Argentina-Chaco,Iguazu fall,Ibera Wetlands
Mar 8, 2010
|Chaco, Iguazu and Estero del Ibera.
After fixing the battery and the voltage regulator, we found an insurance company that would insure
our imported auto. With some hitches with getting the original it would take us another couple of days
before we would be able to cross the Chaco of Argentina.
The road trip from the North west corner of Argentina to Iguazu falls would take us across the Chaco...
a hot wet thorn scrub type forest. But before we could drive this 700 mile plus trip we had to wait for
our insurance papers to be processed and our originals returned. What a big deal this was to the agent,
but oh well. So we decided to take a couple of days to drive and visit the Caliligua National park. This
park was the southern most terminus of the type of tropical forest called theYangas. It had the same
type of trees, and animals that were found in Venezuela and Brazil... We drove to the park... on a very
wet ripio road for about 10 miles...
Caliligua National Park was mostly inaccessible except for this section along this road to the small
little pueblo of San Francisco. The campground was free, and so were the pesky little fly that seemed
to really react negatively to me... There were tropical birds there as well. We thought that we would be
the only ones there that night but up drove a Swiss couple in there Hillux with a camper. We visited for
a while and had some great Swiss cheese and wine. They will be coming up to Alaska this next year so
we gave them the name of a good shipping company to use in Cartegena... Michel and Clair. It was
humid there and warm and we had to use our trusty little fan to keep the air flowing all night for a good
sleep... We drove up another 10 km to take a hike in the forest the next day and saw some great birds,
trogans, parrots, and the cute but pesky plush crested jay.. a beautiful bird with a black head and back
with a iridescent blue eye line, and a cream colored chest . We decided to continue another 30km to a
small little town of San Francisco there was a campground there. What a drive, we were driving in fog,
and on the edges of cliffs that seemed to drop into a never ending abyss into the fog below... We had a
couple of deep water crossings and a couple of encounters with on coming traffic that had little room to
pass... We finally found the campground in San Francisco after asking an older gentleman at the local
store where it was... It was of course, next to the cemetery on a very questionable road... We just fit into
the entrance and set up camp overlooking the little town... Parrots, toucans, and a bunch of flycatchers
were active as we drank our Melbeck to a good day of travel.. When the fog lifted just before the sun
sat across the valley from the town was a beautiful water fall on red rocks , this was quite an
The next day we drove out and found that we had lost our gerry gas can.. Karla thinks that it was
stolen and I think the ripio got it... we will never know. For sure it was gone... but I still had all the
parts to the rack that would fit another can if I could find one...
We finally got our insurance paper work and began our trip across the Chaco... glad it had been cool
the last couple of days which made the trip tolerable. Our first stop after driving almost all day was to
find a National park that was in the Dry Chaco, called Copa.. We found the office of the administration
for the park in a small city and got permission to stay in the park that evening... It was a long dirt road..
when we got there it was wonderful.. Dry, no mosquitoes, and like an African savanna sunset..
That night we walked the roads to check for a type of bird called a night jar, that sits on the road and
catches flys. We found two species that I hadn't seen before.. what fun.. Wish we had more powerful
flashlights.. The stands of these trees (quebracho colorado tree)were odd, in the middle of a hot
savanna they stood 30-40 ft tall and densely positioned to make it almost impossible to walk through.
this was the Chaco. These forest covered over 80% of the Chaco before 1907 now less than 25% of
these forest remain. Of course there were always the planted Eucalyptus that were at least twice as tall
and three or four feet in diameter in and around old inhabited estancias..
Karla walked on out the road to return to the highway, as I finished up. She loves to walk and feels
fairly safe doing so in Argentina. As I left the small camping area I got a good look at a group of
Amazon Parrots that flew over..another new species. Yellow head, with blue and red wing bars. Quite
a site. I caught up with Karla and she was making a hurry up motion to get to here, and pointed to the
trees.. It was a beautiful Cream colored Woodpecker. It was endemic to the Chaco and was one of the
species that I had hoped to see..Thank goodness for Karla's ears, she has found many birds for me this
trip.. This woodpecker is big and similar to the Ivoybilled woodpecker that is thought to be extinct in
the swamps of the Southeastern US>
It began to get hot and humid as we drove another long distance across the Chaco, a flat straight
road so we could at lest get some speed.. We then decided to visit Chaco National park. It was in the
wet Chaco, with million of mosquitoes. The ranger was quite helpful and told us of a nice walk to a
secluded lake with many birds.. We started the walk but never made it to the lake, the Mosquitoes were
so thick they were like another layer of clothing. We had bug repellant which saved our sanity-just
barely... We decided not to camp there that night, even though it would have been free.???(but we
would have paid for it in blood)
Drove onto Resistancia, and found a nice Municipal campground with hot water..This is along the
Parana River. We would take another two days to get to Puerto Iguazu... After getting the squeaky
suspension oiled up we continued north. We had to turn on the air, it was so humid that water from the
Air condensation began to drip all over our clothes.. As we continued to cross the wetlands we saw
two different species of Storks, flamingos, 5 different species of ducks, Southern Screamers, and of
course the Greater Rhea(an ostrich like bird). At one point we saw a Rail(water bird) slip behind some
bushes close to the road. I decided to try and get a closer look to positively Identify it... I jumped onto
what I thought was solid ground and sunk up to my waist in thick floating grass.. Karla was hysterical.
I lost my sandal, found it and struggled back to the road... Karla said that when I jumped onto the grass
the whole area moved like a floating garden.. I am glad that it wasn't any deeper, and of course that it
didn't stink. I never did see that little bugger again.. We later saw a deer along the wetlands.. We
stopped at another small little town with a municipal campground and settled in for the night.. with our
OFF, and repellant insence, we watched the beautiful sunset over the Parana river as a barge floated by.
