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Category: Argentina (2001)

This morning we took a boat along the San Francisco river that runs along the eastern side of the Yacutinga reserve peninsula, joining back up with the Iguazu river. When I say boat I mean inflatable rubber dinghy.

It’s amazing that Florence comes along. At 85 she is feisty enough but a bit wobbly on her pins. Marito drew the short straw and was in charge of the paddling, helped along by Charlie.

We spotted some pretty rare birds only found in this area of Argentina. They ranked quite highly in terms of endangered species so it was good to see them. We’re starting now to be able to spot things ourselves, not just relying on the hawk-like vision of Charlie and Marito.

We saw kingfishers, squirrel cuckoos (named because they mirror the actions of squirrels and walk upside down down trees) and amazing butterflies. Hopefully Charlie has listed them out for us.

It was so peaceful on the river, and cool too with the breeze. You could hear nothing except the sounds of the rainforest and the conversation in the dinghy. There were no other souls in sight.

Back on the Iguazu river we saw giant bamboo. They looked like fern trees more than bamboo. They grow to 50cm in diameter and are sturdy enough for people to use them to build with.

The Iguazu river is magical. It’s very broad and runs at about 5km/h. The water level is low at the moment and we saw this clearly on the San Francisco stream. For about 5m above the water all of the trees along the side of the river had brown leaves caked in mud showing where the water level had been even just within the last twenty-four hours. Although it had rained it wasn’t enough to wash away all the mud.

On our way back we stopped again at the swamp. Last night two Argentineans from Buenos Aires joined us. The lady is a travel agent and as part of their holiday they stopped off to see Yacutinga so they could recommend it. They had a quick tour of the swamp. We saw all three varieties of another rare bird which has beautiful metallic blue wings and a green body.

Back at the lodge it started to rain. A short burst but very heavy. This probably means another mosquito fest this afternoon. We have already been warned to use lots of insect spray. One bottle down, one and a half to go!

Lunch again was superb. By the way, breakfast has been fresh fruit – melon, papaya, pineapple, banana. Stef’s holiday appetite added scrambled eggs and bacon today. All is washed down by freshly squeezed tangerine juice and a glass of cold water.

All the food (not sure about the meat though) is grown within the reserve and it’s all organic. Today was beef empanadas [Note: empadanas crossed through in diary], chicken with onions stewed in stock, rice and pureed pumpkin flavoured with nutmeg – delicious. I can’t believe I’m eating as much as I am but the heat and the short walks just seem to zap all energy and build up a huge appetite. Every meal also has home-made bread rolls that are served warm. They’re a cross between scones and brioche and are delicious.

We’ve made the offer [Note: can’t read it – see bottom of page 2 of today’s diary] of promising to send photos to Michelle and Florence, plus M&S tinned tomato soup which is the best available in Canada but they can’t get it any more.

We have packed ready for tomorrow in case there isn’t much time. Stef’s having another snoring fit during his siesta. I’m going to have to find a cure for this as it’s driving me mad.

This afternoon we are going for a longer walk along the Iguazu trail. As I write thunder is rumbling away. There have been the cold bursts of rain. Looks like this afternoon is going to be very wet and very full of mosquitoes.

We survived, but what a walk. In length it was probably a 3 or 4 km walk, not far in distance but in high 20° temperatures, high humidity and dressed in full length shirt, trousers and walking boots it felt like a marathon.

Charlie couldn’t join us as planned. The state ecology minister had arrived (he had been expected for the last two months) to do a site visit and decide whether Yacutinga could progress with their capybara project. They got their approval and also the minister’s support for a new education programme. Most visitors to Yacutinga are foreign and the local area is starting to think that the reserve is only designed for foreigners. Charlie & co. don’t agree and want to target education programmes for children as a way of attracting more local interest.

For the walk our guide was Marito and Micki came along to translate. As Stef and Marito seem to communicate well these days she wasn’t really needed. As it had rained again earlier today we had the same problem as yesterday and lots of mosquitoes and not many birds. However we did see a monkey, although we’re not sure what type!

The trail led us back down to the swamp. We both confessed later that we hoped Charlie would be there with the truck to pick us up. It wasn’t to be. We were both drenched with sweat, very hot and sticky and had to walk the 1km or so back up the road to the lodge.

I can’t remember the last time I felt physically so exhausted. My nose was still a bit bunged up with cold so breathing was difficult. My boots were on too tight and were rubbing my bite blister. I’m overweight, unfit and ready to collapse!

Back at the lodge we are the only paying guests for the night, and Charlie, Marito and Micki joined us for a pre-dinner drink. Having cooled off we decided to eat, then shower and go to bed.

Dinner was great as usual although I was so tired it was hard to eat and difficult to remember what we had. We think it was baby pumpkins filled with green lentils, followed by a vegetable and soya stew with a fried egg. Pudding was pancakes filled with dulce de leche, a cross between condensed milk and toffee.

Bed beckoned rapidly and by 10.30 we were asleep knowing we had a 6am call for the next day.