Monday, 18 February 2019

Parque Nacional de Iberá

Ibera wetlands consist of a huge area of marshes and is the second biggest wetland in the world. The biggest wetland is Pantanal in Brazil, which is where Ita, my travel companion, wanted to go initially when we decided to head to Brazil. Unfortunately, since Brazil is really big, the Pantanal was quite far from where we were in Brazil, while the Ibera wetlands were quite on our way inbetween Iguazu and Salta. So we decided to go there instead.

In our travel planning it was always a big question mark as we had no idea how to get into the national park and how to actually see something as we cannot discover such a huge national park on our own. We did find out there were tours offered, but just not from where and how we could book them. People all wrote it was so beautiful but there were very few recommendations on how to get there and all from completely the other side of the national park than the one we were arriving from. I guess without Ita wanting to visit the place I would have never made the effort to actually try to visit it.

But now that it was part of our travel plan and the photos from there looked sooo great, we had to find a way to get there. So after intense research, I found a lodge that not only offered tours but also private transfer to pick us up from Posadas, the closest city north of the wetlands, about 3,5 hours of gravel road inbetween the city and the lodge. We read that you should only take the road with a 4 wheel drive, but on sunny days I would have totally been able to drive this street with Antonio (my car). On rainy days, on the other hand, this street most probably just dissolves into mud and even 4WD would struggle here.

We were lucky, it was sunny both on arrival and departure day. At the lodge we got a full program of boat safaris as well as walking tours at day and night. If anybody ever plans to go to Ibera wetlands, I can really recommend to contact Irupé Lodge, they really helped us make it possible to visit the wetlands! Also, the food was really good and we were finally able to have a undisturbed sleep in the very comfortable beds, which is really way better than sleeping in the bus or even waiting half of the night at the terminal for our connection. I am really looking forward to actually sleeping in a bed at night instead.

But nevertheless, we arrived there in the Colonia Carlos Pelegrini, a really small village right next to a huge lagoon of the national park. Already on our drive to the lodge we could watch various different birds, from really small to huge and in all colour variations, just next to the road. At the lodge, we could even watch all this birds from the balcony, and severall times even capybaras came for a visit to eat just next to the lodge in the grass.

We actually did not know much about what we could see here besides the capybaras. So we were really surprised to suddenly find a cayman chilling right next to the boat on the boat safari. And then we discovered there are so many caymans everywhere, we started a game of taking pictures of them and sending them to our friends: "find the caymans in the photo". Also, we could see marsh deer, various different birds and so many capybaras everywhere.

At this point we thought we had seen it all but we wanted a little more time and did a walk around by ourselves to enjoy the weather, the animals and take some more photos. We were told before that it is quite safe here - the mosquitos do not carry any illnesses as Zika, Malaria or anything, the caymans do not eat anything bigger than baby capybaras, so there is really few to worry about. We did find a lot of beautiful places, lots of animals and had great views at the lagoon.

So when we decided to head back, suddenly we spotted something in the woods that looked and walked different like the other animals that live here. Of course we were curious and approached, and saw two small dog-like creatures which were obviously also curious why we were here. As we had no idea what it was, we actually thought of wolves and feared that this might be the baby wolves and mama wolf would be somewhere close by. As we were without a guide and had no idea how to deal with wolves in the wild, we took another way back and asked later what it was we saw in the woods - it were foxes and we were really lucky to spot them.

Since we have not had enough adventure, we also did a night hike on the same day, this time with a guide. When pointing the flashlight at the shore of the lagoon, we could see the eyes of the caymans reflecting the light. Also, calybaras seem to be night active as well, what actually does not surprise me as all they do during the day is eating and sleeping. Also we saw a armadillo quickly trying to hide from us. We were walking the exact same path as in the afternoon, but this time the foxes were gone.

But the most beautiful thing were definitely the stars. Here we were, hours from the next city, on the boat in the middle of the lagoon, almost no light pollution and it was terrific. We actually got up in the middle of the night again to watch some more stars. I really should have looked up some star constellations from the southern hemisphere since we could see every star and even the milky way. It was really a pity when we had to go to sleep again to be ready for the next day and our long journey to Salta.

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