We had 3 nights in El Calafate. Although the internet wasn’t great, the town was very cute. The hotel was about 10 minute walk outside of the center but it was charming walk into town. I think we really lucked out with the fall weather as we had sun most of the time we were there. It has been a little strange seeing the leaves changing color and falling.
The town consists of a main street with most of the shops and restaurants. There are a lot of dogs in town and they follow you for miles. I think we had around 5 dogs walking with us at one point. It was very hard for me not to go into the market and buy a bag of dog food. However, all of the dogs look very well fed and taken care of.
A lot of the restaurants have lamb over a fire in the window. The town was worth a visit and I would easily come back here. They say if you eat the calafate berry that you will return. Does it count that I had chocolate with calafate?
On our last day, we went to an ecological reserve. After leaving the dogs outside the gate, we walked around a lake. If we had any bird watching skills, we may have seen up to 30 different birds on that day. I’m pretty sure I didn’t find that many but I did see a fox 🙂 There were flamingos that we did see in Lago Argentina.
The park is about an hour from El Calafate and is the largest national park in the country. There really isn’t any town closer and now I know why cars fill up anytime they see a gas stations in Patagonia. Most cars carry extra gas cans especially if they are driving longer distances.
The park consists of 48 major glaciers and is the largest ice cap outside of Antarctica, Greenland and Iceland. We went to see the Perito Moreno Glacier which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Patagonia. The glacier is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. It is 97 square miles of ice and it really is beautiful.
While we hear in the news that glaciers are retreating quickly, this glacier actually hasn’t changed in size in the last 100 years. Although, I did hear that they had their warmest day in history this last summer so hopefully things don’t start changing here. At the highest point, the glacier is 22 floors high.
The park consisted of a nice walkway that was accessible for everyone. We spent around 3 hours walking around looking at the breathtaking views of the glacier. The glacier was definitely active with sounds. It would sound like dynamite going off and I kept thinking that we would see a splash of water but we never did see anything break off. It is the noise of the ice breaking but you never really can see from where. If it were cloudy, I would have probably thought there was a lot of thunder. There was a sign though that said if ice breaks, it can go a long distance. They have had 30 plus deaths within of a 20 year timeframe from ice breaking off and going a long distance.
After a number of days without good internet, I’m finally able to update what we have been up to the last couple of days. We arrived in El Calafate to a little rain and no car. I had reserved an automatic car but they didn’t have any left. They offered me a manual but I really didn’t feel like driving a manual so I took the full refund. I was actually happy to not have to drive around because some of their toll/police booths are a little confusing.
We arranged to have a driver pick us up and drive us to the glacier. Unfortunately, our driver didn’t speak any English and we don’t speak much Spanish so it was a pretty quiet drive. The weather was perfect and there were barely any other cars on the road. Most of the drive is along Lago Argentina (biggest fresh water lake in Argentina) so it was a pretty spectacular drive with the Andes in the background. For reference, the lake has a surface area of 546 square miles and maximum width of 20 miles wide. I also now understand how Argentina picked their color of the flag because their lakes are the prettiest blue.
The drive consisted of beautiful lakes, mountains and pretty green hills. It was also fun to see a gaucho herding their sheep and cows. I don’t think I have ever seen so many sheep and cows at once. Lamb is a specialty in this area.
Once we finished the Brazil side of the falls and the bird park, the sun was coming out with blue skies. We decided that instead of going back to the hotel and doing the Argentina side the next day, we should just hurry and see as much as we could on the Argentina side. Adolfo was more than happy to drive us to the park and let us stay there until it closed.
Seeing the waterfall with blue skies made the experience completely different. We took the train to the furtherst point and then you walk out to see the largest of the waterfalls. You would never be able to see the entire waterfall since there is so much mist. We had to get the ponchos back out.
The Argentina side has 3 main walks you can do to view the waterfalls. We were able to do two of them before the park closed. I think my favorite walk was the last one we did— the upper circuit. Beside the fact that not many tourists were there because the park would soon be closing, the sunny skies created some nice rainbows with the waterfalls.
Both Argentina and Brazil have created a wonderful experience of being able to get close to the waterfalls. The parks are very clean and easily worth a visit if anyone is in the area. We didn’t do the boat rides as we really didn’t want to get that wet but I think you get the best views from above anyways.
Here is a very short video of the Argentina side of the falls:
Across the street from the entrance to Iguaçu Falls is the Parque Das Aves. I couldn’t resist getting a quick visit in since it is a bird park, and I like taking pictures. I just didn’t know how much I like looking at colorful birds. The jungle has beautiful birds and I actually was lucky enough to see some of them around the waterfalls. The park was defitility worth a visit.
They have 3 aviaries that get you very close with the birds. The macaw exhibit was one of my favorites because watching the macaws fly was incredible. Sadly, I only had a short time in there because we really needed to get back to meet our taxi driver.
