Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘national parks’

(Late March 2009)

I can hear it long before I see it! The roar of the Devil’s Throat, “Garganta del Diablo”, pulls me towards it like a magnet. The sight and sound of the cascading water and the feel of its spray is euphoric! As the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt goes, “Poor Niagara!”

Before actually hearing or seeing the falls I boarded the park’s Rainforest Ecological Train, which stops near the Devil’s Throat trail entrance and the Upper and Lower trails. With my hamstring injury walking is still slow and painful and I am very happy about the train.

I soon spot a coatimundi. The park is full of these large racoon-like animals but I don’t see another one. I do see hundreds of butterflies! Apparently, they are attracted to sweat and urine. I also encounter several Plush-crested Jays along the catwalk trail to Garganta del Diablo.

Devil’s Throat is a u-shaped cataract, 82m high, 150m wide, 700m long and it marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. It is the largest of the falls but the real magic comes from taking it all in. It is one of the world’s most spectacular waterfall systems.

There are actually 275 falls along 2.7 km of the Iguazú River. Iguazú Falls has an average annual flow of 1,746 cubic metres per second (m3/s) and a peak flow of about 40 ha. Situated amid the incredible beauty and vastness of the rainforest, Iguazú National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

IMG_3650domes

                                                                                                                                                            Cuenca is in Azuay province and has a population of appromately 400,000. I stayed at Hostel El Monesteria, which provides wonderful views of San Francisco market, the famed blue domed cathedral, and the mountains. The view from my window overlooked the monestary’s urban agriculture courtyard and, to my surprise, I saw nuns chasing pigs.

There are many Indigenous people although they seem to be outnumbered by the Mestizo population. Women vendors walk around with large wheelbarrows of fruit and tiny scales. Hats are an essential element of the Indigenous wardrobe and I checked out the hat shops and a museum. Cuenca is home to the Panama hat – yes, they are made in Ecuador. Something else I noticed all over Ecuador is that children wear school uniforms. It seems each school has its own uniform.

The Museo del Banco Central is wonderful. This was the third ethnographic collection I had viewed and makes me want to see more of the country. The museum has several shrunken heads from the Shuar tribe in its collection. The Shuar shrunk the heads of murders – woman, children, and whites/mestizos were considered inferior and not subjected to the practice. By the way, head shrinking is against Ecuadorian law!

I booked a hike to Cajas National Park, which turned out to be one of my most satisfying days in the country. Adrian, our guide, was exceptionally knowledgeable about the plants, flora, trees, and birds in the park – Cajas guides require a special license. First, we stopped at the three crosses where legend and custom dictate that you place a rock on one of crosses for a safe journey. The ancient Canari people crossed through the park to trade on the Pacific and parts of the road are still in existence. We hiked at a leisurely pace at 4200 metres above sea level for a few hours, venturing around a mountain and a couple lakes. There are 232 lakes in the park, mostly small. We went through a forest of amazing trees – they seemed so fluid and organic and possessed a richly coloured, thin, flimsy bark.

Prior to the hike we saw a llama herd in the hills (they were very curious about us) and a couple of llamas near the road. According to Adrian, this is unusual, as was the clear, bright day. After lunch we went for a shorter hike at 3200 metres. The trees, vegetation, and birds at this lower altitude are different. It’s greener and we even spotted an Andean Toucan.

I also spent time soaking up the hottest sulphur spring baths in the country – 24 degrees Celsius, or, 76 degrees Farenheit. Unlike the other Banos, I had to take a bus to reach this town just outside of Cuenca. I went a little too far and had to ask several people for directions – this seems to happen alot when I use local transit.

Cuenca is considered a good place to stay awhile and take  Spanish lessons. There is some degree of affluence. For instance, many Ecuadorians were eating in trendy restaurants. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’ve also quite gotten used to seeing cows, pigs and chickens in people’s semi-urban yards.

Read Full Post »