Tag Archives: Waterfalls

Where’s my Rainbow??

After normal service resumed in June; back to our Corsham house, back to the working week and back to reality…we knew we would need to plan a little trip to give us something to look forward to. This year we had spent many wonderful weeks in sweaty heat and oh so bright sunshine, something a little different to a country we had never visited was in order.

Iceland – land of fire and ice was chosen.

Although we knew it would be ferociously expensive when we got there, the flights with Icelandic Air were too good to ignore at £120 each return. Hotels and a hire car were booked then an itinerary was drafted up. Soon enough 4 months working and settling back into UK life flew by and it was time for a new Evans road trip.

Just like the middle-aged oldies we have become, we had packed our all-weather coats, fleeces, hats, gloves, scarves and our walking boots ready for the cold to whip by us knowing we would be all cosy, after all the name of the country ICE-land gives you a clue it’s going to be cold, but what we didn’t factor in was how absolutely disgustingly wet it was going to be!  The transfer driver from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik kind of gave it away when she said to us “I guess you didn’t Google – Will it Rain in Iceland in October?” and no we did not expect it to rain quite so heavily for the whole week we visited!

But it did it stop us exploring? No it didn’t, we stuck to our plan and got out to see the stunning, rugged, fantastic scenery that Iceland has to offer…however we did spend more time in the car looking at the scenery through the rain on the windscreen and not hiking than we would have preferred! And although I have now officially morphed into my Mother, I’m really glad I packed thermos flasks for us, so we could have hot cups of soup for our car picnics…

So let me take you on a trip…of our highlights of magical Iceland…with probably the most wettest fuzzy set of photos ever!

Geysers

Iceland is basically a land of volcanic activity bubbling away under the surface. Underground glacial water springs get super heater and where gaps in the earth have formed, hot steam is pushed to the surface like a whale blowhole. At Geysir (this is where the English word Geyser actually comes from) we walked through the geothermal field in rain that pelted us at all angles, stood for a few minutes to watch the explosion of steam shooting into the air from the Strokkur geyser and hurried back to the car through waves of stinky egg smelling steam to strip off and warm up! I’m sure on a rain free day we would have stayed longer and probably would have taken some photos of the erupting geysers.

Þingvellir National Park and Reykjanes Peninsula

The island of Iceland lies smack dab on the middle of the Mid Atlantic Ridge where the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It’s these plates bumping and grinding together that cause geothermal and volcanic activity. The mid Atlantic continental drift is pulling the plates apart, so effectively Iceland is being slowly separated down the middle and away from each other at a rate of about 10cm each year. At the western Reykjanes Peninsula we could walk from one tectonic plate side to the other over the bridge between the continents.

At Þingvellir we walked through the canyon fracture and imagined Vikings holding their annual parliament here, passing laws and taking part in feisty games. Think ‘Game of Thrones’ and you have the picture in your head without the White Walkers! Luckily here the rain was very light and we enjoyed a wonderful walk through the autumnal colours of the park ending up at the beautiful Oxararfoss waterfall.

Waterfalls

From the ice caps, water is running downwards and over ancient glacial river beds, there are waterfalls dropping down over cliffs everywhere.The Hvita river runs down to form two waterfalls at Gulfoss that carve their way through the landscape. This waterfall site was really busy with tourist coaches on day trips through ‘The Golden Circle’. This site was amazing and is worthy of many visitors, you could walk anywhere and it felt very open to the natural elements.

At Seljalandsfoss we saw the 60 meter high waterfall through the windscreen wipers in the car park, we had barely dried out from the mornings activities and didn’t venture back out.

Waterfalls and rainbows go hand in hand, in every tour guide photobook there are beautiful rainbows arcing through the water spray. So at Skogafoss we arrived really early to avoid the coach crowds, walked up the steep steps to view the cascading water tumbling over the cliff and into the valley river below. “Where’s my goddamn rainbow?” I cried to the rain gods, but they just sent heavier rain on us. Skogafoss was indeed splendid and definitely my favourite as you could walk up really close and get a tad wetter from the powerful spray.

Glaciers

After spending £7 on a hot chocolate at the nearby cafe that should have lasted a lot longer than it did, we walked to view the Myrdalsjokull glacier, even with dark skies the blue ice light bounced off our faces and all around the area in soft and dewy tones. Within the glacier the active Katla volcano erupts every 40 to 60 years. Throughout the glacier we could see the bands of ash that have fallen onto the glacier over time and remain there for more water and ice to enclose the covering dust like a time capsule.

Further east along the south coast, we pushed on to watch majestic Icebergs that have broken off from the massive expanse of the Vatnajokull glacier float silently through Jokularson glacial lagoon. Each iceberg had a different shape and texture, some are smooth, some jagged and some are just icy looking! There are titanic sized pieces of white and blue ice and all sorts of small chunky shapes that flow out to the North Atlantic Sea. Within the icebergs we saw those dark lines of black volcanic ash that are effectively time lines like lines within a tree.

