. We had seen some of the closing warnings but not all of them and the trail that was highest on Karen’s list was already closed. This was the only trail that boasted a chance to see monkeys and tucans and while that might seem a little hokey, I would’ve really like to see a tucan outside of a zoo. We chose another trail and set off down the path to see what we could see.

The path we chose afforded many panoramic views of the larger falls and close ups of several lesser falls. It was a beautiful sight and I’m  very glad we took the opportunity to go. When we hit the end of the last trail we weren’t ready to leave and Dick and Karen said they would meet us at the exit after a trip through the gift shops. When we separated ourselves from the waterfall we managed to go back up the wrong trail but finally found our way out. After meeting up with Dick and Karen we headed home on the bus exhausted from another awesome day.

As we disembarked at the bus station, the rain stopped and the clouds opened just a bit for an incredible rainbow that you could follow all the way across the arc. And just in case we hadn’t had enough beauty for one day as we left the bus station walking back to the hotel a vibrant sunset painted the sky.

For anyone considering a trip to the falls, I would definitely recommend going. Don’t let the water level at the falls deter you. When we were there the water level was very low and it was still quite impressive. You could see the wear of constant water flow on all the igneous rock. That said, I saw some recent pictures and it looks like some rains increased the level and they’re flowing quite nicely right now. Either way take the trip!

You can see more photos in the photoset on flickr.

A collection of travel experiences

After the tournament, Randi and I took a trip with her parents to Iguazu Falls. We took a taxi straight from the fields to the airport.  After Randi prompted the driver, I had a great conversation with him for the 30 minute ride to the airport. We talked about everything from Ultimate, to the global recession’s affect on the US, to the area we were driving through and the history of it. It turned out he was a long distance cyclist; he competed in a number of century races. As we approached the airport, he also told us that the entire area the airport is on was filled in from the river. It was a really interesting cab ride and a great start to the trip!

After getting to the airport, we checked in quickly and got through security line very quickly. Security here was about like pre-9/11 levels in the US. It was nice to be in a place where people aren’t subject to so much Security Theatre. When we boarded the plane there were no boarding zones everyone just makes lines up and files in. Since there’s no charge for checking a bag you don’t find people battling for overhead compartments with their overstuffed bags. Although we boarded about 10 minutes before departure, everyone was comfortably seated and we pulled back from the gate right on time. Randi and I slept through the whole trip but apparently for the quick 1:45 minute flight they handed out little meal boxes with a sandwich and some snacks. The flight on the way back from Iguazu, connected in Buenos Aires on the way to Montevideo. Most of the travel was a very similar experience with the quick, efficient security lines and boarding.

We had one little hiccup on the way home. We got in the wrong security line in Buenos Aires. A little explanation is due. There are two airports in Buenos Aires and we flew through the small one, serving mostly regional flights. There are 14 gates with one line for 1-12 and another for 13-14. There’s no signage that we saw saying what the difference is and flights don’t get gate assignments until they are close to boarding. So, when we saw a long line for 1-12 we just followed the crowd. That’s also the line we went through on the way to Iguazu so it was familiar if quite a bit longer. Even with over 150 people ahead of us in line (Dick counted), it only took about 15 minutes to make it to the front. Once there, the ticket checker let us know that since we were taking an international flight we would be leaving out of 13-14. Oops. There was absolutely no line through customs on the other side of the airport and Buquebus had already filled out our exit paperwork so Randi and I quickly made it through the checkpoint. Followed closely by her parents, we navigated the duty free shop and waited for the last leg of our journey. Again the plane boarded in about 10 minutes with very empty overhead bins. When we touched down in Montevideo, I had an unexpected sensation of arriving home. I guess I’m beginning to settle in here.

Vaccinations

Sorry we’ve been MIA for a while. Nothing bad has happened, but we’ve neglected the blog a bit in favor of interacting face to face with people. This has resulted in a bunch of posts that will be forthcoming, so stay tuned. We’ll start with today’s adventures and work backwards in the coming days until we’ve caught up!

“Vaccinations” might be an odd title for this post considering that we’re not little babies any more and we’re not traveling to any crazy places. Uruguay is not a third world country and does not have any crazy disease carrying monster insects. Well, turns out that we will be traveling to a crazy place with crazy disease carrying monster insects while my parents are here visiting in a couple weeks.