This was a hot/humid night, only made tolerable by the trusty little fan we brought along.
I fixed the water blockage for the Air conditioner drains, the following morning, thank goodness for
the repair manual that I brought along. So now we could use the Air and not be drowned in water
condensation. At a police stop we unknowingly volunteered to transport a police officer to his office
along the way to Iguazu. He was pleasant and slept most of the time driving. We dropped him off at
his office and made it to Puerto Iguazu. We had decided to get a hotel with air conditioning for at least
three days to see all the sights in the Iguazu National Park...
We got situated at the hotel, with parking, a pool, and air.. It was in town, so close we could walk to
find a Parilla(barbeque) restaurant. Had a wonderful dinner, with wine and a background of indigenous
flute music... real touristy-we were the first people there at around 8:00pm.. by the time we left at 9:30
it was packed with people. The eating habits of this country is taking some getting use to..late dinners.
The next two days of visiting Iguazu National Park was wonderful, the river was full and so was the
parking lot(still summer time) We decided to walk the top of the falls the first day, and then do a boat
trip along the bottom of the falls the second day.. The falls are the largest in the world, it covers at least
a mile long ledge that has many different viewpoints to walk to a stand right next to the drops.. Wow..
The second day we scheduled an afternoon boat ride and a jungle tour, so left the morning free to drive
around and found a nice vantage point to see Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina at the confluence of the
Parana river and the Iguazu river...
The boat ride was wet and thrilling. We made two runs at each of the falls, Three Musketeers, and
the one just below Adam and Eve.. It is too dangerous to get to the bottom of Satan's throat(the largest
of all the falls in volume.) The first run was close enough to take pictures and not be soaked, the
second run was into the MIST...yikes. My fun meter was on MAX, too close to the waves on the back
eddy into the falls... HUGE..we were like a small little cork in a raging sea..
The jungle ride,in a Land-cruiser with an open top, later that afternoon was also fun, it was in a part
of the park that had limited access. This was a secondary forest that had still about 75 years to go to
become equal to a primary type forest again. Brown faced Capuchin monkeys, Toucans, and Tanagers
were seen. We found fresh footprints of a Tapir and a Puma(mountain lion). Butterfly s, were
We filled the evenings,in Puerto Iguazu, going out to dinner and found great places to eat, in town.
What a nice departure from our normal way of traveling.
We finally checked out of our hotel Tierra Colorado, and headed out toward the Ibere wetlands and
the Uruguayan boarder. This would take another couple of days of driving and would require us to
drive dirt/gravel roads into the Ibere Provincial Park.. The draw here was the largest Land rodent in the
world, the Capybara. Of course ,there were birds to see in this vast wetland also. It is said to be the
Argentine equivalent to Brazil's Pantanal.
The Ibere wetlands extension would add two days to our travel time to the Uruguayan boarder. The
road into the wetlands was what is Terra firma(dirt), with some ripio(gravel). We found that we would
have to drive over 200kms(120miles) in and out of the small little town of Peligrinni, the headquarters
for the park. We were told by a helpful young man that we met while we were shopping for the trip
into the park, that if it rains, expect to be in Peligrinni for no less than five days to wait for the roads to
dry... the mud can be bad for 4x4's as well... So we dove in with extra food, water and No gas can...The
road in at points had deep powdered dirt, that formed a dust cloud that could be seen for miles. I was
glad to finally reach Peligrinni and find a nice, well kept municipal campground right on the main lake.
We were cleaning dust out of every crack and crevice.. Paco little engine did just fine.
We arranged a boat ride into the floating islands(embalsados) on lago Ibere. This was a
highlight,we got our life look at these huge Capybaras, the worlds largest rodent. The floating islands
were filled with all kinds of birds and a an occasional black Caiman, sunning itself... We also saw small
little deer that apparently swam out to these islands to browse. Karla was so excited to see these little,
dog size, critters just chewing away at the plants with there little ears wiggling to keep the flys off. She
got carried away and took way too many pictures for our low batteries. What a wonderful two hour
tour. I was able to see around 20 species of birds only a couple of new ones. I missed seeing a Jaribu,
a large stork like bird. Swans, ducks,Ibises, storks,southern lapwings and flycatchers were abundant.
The guide got us incredibly close to the wild life, giving us an opportunity to get some really good
photos. As the sun sat we returned to the campground La Balsa. That evening a couple of capybarra,
fed on the grass next to us. They are odd looking creatures, adapted for a wet environment. Apparently
they are good eating and the leather is very flexible. The rail that I almost drowned trying to see earlier
in the trip showed up feeding on the lawn also, giving me the opportunity to positively identify it as the
Giant Wood rail.. Dinner that eveningg was enjoyed again with a toast to another exciting and
adventurous day on the Reserva Provincial Esteros del Ibera and the road getting to it.
The road out to the main highways was longer but a bit better ripio most of the way.. Water birds
were everywhere and we also ran into a couple of herds of Capybara feeding on the roadside.. We made
it to Mercedes, on the main highway south along the Uruguay river. We drove to another National Park
that feature was the Yate Palms. We drove into the park near sunset and found many viscachera, an
other kind of rodent that was about the size of a raccoon and had black mask across its face.. We tried
to get some photos but it was getting dark and we couldn't get close enough for the flash to work well.
We drove around the park a bit the next morning to see some of the ruins, and palm forest. Then we
headed for the boarder crossing near Colon, Argentina into the Uruguayan city of Paysandu.
This section of the trip was very exciting and was a dream with me born over fourty years ago when
I didn't have enough money to take a side trip to Iguazu Falls, while on the World Campus Afloat. The
Chaco, and the huge wetlands of Ibere Estero, were of course icing on the cake.