Out to the black volcanic ash beach these icebergs get bashed and broken up into wonderful pieces of crystal clear chunks of ice. The icy pieces of flotsam and jetsam get pushed up onto the wave’s edges and lie around like sparking diamonds, brilliant against the black ash sand. It was one of the most visually stunning scenes I have ever seen, it was if I was in a dream scape wandering along the beach with the natural contrasts of black and white at my feet, while ominous grey rain clouds brewed above my head.

Reykjavik

We found the capital city was very charming, easy to walk around but very expensive!

 The main building’s architecture are sympathetic to the natural beauty of the country. The large elongated mountainous volcano shaped Hallgrimskirkja church towers towards the heavens with its black basaltic inspired columns found at the Svartifoss waterfall.

The Harper Conference centre at the Harbour is built to represent the shape of balsaltic columns and smooth hexagonal ‘church floor’ stones that are found throughout Iceland where rapid cooling of the volcanic lava flow has occurred.

Vik

We based ourselves at the rather warm and comfortable Icelandair Hotel in Vik for a few nights as a base from which to explore. 

Throughout the area there are desolate black sand beaches with great examples of basalt columns, dramatic cliff sides and rocks jutting up out of the sea that look like mummified trolls. 

We drove through expansive lava fields where coverings of thick green woolly moss have taken hundreds of years to grow and cover the jagged rocks with a lumpy bumpy fertile carpet. 

There are hundreds of volcanoes covering Iceland, but due to low lying clouds we didn’t get to see the famous and rather difficult to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull volcano that caused air travel misery back in 2010.

Blue Lagoon

We opted for the comfort package costing 55 euros each. We lathered our faces with moisturising silica and clay masks, while we sipped on beers as our cheeks glowed from the 39°C geothermal milky blue waters that we luxuriated under. The Blue Lagoon at Grindavik is large and mysteriously steamy enough that you can find your own space to sink into and away from the huge crowds that visit here. Visiting an outdoor spa in the rain doesn’t sound like much fun, but the cold water from rain above was really quite cooling as we bobbed around looking for hotter hotspots in the water.

We did enjoy our week away in Iceland and we would have enjoyed getting out to explore a lot more without all the torrential dismal rain! The northern phenomenon that is the Aurora Borealis were elusive during our visit, but to be honest we would have been happy with some bright light in the daytime yet alone green shimmering light at night, but this gives us a great reason to return!


 

Argentinian Iguazu, I love you more!

We left fabulous Brazil behind with a chirpy ciao and headed over Ponte Tancredo Neves bridge into Argentina. Mr E was feeling rather pleased to find out I had found a couple of hundred Brazilian pesos squirreled away, but had forgotten about until packing my bag. So instead of taking a public bus with a change to another bus at the border, we hired a taxi for less than £10. Our driver Gulman was ace, stopping on the bridge for photos of the three borders; Brazil, Paraguay and Brazil, exchanging our Brazilian pesos for Argentinian pesos and making the whole border crossing a very pleasant easy time.
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As soon we crossed the bridge into Argentina the  landscape seemed more tropical, the neighbourhood’s poorer and street dogs absent in Brazil were back in force yapping on corners.
We chose to stay at the nice but rather expensively priced Saint George hotel situated in the centre of Puerto Iguazu. Stashing our bags securely in the hotel, it was time to visit the Argentine falls. We walked around the corner to the bus station. The Rio Uruguay return bus ticket was 100 pesos each / £6.80 – the transition to  Argentinian prices was a shock after great value Brazil.
The last stop was at the entry to the park. We had read in advance that the visitor centre only took Argentinian pesos in cash for entry tickets, no credit cards were accepted. So with our taxi exchanged peso money we paid the entry fee of $260ARS each, a pricey £18 but once we had seen the falls from this side, we would have paid more!

The indigenous people of the area are Guaraní and the word Iguazú means “Great Waters”. During the wet season from November to March there are 275 waterfall cascades tumbling over into the canyon. We had a massive thunderstorm the night before and the Iguazu river banks were swollen, the sheer volume of water at the falls was astounding.
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From the Brazilian side, we had experienced the full panoramic views, but on the Argentinean side you are almost wading in the water you are that close. There are many vantage points in the parks away from the crowds and it feels like you are in the Lost World. The rainforests glisten and rustle, the sound of the water is intensely loud, it’s as if you are far removed from any civilisation. If you’ve seen the movie ‘The Mission’, you’ll remember the praying Jesuit Priest tied to the cross, cascading over Iguazu falls to meet his maker while the mesmerising Ennio Morricone soundtrack plays in the background.

