Iguazu in Prisms
Puerto Iguazu Travel Blog› entry 4 of 10 › view all entries
March 3rd, 2009 – by: mattschumpert
Since arriving two days ago, I've been looking for a better word to describe Iguazu; obviously, still searching. Doubtless, I haven't breathed air this oxygenated nor felt (no, you still can't drink it) water this fresh in years. Recovering from seven days of partying in Brazil took about twelve hours here, and falling in love with Argentina took one. One of the world's happier taxi drivers explained to me the park entrance fees, helped me change money, and pointed out just about every interesting sight between Foz de Iguacu (Brazil) and my hotel in the park in Argentina (about 30km), while I took long, deep breaths, grinned and noded. A recipee for contetment, then, must be a lushness of maximum density and development of minimum density.
Oh yes, and then there's this immense series of spectacular waterfalls ('Cataratas'), which draw droves of Japanese and American tourists, with a sprinkling of Europeans, complete with tripods. At least, this is Iguazu seen through the prism of the Sheraton Iguazu Hotel. With the thought of waking up to the sound of the falls, and of making one last splurge as vacation melts into vagabond life, I booked this place, the only establishment inside the park, further depleting the cache amassed through recent business travel loyalty. It's gorgeous, and an enormous step up from Ilha Grande accommodation, and has aided in the post-Brazil recovery tremendously. It's also tremendously convienient (without lifting a finger before 1:30PM I saw everything in an afternoon: upper trail, lower trail, safari and boat ride).
The falls themselves are about as exciting as staring at water could be. Now I'm not one to sit and stare endlessly; but staring, at least for a few minutes, did provide some enjoyment, as your eyes try to come to grips with such an overt display of power, and you're again reminded of just how easily nature could whoop your ass. The jeep/boat combo tour was worthwhile, since you do actually learn something (like just how wasteful eating hearts of palm is), and do get your fair measure of exhileration (as you're engulfed by the falls to the tipping point between refreshing shower and being obliterated... this could never happen in the States). Though it rained during the later half of the ride , (the rain being equally as refreshing as the falls), the payoff was in multiple rainbows, whcih brought an additional prism through which to see nature's display, visually and metaphorically. This reminded me of people who, I've read, deliberately time their visits to Goa in India during monsoon season. The incessant rain is clearcly refreshhing to a point, but also reportedly 'romantic', 'erie', and 'peaceful', so much so that these people forgoe the sunbathing/dance party/DJ scene possibilities of other seasons for that which seems to be unique; an additional perspective that providing something valuable, if nominally undesirable.
So the falls were a not-so-cheap natural high; mostly a success, and just what I needed. Still, a day ('mas or menos') is enough, and I was excited to make some transactions (financial and social) in Argentina outside the Sheraton bubble... so I ventured out.
Just before I left Munich, someone advised me that traveling for months on end honed useful life skills as much as any "career job" could, such as knowing, ver quickly, who to trust, and how far to trust them. Traveling, in fact, is a rigorous program of exercise for many a mental muscle. Social skills in new relationships, and in particular situations that require discretion are key, but the trust sensibility is perhaps paramount. In seeking serendipitous adventure and thrills in places off the tourist path for at least half a year, one is bound to end up at more than a few forks in the road where this sense serves well. As you might expect, this happened tonight, and all ended well. I ended up with a few less Pesos, but had a fascinating evening speaking Spangluguesish over beers with new Brazilian, Argentine and Italian friends of various walks of life, and eating one of the cheaper meals of my life. For a mere eight pesos ($2.25), we had tasty fried steak (loin apparently) and salad, in (literally) a shack adjoining someone's house, in a quiet neighborhood of Puerto Iguazu. Complete with a surly mother casting a skeptical eye at our crew, it was down home, no frills, delicious Argentinian food, and something I would never have found without local conections. Ironically, I would never have found these friends in the first place if I weren't wearing my ultimate tourist uniform (a Carnaval t-shirt courtesy of our Sambadrome tickets, the last clean one of course, which drew some interest). Thanks to this little gift, I got to see this sleepy little town of nature through a local's prism, an unexpected treat. A Brazilian jeweler (and rastafarian drug dealer of sorts), a straight-laced Argentinian IT professional dreaming of moving to Spain to be with his girlfriend, and an Italian ex-drug addict, having 'purified' himself in Bolivia, now 'coming back to the earth' in Iguazu (Bolivia's 12,000 feet were too much for his feeble recovering body), all had different perspectives to share on life and this little, simple town of a thousand hostels. Yes, yes, then there's the backpacker's prism of Iguazu, which I guess I missed. But then again, that's not really the interesting part.
**photo album: http://picasaweb.google.com/matt.schumpert/09_03_Foz_De_Iguazu#
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