Argentinian Adventure–Iguazu Falls, The Argentinian Side


The largest park is a national park on the Argentinian side.  There are upper and lower hiking trails with an ecologically friendly train that takes you to where the trails begin.  For those who want to hike more, you can forget the train and hike through the forest/jungle to where the main trails begin.  We took the train.

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On the upper trail you can cross a portion of the river, cross just above the top of several of the individual falls, and get wet.

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The trails on the Argentinian side are impressive feats of engineering.  I kept wondering how they built them in some of the very daunting places, e.g. over tops of large falls, over the rushing river.

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I am standing in the middle of the “bridge” with the same distance over the river in both directions.

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You cannot stay in this location very long without getting quite wet.  The falls are so huge and the spray so extensive, a fine mist floats everywhere.  Talking normally means no one can hear you because of the roar.

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The land to the left is an island.  Because it constantly receives a fine mist, the plants look lush, glistening with water droplets.  Gaston said it reminded him of the movie Avatar.

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After all this hiking we decided to go to the hotel near the falls for a drink.  A man and a woman were teaching people how to tango.  Before I knew it, the guy had me dancing.

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The next day we took the lower trail.  One of the first things we saw was a group of monkeys.  Although there are signs along the road to please watch out for jaguars because too many get killed at night on the road, we did not see any.  It occurred to me several times one could have been 50 feet from me near a trail and I would never have guessed–the jungle is too dense.

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As you can see to the right in this photo, in many places the trail is right at the edge of the falls and sometimes the trail goes over the top so you are walking over where the falls drop to the gorge below.

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The immensity of the falls, the roar and power of the water, the lush jungle–a magical place which filled us with wonder.

 

 

 

Note:  There are several ways to spell the name of the falls, depending on the language.  I have used two of the ways.  The river which makes the falls is the Parana with an accent over the last a.

 

Adventures in Argentina–Flora and Fauna Near Iguazu Falls


Across the highway from the helicopter business, we visited a surprisedly large bird sanctuary, recommended by our taxi driver/guide.  We did not expect anything as lovely as what we found. Most of the birds and flowers there are native to the area.  However, a few rarer species from other parts of the world exist there as well.

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Surprised, I recalled seeing these exact same flowers on my two trips to Costa Rica.  In fact, I found another photo on an older blog post from one of my Costa Rica trips.

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Endangered, many countries where these wonderful parrots live do everything they can to save them.  They pair for life–we found the evidence amusing and enchanting.

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Whenever we saw an uneven number together, we looked elsewhere and found the mate drinking or feeding.

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Of course, there has to be toucans.  Some even clowned for the tourists.  People clustered all around to watch their antics.

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Where you have flowers you have butterflies.

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Butterflies love Gaston.

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They landed on him, flew to his fingers, let him pick them up without flying away.  I tried, but no luck.

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A fabulous morning on the Brazilian side, starting with the helicopter ride and ending here with flowers, birds, and butterflies.

 

Celebrating Earth Day–Photos


I decided the best way I should share my reverence and love for nature and this precious planet on which we live is to share photos from various countries, states, and my own little piece of wonder.

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The three photos above were taken at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas about ten minutes from where I live.

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Above and below the Rio Grande looking into Mexico.

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Four photos above — Big Bend National Park.

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Between Marfa and Alpine, Texas.

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The Rio Grande north of Albuquerque on the Santa Ana Pueblo Nation.

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The above four photos taken in Simien Mountain National Park, Ethiopia.  The animals are gelada–the only surviving grass eating primates found solely in Ethiopia.  They actually “talk” to each other.

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Menelik’s Window, Ethiopia

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Awash Falls, Ethiopia

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Where the Blue Nile begins draining from Lake Tana, Ethiopia

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The photos above were taken at various places in Costa Rica.

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Northern New Mexico

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Grand Canyon North Rim

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The Missouri River running full.

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California dropping down from Sequoia National Monument

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Near Lake Marvin, Texas

Sunday Sunrise ©Dawn Wink

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The above photos were all taken within the last year on my little rim of wonder.

And finally below, my favorite animal.

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You, yes, you can make a difference


Many tell me or believe that one person, him or herself, cannot do much to change the world, to make a difference.  This short movie tells about a man in northeastern India who transformed a wasteland into a forest by planting one tree at a time over many years.  Now elephants, deer, and even tigers live there.  Take a look for yourself.  Look for the youtube video called “Forest Man”.  The web address is :

It won awards at several different film festivals including Cannes.