The Argentinian falls are simply spellbinding, two-thirds of the falls are on this side. There are iron walkways over the water connecting islands and land. We could look over the handrails where our trail of sight followed water tumbling down into pools below. We took our rain jackets this time and enjoyed getting sprayed by mist clouds blowing in the wind.
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All around the parks are these deceptively cute looking animals called Coati. They run around your feet and hang out especially by all the food outlets ready to stealthily rob food from open backpacks as soon as the owner puts it down on the floor. Despite all the signs advising not to feed them or attempt to touch them, they are wild animals after all that will bite! we still saw people throwing human food to them – don’t feed them!
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The Argentinian park offers three trails through the rainforest with differing degrees of accessibility.
The first trail is the Lower Circuit, this trail allows hikers down the gorge to a large pool from the Arrechea falls at the bottom. At a 7km distance, only those with excellent fitness should attempt the walk, the climb back up is via steep vertical steps. This trail is probably best attempted when you first arrive in the park.
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The second trail is on the Upper Circuit. The park train transports you from the central station to the start of the 1km trail over the water on a series of walkways.
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At the end we were virtually on top of the Garganta del Diablo. We saw the natural power of the water almost within touching distance.
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We watched as swallows flying high, swooped and dodged through the waterfalls to their nesting spots in the thick green grasses behind the canopy of water.
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The third trail was the Middle Circuit where iron walkways hug close to the edge of the canyon, this trail provided us with stunning panoramic views of the whole 2km expanse of these amazing waterfalls. This circuit was free from the coach tour parties and apart from the thunderous noise was extremely tranquil.
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For us the Argentinean side trumped the Brazil side, it was more expansive, less touristy and totally beautiful wandering through the trails. It’s totally true, Iguazu you are fabulous!

Next up: Buenos Aires.

Sorry Niagara, I’ve met someone else!

I adore Niagara Falls. During our August trip in Canada, we visited once again where I continued to pledge my eternal love.. but Niagara, I’m sorry there’s a new more impressive guy in town, he’s four times wider than you, twice as tall and he’s stolen my heart.

When First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt saw the falls, she famously declared “Poor Niagara” and that it “makes Niagara look like a kitchen faucet”
Billy and Mel had told us that we would love it there. Mel had wonderfully declared in her own famous quote “There’s water pissing out everywhere!” They were right and yes Mel there is!

After our relaxing time in Florianopolis, we took a flight to the tiny airport of Foz do Iguacu, located at the bottom corner of Brazil, where the Parana River separates the three borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. We stayed in the modern town in a central, great value hotel – Pietro Angelo, with additional bonus of a free pick up shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel.
The next day we set out to visit the waterfalls that look amazing on all the photos we have ever seen.

Millions of years ago huge volcanic eruptions spewed basaltic lava all over the land forming the canyon that now separates Argentina and Brazil. Then about 20,000 years ago fractures in the earth allowed water from the rainforests and mountains in the west to flow down into the Iguazu river. This water becomes rather excitable as it picks up speed before finally trundling over the ever thirsty horseshoe frame of The Devils Throat and down 90 meters of rock creating the most spectacular display of waterfalls. Water to the east has forged its way through the land, shaping mini rainforest islands. It meanders with bubbling force along 2km of the Argentinian side of the canyon creating a vast veil of cascades. While the US Grand Canyon is amazing I can honestly say this is the most impressive natural wonder I have ever seen.You not only get to see astounding waterfalls, but you’re in a steamy lush shiny rainforest where Capuchin monkeys chat to each other in the tree tops, butterflies land on you, spiders spin webs that are coated in a fine spray mist, colourful birds soar, extensive wildlife, flora and fauna lives here, it’s just incredible.
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To get to the Cataratas del Iguacu from the town of Foz do Iguacu, we avoided the tour buses and opted for the public number 120 bus from the Centro station for $3.20BR – a bargain at 50p each. The last stop dropped us off at the large visitors centre into the park. It felt very much like a theme park entrance with entry fee $53 each / £9. You could pay extra for additional boat tours, which take you right to the base of the falls. We didn’t do this but it looked like a lot of very wet fun!

Organised systems of buses with lovely cooling air conditioning, then transport you through the Iguacu National Park to various stops along the side of the falls. We got off the bus at the start of the cataratas trail which follows the canyon edge.
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You can hear the thundering noise of the falls before you can actually see any water. We  followed the sturdy concrete path trail along until we had our first sight of the falls across the gorge on the Argentinian side. Our mouths dropped in awe!
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There are lots of stops for viewing the falls all along the trail and we welcomed the misty spray on our sweaty bodies as the temperature was 32c and it was humid.
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From the Brazilian side you get the full panoramic landscape views and it’s a stupendous, wow moment at every corner unveiling more waterfalls as you walk nearer to the Devils Throat.

I tried to take some decent photographs but contended with mist, water spraying from the falls and high overhead sun. I hadn’t tried a slow shutter speed before on my camera and unable to use a tripod to steady the camera, I used the wooden handrails, but didn’t quite get the full effect. The photos were a tad shaky, but it was fun to try!
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At the Garganta do Diabo balcony, you could walk out to see the massive amount of dropping water and feel the force of the rapids fast flowing underneath the walkway.
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We didn’t have waterproofs with us and only made it half way before getting exceptionally wet. We soon dried out in the sunshine though and made our way up the elevator tower for fabulous panoramic views where rainbows arched gloriously over the expanse of water.
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Yep, totally in love with Iguacu.
Brazil Iguacu was spectacular, but the following day in Argentina was even better!
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