Birding Without Borders

Birding Without Borders: Day 21

Scouting out birds in "Disneyworld."

January 21, 2015, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina -- My contact in northeast Argentina called yesterday while I was in transit at the Buenos Aires airport to say that his camper van had majorly broken down in a remote area (something to do with a drive shaft falling out), so he wouldn't be able to meet me until early this afternoon. That gave me an unexpectedly free morning today in Iguazu. After spending the night at a dirt-cheap hostel, I headed to Iguazu National Park on my own.

Iguazu is synonymous with a big waterfall, officially one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and I figured that I better check it out while I was in the area. When I had paid the entry fee and moseyed into the park, I had three hours to burn. Plenty of time, I thought, to take a couple of souvenir snapshots and then do some birding.

But I quickly realized that, at Iguazu, there is no such thing as quick peeking. Once you've waited through the lines to get in, you wait in another queue (I waited an hour!) to get on a train that takes you, slowly, to a drop-off point; then it's a 1.1-kilometer walk on a narrow raised walkway (pretty awesome, but jammed with lolligaggers) to cross various river channels before, finally, you can gaze over the falls. The viewing point was so choked that I had to shove through four layers of tourists to see anything. Iguazu is deservedly renowned for its cataracts, but, after sharing the view with a couple thousand strangers, I had seen enough. Apparently about two million people visit this park each year, and, on a busy day like today, 10,000 bodies might pass through the entrance gates. It's like Disneyworld! I did manage to spot a flock of Great Dusky Swifts, Iguazu's specialty bird, which nest behind the falls.

By the time I had fought my way back to the park entrance, I was 45 minutes late for an appointed meeting with Guy Cox, a local birder who has agreed to spend the next four days showing me around Misiones Province. I threw my backpack into his 1974 Chevy camper van, which he acquired a month or so ago (and which had just been overhauled by a friendly mechanic), and we drove out to spend the afternoon on some empty back roads outside Puerto Iguazu. It was fun to play tourist this morning, but I'm glad I don't have to do it all year; that would be way more tiring than birding.

New birds today: 42

Year list: 451

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