Welcome to the flight back to Buenos Aires after a visit to breathtaking Iguazú Falls.
This is flight 3 of 4 in this series. The reports for legs 1 and 2 are also available. Leg 4 is coming soon.
But how could I start off just like that, without sharing some views of this wonder called Cataratas del Iguazú!
Though, as you'll see later, this was a rather bittersweet experience.
Preflight Bonus - Iguazú Falls and Puerto Iguazú
I was very lucky to find accomodation only meters from Avenida Tres Fronteras, where you can take the Río Uruguay bus that takes you to Iguazú Park. No way to miss those buses. They come every ten minutes and have a sign that reads "Cataratas". The trip takes about half an hour, and the price is 85 ARS (2.5 USD)
At the entrance…
…foreigners pay 600 ARS (16 USD)
You can pick some free brochures which include maps of the park, and there are also large maps on the wall.
Before we start, let's get familiar with the map of the park.
There are three trails (or circuits) called the lower circuit, upper circuit and the Devil's Throat circuit.
My Airbnb host suggested me the following route, which is what you'll see in this bonus:
From the access - lower right, next to the parking lots marked E (for "Estacionamiento") - walk all the way to the little roundabout that looks like a bicycle wheel (marked with a blue information sign). There, turn right and walk along the "Green Trail" leading to the train station.
The train takes you to Devil's Throat station (upper left) from where you walk over the river up to the largest waterfall in the park, Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat)
Then take the train back to Cataratas station and walk to the lighthouse in the middle, where the lower circuit (in light blue) start starts. Finally, come back to the lighthouse and do the upper circuit (in red) if you still have time.
Right after the entrance is the visitor center, where you find…
…information, reminders like "If you feed us, we become agressive towards our group and towards people"; "If you feed us, we become ill and can transmit diseases"; "We the animals of the park know how to find our food in the jungle"…
…the necessary restrooms, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
At the roundabout you are reminded that you are about to get some steps lower in the food chain. :D
And this is where the Green Trail starts.
"Turn your aprehension into admiration."
The trail leads to…
"Welcome to Cataratas station."
There's a train to the Devil's Throat every 15 minutes.
You get your ticket from him (it's included in your admittance fee)…
…and there's no need to queue up.
You just wait for your turn.
Just make sure to make room for four people in your seat or the assistants will frown upon you.
This ride is real fun! The view behind me:
I saw people walking this stretch, but it's not worth it. You'll get tired too early and you can't see the waterfalls from here.
From the station you walk the long path…
…over river Paraná.
…and walk, across a series of islands formed by the sediments in the shallow waters of the upper Iguazú river (right before the waterfalls)
The fish in the upper and lower Iguazú (before and after the waterfalls) are different. Those in the upper Iguazú are small, and those in the lower Iguazú are ferocious predators.
There's a resting place with some seats mid-way to the Devil's Throat,
…you start to get soaked in the spray from the waterfall.
And there it is. Unbelievably huge…
When you stand there, staring at all that water falling to the bottom, it feels as if entire worlds were being swallowed…
…into a black hole. You can not say you know Iguazú because you saw it in photos or in a video. You have to be there. I'm shaking inside!
The noise is deafening! Remember that we are in winter…
…which is the dry season here!
I'm moved to tears by such humbling display of the power of nature.
I stay there for as long as I can, trying to understand how little we are.
On the way back to the train…
…I have to sit for a while, but these guys think that I am there to feed them! They look cute at first…
…but I don't like that velociraptor look in their eyes.
Even less when they start to gather around me. I'd better hit the road.
Awww… my first coati sighting!! Arent they lovely??? (It's koh - ah - TEE) They look like cats in a dog's costume.
At the train station…
…which is invaded by coatis…
…you also wait for your turn without lining up.
Back in Cataratas station you can pause for a snack at one of the (expensive) cafeterias and continue towards the lighthouse and the lower circuit.
Here's why I wouldn't come with a guided tour. It's chaotic. There are lots of groups, lots of people, and you will spend more time finding and keeping up with your group than enjoying the views. Those umbrellas are not intended to cover you, but to show where your tour guide is.
