Sunday, February 28, 2010

Batallas Perdidas (Lost Battles)

There are not words in any language I know to describe Iguazu Falls. So maybe just buy a ticket down there today and experience it, because wow, it is worth it!

I took a bus for 21 hours from Bariloche to Cordoba to meet up with Carole Gedenberg where she’s volunteering as a doctor for three months. I spent the day strolling around the pedestrian mall downtown and bought some Argentine CD’s. We left the next day to take a 22 hour bus ride to Iguazu, which is right on the border of Argentina, Brasil and Paraguay. We arrived the next day and found the hostel Carole’s friend recommended then signed up for an excursion to go zipline through the canopy and rappel down a waterfall that afternoon. We were picked up in an enormous truck and taken to do three zips through the trees, which felt like flying! We got going pretty quickly and I took a video with the camera hanging from my harness, but it makes me kind of nauseous so I’ll spare you that. The waterfall we were supposed to rap down was too powerful that day so we did a normal 20 meter rappel instead, which was great and we got to wade in the river afterwards.

The next day we got ready to experience the waterfalls. We took a bus to the park where we strolled down a path through the jungle under enormous hanging spiders and a rainbow of butterflies. To our delight a few coatimundi cam running down the path from the forest. They look like a mixture of anteaters, raccoons and lemurs and of course are not phased at all by human contact so we got some great up-close pictures of them rooting around in the soil. On the trail we met Alejandro, a man from Buenos Aires who was just as goofy as we were and decided to explore the park with us.

We walked among the crowds of people on the boardwalks weaving through the waterfalls, catching glimpses of the giant cascades further up the river. Some boardwalks led us to spectacular viewpoints where we could walk right up next to the falls and get soaked! Carole and I had decided to take a jet-boat ride under the falls and it was pretty difficult to convince Alejandro to come too (“Ale, want to come on the boat ride with us?” “Ok!”).

We boarded the boat with life jackets and drybags for our stuff, pumped because we had seen other boats edging close to the falls. We got in and sped up the river, snapping pictures until they told us to get ready for the water. Once again I was really excited to have my waterproof camera and snapped pictures and recorded us getting absolutely soaked by the enormous Iguazu Falls. It felt like people were throwing buckets of water at us and we could barely see from the immense amounts of water pouring on us. It was epic.

We stopped at the cafe for an overpriced snack after the falls. I was inside buying a sandwich when the first attack happened. Yes, a coati lept up and grabbed Carole's bag of cookies. Luckily she and Alejandro were quick enough that they snatched it away before it could run off with her snack. However, I was unsuspecting and when I sat down and unwrapped my sandwich, the next thing I knew a coati was on the table and had my sandwich in it's grimy little paws. The thing was surprisingly strong, Alejandro was trying to pull my sandwich from it's grasp while I grabbed its body for a minute and pulled, but alas, it was victorious and ran off gleefully with most of my sandwich. A battle lost.

More breath-taking views ensued as we walked along the top of the falls. Exhausted, we walked toward the train that would take us to La Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat, the most well-known part of the falls. Unfortunately we were too late to catch the last train of the day, so we left and decided to come back the next morning before our 22 hour bus ride back to Cordoba.

As we were leaving the park we stopped to see what the indigenous women selling souvenirs. Alejandro was hooked and examined carved animals (he threatened to buy me a wooden coati to remind me of the fantastic day) while I asked the woman selling decorative bows and arrows and blowguns if they would kill a coati. Alejandro then asked if he could try shooting the bow and we spent the next half hour laughing and shooting the thing at trees while the poor woman selling it watched us helplessly and finally just laughed at our misguided attempts to fire it. Then, when we finally left, at the entrance of the park I looked up and saw a huge tucan silouetted against the sky! Its beak was really as long as the rest of its body!

That night we had an asado with Betsy and Cristian, an American/French couple also staying at the hostel with us. Betsy had a guitar and it was a lot of fun to jam and sip wine and let Cristian grill the veggies and lomo steak we had. A perfect end to the day (minus the coati stealing my lunch)!

The next morning it was pouring rain so I ended up heading to see La Garganta myself. I caught the train and walked down the boardwalk over rivers so deceivingly calm nobody would guess in a few hundred meters they’d become the largest falls in the world. I walked to the edge of the boardwalk and closed my eyes as the strangely inverted rain being blown up from the bottom of the waterfalls soaked me completely. I got a few pictures then hurried back to the train and ran through the jungle to catch the bus back to town before our bus left for Cordoba. On the way to town I was chatting with some Argentines and they made me a sandwich on the bus, and I didn’t even ask! I love this continent.

Back in Cordoba for the day and tomorrow I leave to fly to Lima. We weren’t affected by the massive earthquake in Chile, thank goodness. But apparently Peru is expecting a tsunami, so I have to check to make sure I can still fly. Any suggestions, Rebecca?

And that's where our boat was!
Under Iguazu Falls
Buena vista
La Garganta del Diablo
La Garganta

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