 

 

 

Apocalyptic Planet–Part Three: Ice Collapses


It may be difficult for some to believe, but over the last three million years ice dominated earth’s climate. We remain in that long ice age; widespread glaciers still exist.  For most of earth’s long, long existence no ice existed anywhere.  Currently, we are in an interglacial period in which ice has retreated back to the poles and the highest mountain reaches.  Earth as we know it has been shaped primarily by ice and to a lesser extent by volcanoes.  Once ice lay hundreds of feet deep as far south as Chicago and London.  What caused this see saw between Ice Ages and warm, wet periods where the ice retreated or disappeared entirely?  The changing tilt of the earth’s axis. Currently, the earth’s tilt is 23.5 degrees or so.  This tilt causes the seasons in non tropical areas.  Earth’s tilt changes a degree or so over time, causing the alternating periods between extreme ice coverage and warm periods.  At times the change has been so great that no ice remained even on the poles.  Usually, these changes are very slow, over thousands of years.  No longer.

Equatorial glaciers once common in the high equatorial mountains, e.g. Andes, Himalayas, a century ago no longer exist.  Ernest Hemingway once described the glacier on Kilimanjaro as “wide as all the world”.  Now nothing but a few patches of hard snow remain.  The once giant ice fields in northern Patagonia in Chili and Argentina currently lose volume at an ever accelerating rate.  While hiking and kayaking with a filming crew in this area, Childs saw just how rapidly this ice loss occurs.  In one instance a huge ice lake run off from one glacier totally disappeared in two weeks.  In Greenland an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan floated off in 2010 and finally melted in the Gulf Stream.  It narrowly missed shipping lanes and offshore oil wells.  The Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica the size of Yosemite National Park and 700 feet deep had been stable for more than 12,000 years.  It started coming apart over a decade ago.  It eventually floated off and melted.

Why does any of this matter?  Ice keeps the planet cooler.  Solar radiation bounces off into space.  Currently, ice reflects approximately 30 per cent of incoming sunlight.  Few present animals and people are prepared for the hothouse that would exist if much more ice melts.  This is in spite of the fact that radiation from the sun has actually gone down in the last fifty years.  As the planet warms, more ice melts, more heat remains on earth, more ice melts and the cycle continues.  The current acceleration of ice loss causes many scientists to question:  where is the tipping point?  How can we stop this rapidly accelerating ice loss?

Humans are increasing carbon dioxide levels ten thousand times faster than they changed over the last 65 million years.  Our globe is warming; all climatologists agree.  At what point will it be too late to turn this around?  Indeed, can we turn this around?  And if we do, will some of the ice return?  No one knows.  Nothing like this has occurred before in human history.  All this melting ice causes sea rise.  At the current rate a one meter sea rise by the end of this century is plausible.  Many of the world’s largest cities already have a sea level problem e.g.Bangkok.  Furthermore, the water supply for much of southern and southeast Asia depends on water from rivers and glaciers in the Himalayas.  The world’s largest supply of fresh water depends on this system.  Are we ready for a hotter, drier earth?

2012 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

I started this blog 11 months ago.  I want to thank all my followers, commenters, and friends who follow me via WordPress, Facebook, etc.  for making this a success.  Thank you and Happy New Year.  May this new year bring joy and prosperity to all of you.

Costa Rica 6: Adventures and Views


Without a doubt Costa Rica holds my vote for most photogenic and greenest country.  From the Caribbean and Pacific rain forests to the high mountain town of Monteverde, the words lush, exotic, verdant do not even begin to describe how incredibly rich the landscape is.  One of the first spectacular views lay before me across the parking lot from a combination restaurant and souvenir shop where we stopped for snacks.

I did not expect to see multiple mountain streams like in the Rockies, but it seemed we were crossing one nearly constantly.  This abundance of water explains their nearly total dependence on hydroelectric power with a little help from wind and thermal energy.

Several of my traveling companions decided to raft this river with class 4 rapids. Something told me I should not do this.  After flipping over several times, banged up and bruised, they decided to hike out.  In  the meantime, I experienced my own adventure, eating a raw turtle egg in salsa at a family restaurant on the top of a nearby mountain.

Beautiful mountain scenery seems endless.  I kept 00hing and awing.