Besides, all the signs are in Spanish, English and Portuguese. You can't get lost!
Here we are.
This is where the lower trail starts.
I hate to think…
…that each step downwards…
…will turn into a step upwards.
This is it. That would be the Devil's Throat in the distance.
And that is the Brazilian side. There's an unending discussion as to which is the best side to watch the waterfalls from - Argentina or Brazil.
So, in few words, take the time to visit both sides.
You can also take a boat and get closer to the falls…
…but the prices are abusive. Besides, they don't get THAT close because it's dangerous.
There is a string…
…of smaller "saltos" (jumps) or little falls…
…of astonishing beauty.
After these stunning views…
…you come to…
…salto Bosetti, which marks the end of the lower trail.
On the way back to the lighthouse you'll come across salto Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters)
"Wounds in the forest". According to this, it takes up to 60 years for the jungle to recover sfter being cut down.
Well, the dreaded moment has come. Up we go.
Pheeeeewww… Back at the lighthouse. But before we go for the upper circuit…
…a little pause to eat something, always being careful not to feed the coatis or leave any leftovers behind. These warnings are on each table.
And even though they seem to scream "Cuddle meee! I'm adorable!!"…
…don't try to pet them! They're not domestic animals. Look at those fangs! (Same thing for the monkeys, though I didn't see any)
AND… they are expert thieves! I saw that daring coati run away with a paper bag that the lady in the pink sweater left on the table, just to discard it when it saw that there was no food in it.
But because I can't follow even my own advice, I couldn't help it when this coati came this close to me with its tail up in the air. Stealthily I pinched the tip of its tail saying "colita!", the way I do to my cats. The coati gave a start and looked around, but I stood still like a statue and it couldn't guess where the attack had come from! Phew! This was my favorite moment! :D
The views from the upper circuit are OK…
…but they are not as impressive as those from the other circuits.
You see most of the same waterfalls, but from above….
…like salto Bosetti.
We were down there some minutes ago.
You have nice views of the upper Iguazú, though.
By this time of day, all we want is to go back to our accomodations. I can hardly walk!
The buses are waiting at the entrance. There's an office there where you buy your ticket first.
The buses run every few minutes. And look! They have a special service on nights with a full moon!
I'm leaving Iguazú completely exhausted, but in deep awe.
However, when I arrive at my accommodation in quiet Puerto Iguazú…
…I take some time to check a map of the area around the park on the Internet.
My heart breaks.
The idea that South America is teeming with jungle life…
…is a big…
The jungle is gone. Iguazú park (red arrow) is nothing but a tiny island in middle of a sea of devastation that stretches for thousands and thousands of kilometers. All the pale-green area below used to be just like Iguazú. The remaining Amazon forest in the north is not even half of what it used to be, and is quickly vanishing, too.
I'm devastated. Iguazú is nothing but the sad memory of something that has ceased to exist.
If only we disappeared and left this planet in peace…
Poor IGR. It was high time it was given a little love.
Always shadowed by its neighbor - IGU - in Brazil…
…it still receives almost a million passengers a year.
But it's so neglected, that even though it was renamed Mayor Carlos Eduardo Krause…
…after a major killed in the Guerra de las Malvinas (Falklands War)…
…but the waterfalls are more popular. On another subject, let's be frank: The guy who designed this entrance should be thrown down the Devil's Throat.
But things are about to change. I see pillars. That's a good sign. The new tower over there…
…is taller than the old one (foreground). I wonder if its design fulfills some practical purpose (having failed all aesthetic purposes, I mean)
Inside, I don't need to think much to realize that this small hall…
…must get crowded easily.
The escalators hide baggage claim…
…and under them are the bus and taxi stalls.
We'll go upstairs…
…after the blackout.
What blackout?? Well, not the first one. I am standing here when suddenly the lights go out. We have to wait until the computers are restarted to continue the check-in process.
Meanwhile, there's the FIDS, recovering.
Now we know that the monitors are LG…
I could tell a joke to kill some time…
…but no, I think it coming there…
…hm, not yet.
There. Good old Windows XP.
