Before exploring the Falls themselves we had a lazy Sunday at the Cabaña, where we took some short walks to find some hidden nuggets right on our doorstep. First off was ‘La Aripuca’ – a wonderful world of wood! The entryway was through the stump of a dead rainforest tree. The tree had been killed by Termites, who had hollowed out the inside of it to make their nest & then fungus had set in to weaken and eventually destroy the tree. It had been brought here by lorry and worked into a magnificent gateway to what could vaguely be described as a museum of trees & wood. The owner, an enthusiastic chap explained the origins of the park, which contained several wooden buildings, made not from planks but from curved sections of tree trunk pinned together to make fantastic dwellings. We were shown an Aripuca – a Guarani Indian bird trap from which the park takes its name – a small bamboo pyramid shaped cage, where the bird comes in to eat food off a stick that causes the cage to fall, trapping the bird. The centrepiece of the park was a 500 tonne ‘Aripuca’ made from entire tree trunks to create a cavernous open wooden structure that can be rented out for functions & special occasions. It was a thing of immense beauty and we stood twirling in the centre of it, looking up at the lofty ceiling of wooden roof tiles, feeling like 2 small birds trapped in a very big cage. There were also crafts for sale, including some incredible furniture made from whole cross sections of tree roots that had been worked and polished to create a selection of tables and chairs – each one totally unique in beauty and form. La Aripuca was a really special tranquil place and should not be missed on a visit to Iguazú. It was also in part a protest against deforestation, by showing how beautiful the trees are by working with them to produce these majestic structures and furnishings (all of which were made from already dead trees). The owner reckoned we are all living in a global ‘Aripuca’ and one day the trap will spring and it will be too late – we will be caught like birds in a giant Guarani trap. Cheery Chappy!
In the afternoon, we visited Güirá Oga – a bird sanctuary to admire some exotic birds. We had a short, guided tour by a young chap called Ricardo who walked us around spacious cages containing birds that had been handed in by the public for recuperation & repatriation to the wild. It was a moving experience, sometimes amusing, to hear where the birds came from. Most had been accidentally shot by hunters and brought in for veterinary treatment & repatriation. Others had been pets – including a monstrous Common Black Vulture that someone had kept in a 5th story apartment in Mendoza! The saddest of all were the customs finds from illegal trading in endangered species. There were some Talking Parrots – beautiful bright green birds that are bleached and then painted to look like more exotic, more expensive parrots. The birds of course die a few days after the sale is completed. These ones had fortunately been found before any bleach could be applied. There was another parrot, whose livelihood is threatened as they only nest in one type of tree, which has almost been eradicated by deforestation. The birds simply will not / do not know how to nest in other trees and so are now an endangered species. Most heart breaking of all was a beautiful Great Toucan – you know the black one from the Guinness ads with the vivid yellow & red beak, white throat & bright blue eyes. This Toucan was recovered by customs officials in Buenos Aires, from a passenger boarding a flight with a suspicious looking Thermos Flask. The flask’s inners had been removed and the poor bird stuffed inside to be smuggled out of the country. Miraculously it was still alive and sent to Güirá Oga where it now has a mate and is nearly ready for release back into the wild. Ricardo was an enthusiastic guide and it was his last day as was off to Tucuman to start training to be a Forest Ranger. The training involves running, climbing, swimming & horse riding as well as learning about plants, animals and land management. We wished him well, sure that he will make an excellent ranger.