Right after we took the video of the macaw below, it got a large piece of the tree off and dropped right next to us. We didn’t have time to get a video of bird flying, and I’m not sure this video really represents how loud it was in person. There must have been 50 birds in there and they were all yelling at one point.
We decided to see the Brazilian side of the waterfalls first since that is the side you are supposed to get the best panorama of the falls. Our taxi driver (Adolfo) from the day before picked us up and drove us across the border which was pretty easy. From there it is about a 20 minute ride to the park. He is a very helpful taxi driver and tells us what to see to help beat the crowds. He tries very hard to speak some English. He pretty much knows exactly how long we will take at each place so he can time it exactly on when to be back.
There are 275 waterfalls to see and it doesn’t dissapoint. I could have watched the waterfalls all day. I’m just amazed at how much water there is and the power of the waterfalls. I can’t understand where all of the water is going, because if you see the river, it doesn’t move. The water is pretty brown but I think that is fairly common since we are in the jungle and it rains a lot. It did rain for 5 days before we got here and they have very red soil. Pretty much all white cars have a red/brown look. Even the white dogs have reddish paws.
It is very hard to get a good picture since the power of the waterfalls creates a giant mist. We even bought ponchos because you get soaked. Not to mention, my camera got soaked trying to get a picture.
I took over 400 pictures so it has been very hard narrowing down which pictures to show.
I heard of coati before coming here but I didn’t realize how much I wouldn’t like them. They are part of the raccoon family but they are out during the day. They will bite if you aren’t careful and they love food. Some are so smart that they even know how to open your bag to get your food if you aren’t paying attention.
Here is a very short video of the waterfalls from the Brazil side.
We left the estancia early this morning to fly to Iguazu which is a town right on the border of Argentina and Brazil. Our driver wasn’t able to make it to the estancia because the road was still too muddy so the watchman at the ranch drove us in his truck. I’m pretty sure this was the dirtiest truck I have ever been in. This picture really doesn’t show how dirty the road was but it was a very bumpy and slow ride out.
From there, the driver drove 2 hours to the airport in Buenos Aires. He was a very fast but safe driver. We really hit Buenos Aires traffic at rush hour and he still found his way in and out of cars.
Iguazu doesn’t have a big airport. They just have one gate so it was easy to figure out where to find out luggage.
We got a taxi and headed to our hotel which is really in the middle of the jungle. It is fun seeing signs to watch out for monkeys but I’m OK if I don’t see some of the other animals. It was pouring when we were on our way to the hotel. It made it easy to decide to stay in the hotel today instead of trying to go see some of the waterfalls. Even the driver couldn’t believe how much it was raining. The road right before we arrived at our hotel was pretty washed out and bumpy. I tried getting a video of some of it but you really can’t see how bad the road was. Our driver was very nice and he is actually picking us up in the moringing to drive us to Brazil to see the waterfall from their side first.
But all of this rain does give you a nice green jungle to look at from your hotel 🙂
We spent two nights at the estancia. From when you check in to when you are leave, you are welcomed with beautiful bird sounds and miles and miles of farm land. The estancia was built in the late 1800’s by an Italian. It was bought in the 1930’s and has been in the family ever since. In the early 1990’s, they decided to be one of the first estancia’s to welcome tourists in Argentina.
You are welcomed by about 10 dogs, shown around and given some empanadas. There are so many dogs that I always feel like there is a dog I haven’t seen yet. They serve lunch around 1:30 in a traditional Argentian asado (or bbq), served by gauchos. I thought I should try every meat for the first lunch and that was a mistake. I was so full from lunch. After lunch, they do some folk music and dances. They offer the guests two hour and half horse rides everyday, one in the morning and one after the dances. The night is capped off with dinner around 8. I was very full the first day so I learned how to pace myself the second day.
I was able to ride horses in the morning and afternoon today. The rides were led by the gauchos. The first horse I had was very content to just follow the pack as long as we were in the back. The second horse I had was complete opposite and had to be in the front. Both were nice horses but I can now say that I’m sore after 3 hours of horse riding. It has been so fun seeing so many different birds here. They have over 30 different species of birds here. My favorite is the pretty green bird that reminds me of a parrot. They are all too quick to get a picture of though.
After two nights in Buenos Aires, we had a driver take us an hour and half to an estancia. Estancia is a large ranch. We are staying at estancia that is still a working ranch with different crops, cattle, sheep and chickens. They also have 70 horses that roam the pastures.
The drive was pretty easy since we just got to enjoy the scenery. I was very happy that on the way out of Buenos Aires, it took us by where one of the major soccer teams in Argentina plays (River Plate). I just had to get a picture from as we drove by 🙂
The rest of the ride was mainly farm land. The last 3 miles is down a dirt road that was very bumpy. When it rains, they have a hard time accessing the estancia. After it rains, they need to use special trucks to get the guests in and out. On this day, we did not need one.