Argentina · Brazil · Nature · South America

Iguazu / Iguaçu

On Sunday morning I flew from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu to meet Nick, who is a friend from uni and an old housemate. It was so nice walking into the hostel and seeing a friendly face having had to make new friends every time I moved somewhere new for the last 4 months! We spent the afternoon catching up over a few beers and planning the next couple of days. 

On Monday morning, the rain was torrential but seemed to be easing off so we decided to brave it and headed to see the Argentinean side of the famous Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 

At the top of the Devil’s Hole there was a huge amount of spray flying into the air so it didn’t matter that it was raining! We followed the various walkways above the waterfalls and marvelled at the views, taking in the Brazilian side too. 

On Tuesday morning after another wet start we took the bus over the border to Foz do Iguaçu. The weather had improved but we wanted to keep a whole day for Iguaçu Falls so instead we went to see the Itaipu Dam. During building the dam obliterated a set of waterfalls larger than Iguaçu but is the second largest hydroelectric dam in the world and powers nearly all of Paraguay’s electricity and 15% of Brazil’s. 

Wednesday was a super sunny day and we decided to see the falls from a different angle and took a helicopter ride over the top! The views were amazing and you can really appreciate the size of the waterfalls as well as see the river stretching off in opposite directions on either side. 

Once inside the park we followed the main footpath along the falls which gives lots of views of the Argentinean side. The path winds down the hill and gets closer and closer to the water until you can follow a walkway to stand right in front of one of the falls. The volume of water and the sound it makes is incredible!! Also the amount of spray means that you’re soaked as soon as you step onto the walkway but in the heat its very welcome! 

We finished off the day with cocktails on the terrrace of the Belmont Hotel with a fabulous view of the other side.

Nature · Outdoor activities · Peru · South America

Southern Peru

Leaving Lima, I started a bus tour called Peru Hop which gave me a set route from Lima all the way to La Paz in Bolivia via most of the main tourist stops. However the tour gave me the opportunity to make the journey my own by choosing which towns to stay in and how long I stayed in each one. It also does direct pick up and drop off from hostels and helps organise tours and activities so I felt it was going to make life pretty easy andhopefully give me the chance to meet other travellers. 

The first stop off was a town on the coast called Paracas, a couple of hours drive south of Lima. I had decided not to stay in Paracas but there was time to do a boat trip around Ballestas Island which is full of different birds, including grey-footed boobies and penguis, and seals. 

The next stop, which was also the final one of the day so the overnight stop, was Hucachina. This tiny town is an oasis in the dessert and the only activities here are sand buggies and dune boarding!

I had decided to stay in an ecocamp which meant some serious glamping with an awesome pool – good for some sunbathing after being so cold in Lima!

Coast · Ecuador · Nature · South America

Whale watching on the way to Isla de Plata

Whilst in Ecuador I decided not to go to the Galapagos Islands as the price was pretty high so instead I visited Puerto Lopez on the Pacific coast to go to Isla de Plata, also known as the poor man’s Galapagos. 

It was a really good time of year to visit as the majority of the world’s population of humpback whales come to this area for breeding during July and August. Whilst on the trip out to the island, the boat stopped several times to see the whales breaching which was an amazing sight!

Upon arriving at the island, there was time for snorkelling. Sadly it was quite a grey day so the water wasn’t very clear, but there were still lots of different fish to see and giant turtles swam right up to the boat!

Once on the island, the guide took the group on a two hour hike during which we saw hundreds of pairs of blue-footed boobies who come to the island for breeding. The whole day wasn’t a substitute for the Galapagos but it was awesome to be able to get so close to nature.

Ecuador · Nature · Outdoor activities · South America

My love/hate relationship with The Amazon 

So I can’t say that I loved the Amazon, but I can’t say that I hated it either! I’m sure I’ll look back on it as an awesome experience but right now I feel a bit traumatised by the whole thing as I’ve had one cold shower in 4 days, been bitten by mosquitoes, sand mites, midges and possibly even spiders, half my clothes are soaking wet and the rest of my belongings are all damp! Clearly I’m a bit daft as I hadn’t expected it to rain quite so much in the rainforest! 

After a night bus journey through a huge thunderstorm I arrived in Lago Agrio to await pick up from my next accommodation, Nicky Lodge. We were driven for about 2.5 hours towards a nature reserve before stopping for lunch. It was then a 2 hour canoe ride along the Rio Cuyabeno to Nicky Lodge inside Cuyabeno National Park. During the canoe ride there were lots of animals to see including a sloth, a morph butterfly which is quite large and a beautiful blue colour, tree bats and five of the ten different species of monkey who are native to the Ecuadorian Amazon – wooley, red howler, capuccine, squirrel and saki. However half way through the journey, it started to rain and just when I thought it couldn’t rain any harder, it got worse! Not so pleasant in an open canoe and I don’t think I could have been any wetter! Once we arrived at the Lodge and were allocated rooms, there was some chill out time before starting a night walk once it was dark, although I had already seen a frog on my bed!! We didn’t go too far from the camp on the walk but still saw lots of insects including crickets, grass hoppers, centipedes, and spiders including a couple of tarantulas. After this the group had dinner together and were told our plans for the next day. 

On Tuesday morning there was meant to be a 6.30 bird watching walk but as it was raining, the plan changed and we went out in the boat to see if there was anything to see. Unfortunately, the rain seems to make most of the animals disappear so we headed back to camp feeling quite soaked again!

After breakfast the next activity was walking through the forest to meet locals from the Siona tribe. We saw lots of insects as we walked and learnt about many of the medicinal properties of the different plants and trees. With the Siona ladies we dug up the roots of a yuka plant and stripped off the outer layer. Once we’d washed the roots we then had to grate them which took quite a long time! After that the water needed to be squeezed out leaving a dry soft mixture. This was then passed through a sieve to make a flour and it was ready to cook with. One of the ladies showed us how to use the flour to make bread in a wide clay pan over the fire and then I got to have a go too! We tried the yuka bread with tuna salad, guacamole and chilli sauce and then chocolate sauce. It was quite dry but amazing that nothing else needed to be added and its vegan too!

We returned to the Lodge for lunch and chill out time before heading out on the boat towards the lagoon where I jumped off the boat and swam in the Amazon! The water was actually fairly warm although it was still raining! It was dark by this point and we drove back to camp looking for nocturnal animals and saw plenty of birds and bats. 

It rained all night long and the early boat tour on Wednesday morning was, secretly thankfully, cancelled due to the weather. The highlight of the morning was seeing a snake in the dining area having seen frogs there the previous evening. We had a walk through the forest as our main morning activity and learnt more about the plants and trees as well as the animals and insects that live there. There were hundreds of mosquitoes which was quite off putting but as I was wearing a waterproof jacket, trousers and wellie boots as well as a ton of insect repellent, it was only my hands and face which got bitten! 

In the afternoon, miraculously the sun started to come out! We went out in a canoe without a motor so we could just drift downstream. The peace and quiet, without even the sound of rain was amazing! We saw quite a few more animals and birds including some tiny pocket monkeys and lots of birds including different kingfishers.

Typically on the last day the sun was out and the forest felt completely different! It was much easier to see animals, including a white billed toucan, tamarind monkeys, jaguar herons, macauws and yellow-handed titi monkeys as the canoe took us back to Cuyabeno Bridge for the bus journey back to civilisation.