Getting to know Misiones (Argentina’s jungle province) beyond Iguazú Falls: this is a trip I’d been wanting to for ages. Here’s the write-up from Saturday’s Guardian. It includes a range of accommodation for various budgets, plus a list of general tips for visiting the falls.
Of all the diverse landscapes in South America – the Andes, the glaciers, the pampas, the beaches – the rainforest is probably my favourite. Nowhere feels more exotic or precious.
The Atlantic Rainforest is like a beginner’s rainforest. It is much more easily accessible than the Amazon, both logistically and financially. Ideally, you’d spend a week or two exploring it, as I did, but even adding a couple of days up there can give you a real taste for it. I’d highly recommend it to travellers from the US and Europe, who can’t get any such landscape or wildlife on their doorstep at home. Although – be warned – you aren’t likely to bump into a jaguar. It’ll be birdlife you’ll be mostly spotting.
It’s fascinating though to think that until the 1980s, there were no roads leading to Iguazú Falls. I spoke to a local girl who’s mother was married to a ranger and used to live in the park. Back then, there actually was a chance of bumping into a jaguar and, apparently, her mother used to live in fear, always locking the doors, just in case.
Aside from the falls, this area is not given hardly any attention in the press – either in travel sections or in the news. When I was fact-checking my article, I called a number of rainforest associations and found they we’re really on-the-ball with the Atlantic Rainforest. (“Er, erm, we don’t actually have any projects there, sorry.”)
With only 5% of it left, perhaps it’s considered a lost cause.
The more light that can be shed on this area, the better. Responsible tourism could really help. One of the lodge owners I visited told me that before he started any building work he took his carefully considered plans to the local planning office and was dismissed with a wave of the hand. “It’s your land, you can do what you like,” they said to a man whose land directly faces pure, virgin rainforest and is next to a clear, unpolluted stream. Imagine the damage he could have done if he wasn’t eco-minded.
This was a few years ago, so rules may have tightened up, but other stories I head also left me worried (farming chemicals running down hillsides into streams below etc).
Misiones really is a complex and fascinating province. It has to support the needs of its farmers, its indigenous people and its ecologists. If anyone hears of any projects in the area – perhaps ones that help local farmers to work the land more sustainably or ones that help support the customs of the Guarani people – let me know. I’d love to get in touch.
Photo: Cuña Piru Lodge