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We flew from Buenos Aires to a one horse town called Posadas, then rode a 4×4 over slippery muddy roads for five hours to arrive at tiny Carlos Pelligrini at 1am. Carlos Pelligrini is on the edge of Ibera, a biologically rich wetlands reserve. Opening the car door, a large muzzle snuffled at my face and bag. It was the resident donkey, named ¬®Donkey.¬® We checked into a tiny inn, made from rough timbers, with great rustic furniture. Anna, who seems to be the manager, gave us some wonderful delicate slices of pizza — one with carrots and one with potatoes. Then we went to sleep in a rather chilly room.

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In the last two days, we’ve seen some amazing things. Looking out the windows of the inn, we could see many kinds of water birds, and some groundhog-sized rodents in front of a large lake.

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We walked down a road, built through the middle of the large lake, to a nature reserve. Next to the interpretive center we saw a large group of capybaras, the world’s largest rodents. They were grazing like small deer. The largest can top 100 pounds! South America is to rodent varieties what Australia is to marsupials – there’s lots of variety.

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A house cat-sized wildcat brushed against Jason’s leg. It had beautiful black and white spots. It was striking to see the petite feline next to giant rodents.

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We walked down a path through a forest of trees and vines and lots of lush plants. Jason spotted a beautiful golden monkey with a baby hitching a ride on her belly.

Back at the lodge, we were given some delicious corn cannellonis.

After lunch, we was a boat expedition into the marshes. Right away, we saw several caymans convalescing in the water. They don’t move fast in the cold.

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We sped across the lake, and I was glad to have my new, thick down coat.

The lake has lots of tiny floating islands called flotandos. Composed of a layer of dirt and matted roots, they’re about a foot thick, and grass and even trees grow on them. The lake is about 2.5 meters deep, and the flotandos are floating in clumps on it.

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This is the Giant Wood-rail, or Ipacaa, one of the most elegant birds on the lake.

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What’s amazing is the flotandos support big animals like capybaras and deer. We saw lots of capybaras on the flotandos, grazing, drinking water, squeaking, or sometimes diving into the water.

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Walking on the flotando was a really strange sensation — like walking in one of those inflatable houses for children that they have at carnivals. The earth was undulating under our feet.

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The Southern Screamer is a large bird; this one was guarding a big nest, right on a flotando.

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There were so many caymans. Once we saw a mother with many tiny, camouflaged babies amongst the grass. She hissed until we left.

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Bird life was very diverse; large birds including storks, hawks and ibis. And many colorful species of small birds, several with bright red heads, and some golden.

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Desert that evening was a fresh candied papaya with a slice of savory cheese.

Today, Jason rode a horse around the area, while I went back to the walking path. Mingo, a guide from the interpretive center, showed me around. I saw more of the monkeys, including juveniles, and a large black male.

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Mingo pointed out some armadillo tracks, but they’re nocturnal. Back at the interpretive center, the wildcat had returned, and was in the kitchen. They chased it out, and Mingo put it into my arms. Apparently, it’s not that wild.

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On our second boat ride in the afternoon, we saw different landscape, and lots of the same animals, including many deer.

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Marco, the guide, pointed out fist-sized web sacs of baby black and red spiders. The adults must be quite large, because the babies looked big to me.

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Then, unfortunately, our boat crashed into one of the spider sacs, and Jason and the front of the boat were covered in spiders. I was really glad it wasn’t me.

Many vultures circled above. They congregated in this tree.

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Animals we saw:

Marsh Deer, Carpincho, Black Howler Monkey, caymans, wildcat, White-necked Heron, Rufescent Tiger Heron, egrets, storks, ibis, Southern Screamer, ducks, Black Vulture, hawks, Giant Wood-rail, Pollona Negra, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, pigeons