We are traveling to Iguazu Falls which is in the northern-most part of Argentina and borders Paraguay and Brazil. It’s the jungle and the mosquitos in that jungle sometimes carry yellow fever. It is recommended for people traveling to this area to get vaccinated for yellow fever, but it is not required. See these sources about yellow fever and where vaccinations are required: National Institutes of Health and Vaccination Info. Since yellow fever is a very serious disease and at the request of my parents, we got vaccinated for it.

Montevideo has a dedicated office at the port for travelers who want to be vaccinated against yellow fever. I imagine this is because there is a very real risk of yellow fever in many northern parts of South America and many countries require travelers to be vaccinated against it before being granted entry into the country. This is definitely the case for travelers to Brazil.

So what does one do to actually get vaccinated for yellow fever? Well it’s a four step process. The first step is a phone call. This was a very interesting step considering my tenuous understanding of the spanish language and the lack of facial expressions and hand gestures for contextual support. After figuring out how to actually make a phone call on my cell phone (dial 0 and 2 before the number in case you’re wondering), I fairly easily stated what I was calling about, told the nice lady where we were traveling, and set up an appointment for 9 am Friday morning.

Then she said she had some questions to ask me. I understood that, but could not for the life of me comprehend the actual questions she asked me. This became apparent fairly quickly and she handed the phone to a man who’s english was just as bad as my spanish. After some exchanges in “spanglish” I managed to answer the questions to his satisfaction and he wished me happy travels and hung up.

The second step in getting vaccinated against yellow fever is to figure out where the heck the office is. The office of “Sanidad de Fronteras” is at the port of Montevideo, which is a fairly large place. There is a cruise line terminal, the buquebus (boat to Argentina) terminal, and a variety of large and imposing brick buildings. On google maps it was very clear where we were suppose to go. Unfortunately reality sometimes doesn’t look like google maps.

What did we do? We asked someone who said to go until reaching the big brick building and the office was at the end. He also pointed in the direction we should be going. At the end of this brick building there was a pair of glass doors that looked like it could be a doctor’s office. We went in and asked again and were told it was around the corner. As we were walking out one of the dock crew smiled and pointed around the corner. Guess we’re just that apparent.

Looking toward the end of the very large brick buildings. The Sanidad de Fronteras is at the very end!

Well we got to the unlabeled door around the corner and went in. Signs were plastered everywhere saying that the yellow fever office was on the first floor, so we went up.

The unmarked doorway to the vaccination clinic.

Signs posted up in the office.

Stairway up to the vaccination office.

The third step in getting vaccinated against yellow fever is waiting to get the shot. On going upstairs, we found ourselves in a dark foyer with several closed office doors (looking deserted), a locked bathroom, and one door in the corner that said “Fiebre Amarilla” (i.e. yellow fever). There were 5 people already standing in the foyer. They had all made appointments for 9 AM and were upset about having to wait in line and apparently it doesn’t matter if you make an appointment because they just call the next person in line.

While we were waiting the man behind us saw our passports and asked incredulously if we needed them, at which time we told him that we were from the United States and that we were told to bring them. Our answer quelled his fears and he asked us where we were traveling.

The fourth step in getting vaccinated against yellow fever is actually getting the shot. We were called into the office which consisted of one room containing three people: a woman acting as receptionist, a man answering phones, and a nurse. The room had a couple desks which the first two people were sitting at and a corner with a curtain where the shots were actually administered. The nurse was wonderful and put us at ease right away while the receptionist took our information and drew up our international vaccination cards. We paid $352 pesos each (about $17US) for each shot, and that was only because we didn’t have international vaccination cards already. I think the shot is free for Uruguayan citizens.

Before we actually got the shots we had to answer a bunch of questions, many of the same ones that I had already answered on the phone: allergic to eggs? allergic to antibiotics? pregnant? and other vaccinations in the last 30 days? The she gave us some mandates and advice… Don’t get pregnant in the next 3 months (check!), keep eating and exercising regularly, and if we got a fever to just use an over-the-counter remedy. All this in spanish. She spoke slowly and deliberately, but we both understood every word she had to say which also put us both at ease.

The shot itself may have been the least painful shot I have received in my adult life. Here’s to hoping that there aren’t any side effects! We thanked them heartily and made our way home.