If you ever saw the animated movie "Up" about an elderly gentleman (aka "Mr. Fredrickson") and his sidekick Boy Scout that airlifted a house down to South America with helium balloons, you may recognize some of our photos of Iguazu Falls as the falls where the house finally settled. But not to rush the story, we had an interesting time just getting to the falls from our stay in Asuncion, Paraguay. There is a TAM airline flight that goes from Asuncion to Ciudad del Este (the eastern Paraguay city that is closest to the falls), however, it leaves Asuncion at 1:25 AM and arrives in Ciudad del Este at 2:10 AM. We didn't cherish the thought of landing in a small foreign airport in the early morning hours, so we opted for a bus ride from Asuncion to Ciudad del Este. This was a much better option and afforded us a view of eastern Paraguay, that had well developed agriculture and beautiful jungle clad mountains. Finally we reached the bus terminal of chaotic Ciudad del Este, a recognized free trade zone in eastern Paraguay that consisted of congested streets packed with stores, kiosks, street merchants, and crazy shoppers all trying to bargain their way to prosperity. Thankfully, we had no time to shop and were kindly forced to board another local public bus to make our way out of Paraguay, across the river into Brazil, and finally into Argentina where we were going to stay. As the bus rumbled by the Paraguay border checkpoint without stopping, we realized that our exit visa from Paraguay was not going to get stamped, so guess we will need some type of gringo tourist explanation next time we try to enter Paraguay. The short ride through the Brazilian corridor was sort of legal, in that Brazil didn't stop us at customs but if the bus broke down and we were caught in Brazil without the $160 visa required of all US citizens, we could have faced heavy fines or potentially jail time. Finally we made it to the Argentina border where the only issue during our walk through of the border was a verbal chastisement by the Argentina customs agent that we weren't speaking Spanish in his country. "Lo siento, lo siento (I'm sorry...)" was my well practiced reply. With a bit of a sigh of relief, we got a taxi to our Iguazu area lodging, the La Cantera Jungle Lodge, and settled in for a nice four day stay. For those of you that have seen the Niagara Falls, you would be even more impressed with Iguazu Falls that has 5-6 times more water passing over it in maximum flow compared to Niagara. When we walked on an above water raised walkway from the Argentine shoreline to the mouth of the "Devil's Throat", it went on for a few kilometers impressing us with the breadth of the Iguazu River before it tumbles in 275 cascades down to the lower reaches of the falls. Quite awe inspiring! There will be no high wire walking artists crossing these falls. In the text of one of the instructional displays at the park, there was a sobering observation that 40 years ago the water cascading over the falls was clear opposed to the dark red muddy tone of the water today. This is due to the upstream agriculture that has eliminated the forest land and replaced with with tilled soil that is easily eroded into the streams and rivers. A sign of progress as people try to make a living and feed themselves.
This panoramic view of the views from downstream provides more of the "Up" movie setting where Mr Ferguson is finally going to settle his house to fulfill his wife Ellie's wish. She would probably be somewhat disappointed today that despite the natural beauty of the area, the water runs red and the jungle paths are replaced by boardwalks filled with tourist throngs. Still an incredible natural sight!
Inside the Igauzu Falls park, these capuchin monkeys have adapted well to the increased human intrusion into their jungle. You may recognize this white faced capuchin as typical of the "organ grinder" monkeys seen in the circus or at old entertainment venues. They are very trainable and have even been used as service animals for quadriplegics, however, there is controversy about this due to the potential of the monkeys transmitting disease or hurting their keepers. Unfortunately, tourists will feed these guys that leads to increased aggression from the monkeys to tourists and disrupted behavior. I didn't realize how smart these little guys are, as apparently in the wild they routinely can use tools such as rocks to smash hard nuts and have been observed rubbing smashed millipede juice on their back as a deterrent to mosquitoes. They eat just about anything including fruits, nuts, green vegetation, lizards, birds, insects, and small mammals.
Across the road from our very comfortable upscale "Jungle Lodge Resort", was a Guarani native american community. These two homes were typical of the perhaps 75 - 100 houses in this 500 acre area set that was granted to the tribe as their own land. The Guarani were the native people that populated southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and parts of Bolivia before the whiteman came in the 1500's. They were adept at surviving in the dense jungles of the areas, despite not having use of any metal or very little stone implements. There is only a small fraction of these natives surviving today, due to early enslavement by Portuguese and Dutch slavers operating out of Brazil, introduction of white man's diseases (small pox, measles, influenza, venereal disease, etc.), and intentional genocidal efforts to gain their lands. Again not to judge the South American colonists too harshly, as this is exactly what happened to the native Americans in the US, with the exception of enslavement. Some countries in South America such as Paraguay are very much integrated with white colonists intermarrying with natives to provide for a high percentage of mestizo populations, but other countries like Argentina remained more stratified and the natives were isolated from society mainstream. It is my understanding that most of the Guarani do not hold regular jobs in the white man's world, but exist in their subsistence culture, planting some fruits, vegetables, catching jungle animals, and selling artifacts to tourists. By the way, this village had a small booth next to the road offering to provide tours of their community for $5.00/person - so they are somewhat entrepreneurs!
Before you get too cuddling with this fuzzy little caoti, remember that these agile, persistent pests are pretty much like a cross of an opossum and a raccoon. These guys were everywhere in the Igauzu Falls Park, including trying to clamor up your table at the snack bar in an attempt to steal your sandwich. Reminded me of the seagulls at SeaWorld diving in for any scrap of food they an get and being absolutely fearless of humans. Don't feed the wildlife!!!!!