Trip Start Dec 19, 2008
Trip End Mar 11, 2009

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Here are highlights from my trip to Iguazu Falls, Argentina (excerpts from my journal).  I traveled with my "classmate" Surbhi--from Northwestern-- and we flew from Buenos Aires on Friday 20 February and returned Monday 23 February.

Saturday 21 February:
I am writing this at the hostel, 5 km out of Puerto Iguazu, in Northeast Argentina-- on the cusp of Paraguay and Brazil.
It is DOWNPOURING-- for the second time today.  We were later getting started today--meaning more time in bed! yay!--because it was pouring this morning.

So we got to the Garganta del Diablo about 10AM, after an exhiliarating city bus ride, where Surbhi and I stood in teh aisle because it was full of tourists and a few Iguazu workers (wearing blue and green polos with "Iguazu" stitched on them--I felt like I was in Disney World.  Same shirts, just different colors and letters stitching!)  The driver was cruising down the two-lane highway and everything we can see on both sides is lush green vegetation---it was just awesome.
So we got there and immediately went to El Garganta del Diablo-- Devil's Throat-- on the Argentine side, because we couldn't find anyone to take two peole who need Brazilian visas to the Brazilian side.  Rumor has it, they aren't strict about not having visas if you are only there for a day trip--to see the falls-- but if that's the case, no one's talking.

It was overcast and cool--super nice contrast to the hot and humid suffocating smog of Buenos Aires.  The sky looked overcast--like it might storm at anytime.  We joined the throng of tourists and each view just got better:  "Ooh Aaah" take a step "Ooohhh Aaaaahhh" again (only louder) and Repeat.

While taking pictures, we ran into an American soldier-- currently working on media projects in Crystal City (Arlington, VA)-- who was travelling in Argentina for a few days.  We ended up doing the upper and lower circuit trails and going to to the Island San Martin (everything in Argentina is San Martin!) for another circuit of views.

But before that, the train took us up to the Garganata del Diablo--and it was packed!  (full of tourists, remember?) and I'm sandwiched between 3 others and facing 4 others-- they are all speaking rapid and LOUD Spanish and having a good time--randomly applauding things.  I sat there politely smiling.

Then they start talking to me and it comes out that I'm an American.  They start applauding.  (Thank you!...for once!!)  And, they ask me how long my flight was, what my name was, etc et-- they didn't believe that my flight to Buenos Aires was only 8 hours--I explained that it was only from Miami.  :)  They were all Argentine and all wanted to take pictures with me--the American.  Clearly, they weren't from Buenos Aires  ;)

Here's a book-end story:
After a long day-- 10AM-6PM (closed the park, thank you!), I got on the train back to the entrance and an older couple got in our section speaking French.  And French words came to me!  I asked them from where they came--Chartres!-- and I told them that I lived in Paris for a while and I loved the cathedral.  They were very kind and told me that my French was good.

Monday 23 February

I am sitting with my feet dangling in the pool of this resort--oops hostel.   About an hour left until we take our taxi to the airport.

Yesterday, Surbhi and I did the Macuco trail-- it was hilarious. I loved it, even though we cleared the path in the morning.  It would have been quite comedic for a bystander--or someone watching it on film-- who couldn't see the spider webs. 

These webs were huge and hanging--sometimes 3 or 4 in a row-- across the path.  Mostly they were above our heads, but they were often anchored (with super-strong, yellow web-strands that felt like twine) at our level.  They would even hang leaves (one had 5!) or twigs from their webs, dangling in the path in a weird decorative camouflage.  So we worked really hard to dodge them all--on this 8K path--we walked slightly hunched over and ready to bob and weave, straining our eyes to try to spot and avoid the sticky webs.  On the way back we passed tourists just beginning the trail, so our way back was cleared for us (thank you!).  All was well on our exit-- we even calmed down enough to talk about favorite actors.  I was looking at Surbhi as she told me about Bollywood when it happened--WHAM!  right into the bottom of a web...with my face!  Only 500 meters left.  Siggghhhhh

The airport here is so cute--2 gates!  Red brick and red stucco roof, juxtaposed with the lush, green vegetation of Iguazu and the bright summer sun.

Day 2 I hung out with the Berkeley boys in the afternoon--visiting Garganta del Diablo again.  The train ride this time was interesting because of the butterflies-- there were a TON at Iguazu-- there were tornadoes--or swirls of them--crazy.  And beautiful.

The falls in the afternoon were splendid--it was clear and sunny, unlike the first morning when we visited.  That meant butterflies and rainbows.  Rainbows and butterflies. There were fewer tourists later in the day too.  Surbhi left after our encounter with the spiders, so I did my favorite loop again (the inferior circuit--the lower loop) and took the ferry to Isle San Martin (everything in Argentina is San Martine.  He's the liberator of the country and things everywhere are named for him--kind of like George Washington.)  My favorite view was from the island-- of course it was "Mirada San Martin" (you can't go wrong with San Martin!).  It was halfway between the bottom of one of the bg falls and the top, and kind of jutted out from most of the land.  So standing there, you were misted by the spray of racing water and cooled by the accompanying breeze.  It is similar to the feeling of being on a speed boat, but this time you are the one standing still.

I also sat and people-watched at the small, stony beach. And thought--its nice traveling alone, or rather, being alone, but interesting companions are invaluable.  I contemplated my reationship with--or the tension between-- solitude and society.  It's interesting.  Sometimes I shy away from the latter becasue the former is so much more comfortable--known. 

People at the hostel were so interesting.  Andy, from England, was ending his year of travel--with about 8 months in Australia and New Zealand) in 2 weeks; Caroline from Holland, just finished being a hotel manager on a small cruise ship in Antarctica for 6 weeks (her pictures were great!); Jaime, the US soldier, who travels a week every other month with his 2.5 days off per month of earned vacation and his travel benefits from his baggage handling job at Delta; Ben, from New Castle, England, who is a video game programmer ("Wheelman" is the name of his current game) who one day decided he wanted to quit (talking to his co-worker over instant messenger!), walked into HR and resigned--saved for 2 months and sold his stuff to travel the world for 6 months  (A couple of hours after he resigned, HR came back to him and asked him to treat it as a sabbatical--pretty cool, huh?  Job waiting for him!); two British girls, from Norwich,  starting their GAP year travels; "Sky" (I think his name was) who went to Berkeley and got a Masters in Education at Columbia University and works half the year in Sedona as a caddy and bartender and travels the rest of the year; his friend, also from Berkeley, who is finishing his PhD in sociology at UCLA and focusing on violent communities.

The days were HOT.  I was literally coated in sweat--I didn't know you could form a layer of sweat, but I did.  The heat and humidity were unbelievable.

I loved it.  I spent two full days in the park.  Day 1 I took so many pictures.  Day  my circuits went faster because I already had the pictures.  I could just enjoy.

The meeting and talking to people and spending all day walking and/or stopping to enjoy the view were awesome!  I feel so invigorated and healthy--simply alive!  It was sad to leave, but most of our hostel friends are leaving today too.

Oh and some people went to Brazil and said that it was hard to get there and they had to 'queue' for 1.5 hours in the sun.  They liked the Argentine side best.
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