Ah, it's OK. We can continue now…
NOOO!! NOT AGAIN!!! The check-in guy is hitting his head on the counter.
And we are all starting to worry because time passes and we still have to clear security check.
So he (the guy with his hand in the air) comes and says that we should just proceed to the boarding room if we have the boarding card on our cellphone and no baggage to check. And guess who's the only one who can go now!!
Woo - hoo - hoo!! Bye, loosers!
Let's see what's around here. Seats.
Hard seats, of course. Argentines love them, as I said before.
This pink stone, called rhodochrosite (aka Inca rose), happens to be the national stone of Argentina.
It's funny that countries have "national stones". The Chilean national stone used to be lapis lazuli, but it's also found in Asia so it was not Chilean enough and they replaced it with combarbalita.
Buying one of those toucans doesn't make much sense. I didn't see a single toucan in Iguazú.
And the other animals… well, that deer needs plastic surgery on its face.
Apart from more gift shops there's not much more to see airside. Besides…
…people are starting to gather at security check…
…so it's a good idea to go…
Even though IGR has at least two gates…
…according to those FIDS…
…they take a simple approach to boarding here.
Seat availability doesn't seem…
…to be a problem.
A small cafeteria at the bottom.
IGR is quite spotter friendly, too.
You can sit by the window…
…and have a great view of the apron. Oh, AR has arrived.
While the passengers disembark…
…let's see what's happening outside.
Just like at the front of the building…
…there's a lot of building work at the back.
I wonder if I'll be lucky enough to FINALLY fly on an MD-80, or will it be a 737 again?
It started working for Austral Líneas Aéreas in 1990…
…which later was taken over by Aerolíneas Argentinas.
I read a little about the T-tail. Planes with this kind of tail…
…are more prone to stalling. Well… that's disturbing news.
Let's hope that these Pratt & Whitney JT8Ds…
…will be good boys today.
I wonder what those "extra" upper windows are for.
I have the impression that the MD-80 is lower than the A319, too. Isn't it?
The wheels don't look particularly large, but takeoff and landing feel extremely smooth.
I wouldn't qualify for that job.
I'ld spend the day playing: Brrrrmmm!!! Toot - toot!!
Such a funny place for the rear door!
While passengers disembark…
…and fuel is loaded…
…the boarding machinery is set in motion at gate 2.
I see that Flybondi, a new Argentine LCC - it became one year old this month, actually, - uses the good old board-by-row-number system. (I'll be flying with them next Sunday 20. Report coming (relatively) soon)
And we are following suit today! We are asked…
…to make two lines according to our row number.
We're such an obedient flock.
People are still arriving.
And here we go. Poor lady, carrying that heavy bag! Gosh! There aren't any gentlemen around anymore!
Don't look at me. A reporter mustn't get distracted. XD
This one is supposed to depart five minute before us.
The cover over the ground staff looks a little shaky.
I'm biting my nails!
It's a shared excitement!
Boarding proceeds slowly…
…which gives me plenty of time…
…to look for LV-WGN's best angle.
It looks like a group of passengers have been held at the exit until we board.
IGR is going to more than double its size…
…after the renovations.
These two images - taken from here - show what it should look like when they are completed. Follow the link for more images and info!
It looks cool, doesn't it?
I never boarded a plane so slowly. I'm not complaining. I didn't know, for example…
…that these wheels must be inflated with nitrogen only. In fact, according to Popular Mechanics, "there are several compelling reasons to use pure nitrogen in tires." I bet you didn't know that!
Two more steps and we're there.
A Vintage Cabin
This door is definitely pre-9/11.
Two hats. When paying for extra baggage is not an option! XD
Ah, old, cushy seats.
Looks a bit cramped, doesn't it?
Well, not really. there's a decent amount of legroom.
The cabin looks nicer than my usual mouse-grey Sky Airline, at least!
LV-WGN must have seen many hailstorms so far!
Ops! My seat is coming apart! :O
Oh, that explains it.
A reminder of LV-WGN's past.
Something that shocks me is the way the cabin was "renovated". It was brush-painted!
