In This Issue
- Visiting Iguazú Falls
- Mendenhall Glacier Hiking
- Cruising Antarctica
Visiting Iguazú Falls
We believe that Iguazú Falls is one of the major natural wonders of the world and if you have plans that take you to the east coast of South America they are an experience not to be missed. The Iguazú National Reserve was established in October 1970. Before that the area around the falls was mostly virgin forest and completely undeveloped. Creation of the reserve allowed construction of an international airport and allowed initially for three tourist hotels. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in 1984.
Today there is a wide range of accommodations and good restaurants in the town of Puerto Iguazú located less than a dozen miles from the Argentina National Park.
The falls are 800 miles slightly west of and due north of Buenos Aries and surrounded by miles of Amazon forest. Iguazú Falls straddles the boarder between Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil on the Iguazú River. While there is a park on the Brazilian side the Venezuela park is larger and much more developed boasting paved hikinging trails, bridges, a tourist train and food concessions.
Roundtrip air from Buenos Aries by commercial jet service is under US$200 with flights every few hours. It is even possible to fly up in the morning, visit Iguazú Falls and fly back in the evening (not recommended).
A taxi to town from airport is around 700 pesos (US$11 to $12) and from town to the Iguazu Park is about 600 pesos
For the budget minded buses leave regularly from the main bus station in Puerto Iguazú to the Centro de Informes for tours of the Iguazú falls. The least expensive bus from Puerto Iguazu to the Parque is the El Practico local bus. You can either catch one at Terminal de Omnibus or anywhere on the route (it’s marked ‘Cataratas’). The fare is $5 Pesos each way and it takes roughly about 20 minutes. The bus departs every 20-30 minutes from dawn until about 9 p.m. (the park closes at 6 p.m.). The busiest times would be from 9-10 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. and it’s possible you might not be able to find a bus seat!
Hotel accommodations start at $300 to $400 per night at the five star Gran Melia Iguazú which is actually located adjacent to the falls. In town three and four star hotels are plentiful and in season range from under $75 to usually under $150.
The two of us flew round trip from Buenos Aries and stayed two nights at the St. George Hotel. We arranged with a local taxi driver to take us from the airport into Puerto Iguazú, later take us to the park and later back to our hotel and return us to the airport. All in with air, taxi, hotel and with admission to the park the total cost (excluding food) for the two of us was around US$700.
Hiking At Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier
If you’re cruising to Alaska a modest city bus trip out of Juneau (12 miles) is the Mendenhall Glacier Park and Visitor Center. This is not technically a national park but part of the Tongass National Forest with the Visitor Center and trails operated by the U.S. Park Service. The center has a number of informative exhibits and the rangers provide lectures and nature walks. There is a US$5 admission fee to the area and your Golden Eagle pass allows free admission.
There are a number of short trails near the Visitor Center featuring some short strolls to some great views. For panoramic views of the lake, glacier, peaks and shoreline take the Photo Point Trail (0.3 miles) and Nugget Falls Trail (0.7). The Moraine Ecology Trail (1.5 miles) starts at the north side of the second parking lot. This trail offers a nice walk over a glacial plain and into the areas youngest forest. The Trail of Time forms a short loop (0.5miles) from the Visitor Center with a small gain in elevation that crosses Steep Creek twice.
From the Visitors Center it is only a short walk on Nugget Falls Trail (0.7 miles) to the base of the falls but the trail continues on for a nice hike of 3.8 miles along the glaciers edge (round trip 7.5 miles).
Three additional hiking trails begin behind the Visitor Center and travel up hill into forest. You will notice, the farther away and higher in elevation you are from the glacier and lake, the more diversity of broadleaf plants and larger trees you will find.
East Glacier Loop (3.5 miles) follows the glacial trim line (an area carved out during the glaciers advance) with an elevation gain of about 400 feet. As the glacier receded 200 years ago, forest along this trail began to grow in and is now beginning to develop some “old growth” forest characteristics.
Nugget Creek Trail (3 miles + 3.5 mile access from East Glacier Looptrail) follows Nugget Creek above the falls with a 500 foot elevation gain. You may reach this trail from the east portion of East Glacier Loop along Nugget Creek.
As you hike the Mendenhall glacier’s trails you’ll get an opportunity to see regrowth patterns in the hardwood forest as the glacier receded over the past few hundred years* as well as appreciating the incredible wildflowers, ferns and mosses taking advantage of Alaska’s short summer growing season.
Warning: Many black bears are in the Mendenhall Visitor Center area feeding on the salmon in Steep Creek along with berries ripening in late summer and fall to get ready for winter hibernation. When hiking make noise to let the bears know you’re there, especially if by yourself or even in a small group. Carrying bear spray and insect repellent are recommended. Carrying a compact rain parka is also a good idea.
A Cruise To Antarctica
It seems hard to believe but we can now visit Antarctica on a cruise. Each year thousands of passengers stand in awe as the snow and ice covered mountains of Antarctica slide by while whales and penguins break the water all around their ship.
Each year dozens of major cruise ships take passengers into the frozen realm of the South Pole, visiting** Paradise Bay, Elephant Island and cruising along the continent’s coastline. There are also hundreds of smaller expedition boats taking visitors ashore to walk on the ice sheets while visit penguin colonies.
Antarctic Itineraries – Currently a number of major cruise companies offer cruises to Antarctica with Buenos Aries being a favorite departure port. You can find itineraries that include several ports of call in South America like Montevideo, Porto Madryn and the Antarctic departure port of Ushuaia, Argentina. Most cruises to Antarctica will visit the peninsula with a day in Paradise Bay, and cruise around Elephant Island with a popular additional port call being the Falklands.
Porto Madryn is noted for wildlife viewing (it’s the place where Orcas chase seals up on the beach) and the Falklands is a major breeding ground for sea lions along with six species of penguins. Ushuaia is a fast growing city that sits at the entrance to Tierra del Fuego at the end of the world.
Visiting Antartica is controlled by an international association setting rules for private tour operators. It seems that eight countries have made territorial claims in Antarctica and no country recognizes the claim of any other country. That leaves it very unclear what authority is in charge of the entire continent. As world travel and exotic destinations grow in popularity more and more businesses realized there was an real opportunity for Antarctic tourism. This has left the Antarctic tourism industry largely self-regulated. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) was founded in 1991 by seven companies growing to around a hundred members as of today meaning that private business has stepped in when international agreements fail.
**Under existing IAATO rules, only ships carrying fewer than 500 passengers are allowed to make landings at approved sites and only 100 people allowed ashore at a time. accompanied by guides with a ratio of 1:20. They must not bring food ashore or leave anything behind or take anything back.
* Ships of over five hundred people are not permitted to put people ashore in Antarctica by agreed rules of IAATO. To go ashore requires booking an expedition cruise.