Adventure #2

[8.31.09] Yes, here it is, two months after I arrived home in NJ, the post about my last weeks in Argentina. The blog must be collecting electronic data's equivalent of dust and cobwebs. But I want to publish this final post anyway for some sense of completion. Know what I mean? I've gotta finish this blog up. Anyway, if you want to skip ahead right to adventure #3, It's a better story. Or maybe not a better story; it was just a better adventure.


Adventure #2 - Iguazú Falls

This is it? Iguazú National Park?

I don't know, when I think of a National Park, especially in South America, I envision a wild overgrown jungle with dirt paths and Yellow Fever mosquitos flying around. I expect a wilderness adventure. But what do I get? an over-developed little with park with paved sidewalks and hand rails, and cute overpriced gift shops at every corner. I was expecting the Grand Canyon and I got something more like Disney World. Go figure.

There are a ton of foreigners here. More blond heads than usual, and people speaking German, French, Italian, Polish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Indian, English, and probably a bunch of other languages too. A sizable amount of East Asians and Indians here. There's something interesting about seeing Indians (like, the kind from India) in South America; the Indian skin tone sort of matches with the native south american skin tone. They don't necessarily look similar. The facial structure and the hair is different, and the language is different, but the skin tone sort of matches. Maybe Colombus was on to something.

So once I'm inside Igazú park with Angelo and Oliver, first thing a bunch of park employees offer us guided tours. But we decide to walk on our own. It was a much better idea: the park was surprisingly small, you could easily walk all the (paved) trails in less than a day. That's basically what we did.

It was not a wilderness adventure. Not enough wilderness for that. I wound up going on an adventure I wasn't expecting: an adventure through old memories.

This kind of surprised me. In La Rioja, I was in the desert for four months seeing cactuses and dusty plains. It was four months that my brain just could not form visual associations with any environments I had lived in in my past. When I found myself in the green and forested surroundings of Iguazú park after four months of desert, a trigger went off in my brain and a flood of memories gushed forth. My mind warped five years and ten thousand miles away to the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. (I'm still kind of surprised at that association. I don't think Iguazú really looks much like the Blue Ridge. Maybe it was just the concept of hiking that was the trigger.) Wow! My feet are in South America on the border of Argentina and Brasil, but mentally I'm hiking the Appalachian Trail as thirteen-year-old Dave at summer camp. It was a really strong sensation. An adventure down memory lane.

But back to real time. The main attraction at Iguazú is a huge, Niagara-caliber cascade called La Garganta del Diablo ("Devil's Throat Falls"). But to get there you have to go through a bunch of smaller, less impressive falls. That's where we have just arrived now, at the first of the smaller falls. Iguazú park is small and a little over-developed, but I realize it's no less beautiful for it. It's cute.

Ollie takes out the map and pinpoints exactly where we're standing. If there's one thing Ollie loves to do it's plan things out. He planned every single day of his six months in Argentina with an extensive itinerary on an Excel spreadsheet. He is definitely in his element right now holding and analyzing the map. I watch him study the Iguazú guide, calculate carefully, and then trace with his index finger the optimum walking tour for the day.

Our morning is aesthetically pleasing. When you see pictures, you'll know what I mean. You have two views of the falls: From the sendero superior (upper path) and the sendero inferior (lower path). From the upper path you're level with the top of the falls and you can look over the edge. From the lower path you can walk underneath the falls and get wet. From both angles you can see tons of rainbows. (I'm trying to imagine how many rainbows are in one ton, based of the average weight of rainbows. It's probably a lot.) Rainbows are really cool. I noticed for the first time that they form perfect circles, except they're incomplete because they run into some obstacle like the ground or a cliff or whatever; but if the bow were to keep going, it would eventually reach the starting point again. That's the type of thing a physics teacher would tell you, I think. I would believe him now because I could sort of see it. They're nice to look at, those rainbows.

Next Ollie, Angelo and I take a ferryboat to a little island to eat our lunch. Buying lunch in Iguazú park would have been something like $15 (USD) each, which is expensive for USA but unthinkable for Argentina. So we packed sandwich materials in Ollie's bag.

Something I must clarify: Ollie is from the United Kingdom, and he is also white. "White" in this context is not a question of skin color. Angelo (from La Rioja) is just as fair skinned as Ollie but Angelo is not white. Being white, I leaned, is a question of how you make a sandwich. Allow me to elaborate. First of all, Ollie packed whole-wheat bread. That right there is enough to classify him as caucasian. But it gets worse- he packed fresh lettuce and tomato, "for the fiber". But the icing on the cake is when he leaves his sandwich open-faced, with no bread on top. Angelo, digging into a white-bread-ham-mayo sandwich, is confused. "Why don't you have bread on top, dude?" Ollie's answer: "That would be a bunch of extra carbs that I really don't need if I want to have a balanced meal." The whitest response you could hope for.

I had to explain to Angelo that open-faced sandwiches are extremely white. Angelo had been referring to Ollie as "pussy boy," which I guess is accurate enough. In Angelo's vocabulary open-faced sandwiches are "pussy food". It's the right idea.

After our gourmet paper-bag sandwiches, we follow pussy boy's exquisitely well planned route to Devil's Throat Falls. Iguazú park is beautiful, but tourists from all over the would would not visit just because the park is beautiful. They come because Devil's Throat Falls is incredible; it's among the 7 (or 8?) wonders of the natural world. Impresionante. That's the spanish word. It litereally translates as "impressive," but it conveys a little more. It's something that leaves an impression. It's something powerful enough to be impression-leaving. And that's what Devil's Throat Falls is, impresionante. When you first see it, -even when you first hear it- you feel tiny. There is so much water, and so much force, it kind of makes you feel like a potato chip under a marching band. I tried to fix my eyesight on one area at the middle of the waterfall; but I couldn't. The falling of the water literally pulls your eyesight down with the cascade. It's as if the sheer force of the water has a sort of visual gravity of its own, like a black hole. Impresionante.

Twenty gaping-mouthed minutes later Ollie, Angelo and I walk off feeling impressioned, all the way to the exit of the park. From there, pussy boy takes to planning the rest of our evening. First, we stop at a grocery store to buy vodka and coke -much cheaper alcohol than what you could buy at the hostel- and whole-wheat pasta. At the hostel we cook ourselves an Italian dinner, partly with our own food and partly with leftover stuff in the hostel fridge. The rest of the evening we spend at the computer, essentially. Ollie and Angelo are revising and re-revising their itinerary, and I play Super Mario. What a great game.

Yay for Igazú, I guess. Ciudad del Este was way cooler.

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