Who came up with this tragic idea? The paint is - obviously - peeling off.
A yellowish, clean cabin…
…would look much better than this eyesore.
Urgh! Is this part of the legacy experience, Andes??
OK, nothing will ruin my experience.
Unless that thing falls on my head. :(
Look there! Those vintage overhead panels!
Just lights and air. Life was so simple then.
I think that boarding has finished….
…and we're ready to leave.
Tray table… passed.
Still some time to check…
…the seat pocket contents.
Inflight magazine. This copy fits the cabin perfectly.
Covering the improvements to IGR.
Did I mention that Argentines love soccer?
Ah! I think that luck is on my side. Extra space for me today!
AR is not out there anymore.
Oh, there it goes.
It's our turn.
Taxiing here is very brief business.
…and turns at half the length of the runway. I didn't know this could be done.
To the east end of the runway…
…and off we go.
Wow! It feels so smooth! Very different from a 319 or a 737!
If we ever visit IGR again…
…it will sure look very different.
Look over there! Upper left! The waterfalls!
Thanks to them this little patch of jungle was spared.
The illusion comes to an end here.
The jungle that has not been turned into farms yet…
In fact, you can hardly breath in Puerto Iguazú at night because of the smoke.
The snack service begins soon after. No coffee! They don't have hot water. :(
The usual contents…
…salty and sweet cookies, and a madeleine.
A selfie without the "self" in it.
It's time to pretend I need to go to the restroom to go to the restroom. :D And to see the back of this neglected beauty, of course.
Quite a large sink for modern standards!
So many drawers! And I didn't check what they were for!! :'(
A bar in case the ride gets bumpy.
"Trabe, destrabe". Words that we don't use in Chile. We simply say "cerrar, abrir (close, open), but "trabar" implies "locking".
The same happens with "desagotar" (drain) I didn't even know this word existed! I'm an ignorant.
Used to be an ashtray???
A very strong passenger was asking for help!
Back to my seat. I presume this is the rear galley on the left.
The configuration is 2-3. I also presume this is normal for this kind of plane, because there's no room for more seats.
The emergency exit is empty.
Great oportunity for a photo.
What could this be?
Back in my seat, the light is not good at all for photos.
Besides, I'm not really in the mood for that after all the devastastation I saw.
The only thing I'm sure of is that we are flying over the lower reaches of river Paraná, which means that we are arriving in Buenos Aires.
I hope they don't have to deal with mosquitos at these…
…well-off "private neighborhoods" named after Catholic saints like San Francisco, San Agustín, etc. west of Buenos Aires.
I was really lucky this time.
I usually land into AEP with a view of the Río de la Plata…
…but this time I will have a view…
…on this other jungle called Buenos Aires.
Meters from AEP, the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, property of the River Plate soccer club. Did I mention that Argentines love soccer?
Back at AEP
With a view on Belgrano…
…this flight comes to an end.
Nice to see you, LV-WGX. they should turn you into a museum or something.
LV-BYY, in its beautiful retro livery, is barely 10 years old and is completely active. I love its blue nose!
Just a very short taxi…
…and we stop at our remote position.
Time to disembark. Oops. That seat is broken. This cabin is falling to pieces!
I won't complain about an aging cabin…
…but such lack of maintenance amounts to disrespect towards to the passengers.
I'm really sorry for this poor "Mad Dog," so neglected. What a good machine, flying after so many years.
Short walk through baggage claim to the exit…
…and we're back in this marvelous city…
…where we'll visit a couple more interesting places…
…before I go back home.
Hope you enjoyed the ride!
I suggest you scroll to the bottom of the next report! :D
Andes Líneas Aéreas
Puerto Iguazu - IGR
Buenos Aires - AEP
IGR Should I give them a lower score because of the blackouts? I'm not sure. The whole airport is being rebuilt on the heads of the staff and the passengers, so I think this is a special situation. Still efficient in spite of the difficult working conditions.
Andes Líneas Aéreas Neglected cabin. I know that people can be dirty, but there's something called "cleaning teams". Somebody is not doing a good job here.
AEP Efficient as usual.
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