This view shows the Bay of Nicoya in the distance from my hotel room in Monteverde.  The following photos all show views in the mountains near this little remote town.  There is only one road in and out and it is not paved and it is narrow.  The town was originally settled by Quakers from Canada who still believe a paved road will ruin the peaceful lifestyle.  Both the Quakers and the town are famous for their cheese which was served both plain and fried for breakfast.

This area provides both zip lining and horseback riding for tourists.  I elected to ride.  However, these horses did not seem well fed and certainly did not want to go very fast.  Although I saw a lot of horses in Costa Rica, these were by far the thinest.

The guy who lead us did not ride one of these.  He was riding a fancy, prancing, grey Paso Fino.

Look closely and you can see someone zip lining across the forested canyon hundreds of feet below.

When I asked about this tree, I was told it is related to cacao, but not eaten, not by humans anyway.

We traveled down the mountain on another dirt road to visit this elementary school.  It housed grades 1-6 with one teacher who is also the principal.  The literacy rate in Costa Rica is 98.5.

Playing soccer with the students.

A port on the Pacific on the way to the surfing town of Jaco.  Costa Rica exports many agricultural products from both its Pacific and Caribbean ports.  This includes bananas, pineapples, hearts of palms, and many tropical flowers.

While many beaches remain unsafe for swimming due to a strong undertow, the beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park are perfect.

To get into Manuel Antonio you have to walk and no parking exists really close.  Hiking out we crossed an area where the water rushed around our knees and the sign said, “No Swimming, Crocodiles”.

As a farmer, I like to look at and photograph crops.  With all the rain and heat, Costa Rica is the perfect climate for many tropical fruits and rice.  On the way back from Manuel Antonio we passed miles of rice fields and Aftican palms which produce palm oil.

Rice.

Coffee, the main export of Costa Rica.  In the highlands, coffee grows everywhere even along the berms in places so steep I wondered how the person picking the beans did not fall over.  Of course, I wondered the same thing about the dairy cattle grazing on the mountain slopes.

We did stop in Sarchi, the town famous for its furniture and oxcart industry.  Oxcarts remain the national symbol of Costa Rica.  Because of the mountainous terrain, when Costa Rican coffee initially became famous and its most successful crop, the only way to get the coffee to the coasts for export was to use oxcarts.

We spent very little time in cities.  However, as we left San Jose near the end of the trip and headed for the Caribbean side, I took some hurried photographs out the window.

My first and last hotel window view in San Jose included these stately coconut palms.

PURA VIDA

Costa Rica 5, Fauna


Costa Rica continued to surprise me.  I did expect some of the animals, photos of which are posted below,  but did not expect so many cattle, especially the dairy cattle, including Jerseys, Guernseys, and Holsteins,  that populated the steep mountain slopes.  They grazed everywhere up to their tummies in grass on even the steepest mountainsides.  I kept wondering how they learned to balance themselves and why they did not fall over, catapulting down the mountain.  Everyone in the group commented on the fat, happy cows.  Such abundance resulted in fabulous steaming milk for morning coffee, rich cheeses, and the creamiest ice cream imaginable.

A cow pen near the top of a mountain on the Caribbean side next to the restaurant that sold cheese and where I ate the raw turtle egg.  Most of the cows roamed free up and down the mountainsides.

In the lowlands on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country, Brahma cattle relaxed or grazed in the lush grass.  It reminded me of the landscape near Veracruz, Mexico, where I lived many years ago.

The most common meat besides fish, most of which is talapia, is chicken.  Near the mountain top where the Jersey cow above was photographed, I saw a huge shed and when I asked about it, was told it was a chicken farm. However, pork is frequently served as well and occasionally beef.  I took the following photograph at a small place on a dirt road.  We stopped there to drink coconut water.  The spotted, pregnant pig was due soon.  However, the fate of the black pig remained less lovely–food.  Their girth resulted from eating coconuts; they constantly gorged themselves.

Birds abound, from the protected scarlet macaws on the Pacific Coast to tiny hummingbirds.  Hundreds of species I had never seen before and many I had seen rather often like various egrets and herons. And then there were the monkeys which I did expect to see but found difficult to photograph with my ordinary camera.

These white faced monkeys roamed everywhere near the beaches at Manual Antonio National Park, begging for food and if that did not work, actually stealing it.

While the white face monkeys remained highly visible, the howler monkeys could be heard easily but were much harder to locate because they tend to stay high in the tallest trees.  Without a good telescoping lens, this was the best I could do.

Look for the dark blob in the middle of the photo.  They also move fast so hard to locate and follow and even harder to photograph under those conditions.

Just as we arrived, walking, at the entrance to Manuel Antonio, a downpour began.  Not fond of drenchings, I stayed back, hoping it would stop, and suddenly saw a small sloth, the grey spot in the nearly leafless tree in the middle of this photo.

Lizards of many varieties abound.  The tree near my hotel room in Jaco contained four iguanas that appeared nearly lifeless since they never seemed to move.  Again, without a better lens I could not really photograph them.  However, at Manuel Antonio many other kinds of lizards ran here and there only slightly afraid and relatively easy to photograph.

When I think back as to what I expected, it never occurred to me that huge, brackish (salt) water crocodiles existed in such abundance or even existed there at all.  Near Jaco, on the Rio Grande Tarcoles the Costa Ricans created a preserve to protect the endangered scarlet macaws and crocodiles.  We arrived early in the morning and floated around the river, into a mangrove swamp, watching birds and crocodiles.  The list of common birds included 58 species and we saw others that the guide referred to as “bonus birds”.  The following photos come from this lovely, relaxing river ride.  Truly, I loved this part of the trip.

Entering the mangrove swamp.

Two months old.

Where the Rio Grande Tarcoles enters the Pacific Ocean.

The boat captain feeding the crocodile in the mud barefoot.  I thought about touching this one he was so close until I was told they could swim as fast as 55 miles per hour.  It occurred to me that he could turn around really quickly and snap off my hand so…

Costa Rica: 4, Flora


For a person who loves flowers (and I do), Costa Rica exemplifies a lush, green heaven.  This intense green makes the flowers show up more than they would in a duller landscape.  Whether in the high mountains near Monteverde or down in the coastal lowland jungles, flowers abound.  So many flowers everywhere made me want to photograph them all, but there are too many; I photographed a few.

My friend, Anabel McMillen, the professional photographer, just about went nuts there were so many spectacular things to photograph.  Last count I think she hit over 1000 photographs.

While wild flowers grow everywhere, the people also take great pride in both their personal and public gardens.  Even at the simplest country house, flowers and other plants could be found growing in profusion.  Almost all towns, like La Fortuna in the photo above and the one below near Arenal Volcano, create a public square with a church and gardens.

Hydrangeas like this one above grow along the roads everywhere near Monteverde.

Not only are the flowers frequently much larger than the same flowers grown here, but in the lowlands, in particular, many of the trees seem huge.  Costa Rica also cultivates flowers for export.  Net covered fields of ferns grow all over the steep mountain slopes.

In the highlands near Monteverde more than one hundred species of plants can be found growing on the surface of one tree as shown in the photos below.

Twice we stopped at a place called El Jardin, once on the way to Monteverde and another on the way back to San Jose from the Pacific Coast town of Jaco.  In addition to their beautifully landscaped outdoor gardens, they possessed a small greenhouse filled with butterflies and a sculpture water fountain in an indigenous style seen throughout the country.

As I looked at the following bouquet where we ate lunch near the Sarapiqui River on the Caribbean side, I touched it because I remained unsure as to whether it could be real.  It was.

PURA VIDA!!

Pura Vida: 3, The Volcanos of Costa Rica


Of the six active volcanos in Costa Rica (61 are dormant), this month I visited two.  Poas, a caldera volcano about 1 1/2 hours from San Jose in the Central Highlands, rises  8, 885 feet and is one of the largest and most active.  Its crater contains water and rising steam. Lush rain forests surround the volcano.  It rained the entire time I was there.

Arenal rises 5, 437 feet above the surrounding forests and verdant hills.  It has been the country’s most active volcano for more than 40 years.  In 1968, a large explosion buried three villages and killed 87 people.  More recent eruptions have been much less severe.  Smoke drifts skyward daily.  Arenal is a strat0 volcano, tall and symmetrical.  The lake near Arenal is manmade and an excellent place for kayaking in relatively serene waters.  The lake provides 12 per cent of Costa Rica’s electric energy.

Due to Arenal’s geothermal activity, the surrounding area contains a number of hot spring resorts, one of which is El Tocano, where we stayed two nights.

This place is delightful and relaxing.  The bar tender made yummy margaritas.  If you want to drink wine, Costa Rica is not the place.  However, the national beer, Imperial, tastes quite good and I do not usually like beer.