Trip Start Jul 12, 2011
Trip End Dec 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Garden Stone Hostel

Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, December 16, 2011

I was not expecting Iguaz˙ to "deliver" in the way that it did. The 18 hour bus ride up to the falls wasn't that bad, all things considered (they gave me a meal, a glass of whiskey, and a piece of candy - I was so tired I fell asleep pretty quickly after that and woke up the next morning as we were riding through some part of Misiones province). It was nice to be able to sit in one place for 18 hours to be honest!

I arrived at the bus terminal in Puerto Iguaz˙, the tourist town located about 30-40 minutes away from the falls, around 3pm the next day (remember I left from Retiro Station in Buenos Aires the night before at 8pm). Also, as a sidenote, if you want to book a bus trip from Retiro Station to Iguaz˙, use this website: www.plataforma10.com or this one: www.crucerodelnorte.com.ar  You will have to buy the ticket for both ways - it's the same price as buying a round-trip ticket. Also, as a foreigner, don't buy a plane ticket to go there (prices get raised for foreigners...Argentines, however, travel at a cheaper rate. Like a 200% cheaper rate - it's no joke).

When I arrived at the Garden Stone hostel (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Garden-Stone/Puerto-Iguazu/43015), Ester, one of the owners/managers, told me that I wouldn't be able to get out to the falls that day (the park closes each day around 4 or 5pm). Instead, she suggested going early the next morning, and spending the day in the park. I was slightly disappointed to hear this news, because that meant I would be taking all of my belongings with me to the park, but as I had only brought my backpack with me that was ok. I dropped my things off, called up a pastor back home in the US and talked on Skype for a bit, and then went over to the pool at the hostel to try and meet some new friends to grab dinner with.

I succeeded, and ran into a Lithuanian couple (Egle and Linas - if you're reading this, you guys are awesome!). We spent the rest of the evening grabbing dinner and drinks at some of the restaurants in town, and even got to hear a live performance by a guy who was playing guitar and singing in several languages (I actually heard him singing the same new Portuguese single that a lady had been singing to herself in Retiro station - I need to see if I can find it on iTunes or something).

The next day, I packed up my stuff, and headed to the bus station for a ticket to Iguaz˙. The bus ride lasted about 40 minutes, and we arrived at the visitor's center. Unfortunately, la Isla San MartÝn was closed that day (you can go hiking on the island in the middle of the park and see the waterfalls up close if the river levels are decent - unfortunately, this was not one of those days). I began walking in on the Green Trail and headed towards the falls.

On the way, after about 15 minutes I encountered CoatÝes. They are very cute animals that have a tendency to tear into your backpack and eat your lunch. Or bite your finger. But the ones I encountered, thankfully, didn't attack any tourists. They did, however, hang onto a couple of backpacks that were within claws reach (see pictures).

15 minutes later, I could see a glimpse of the Garganta del Diablo, the big falls with Brazil on the west and Argentina on the east side of the river, way out in the distance. Some smaller waterfalls in the jungle meanwhile called my attention as I continued to walk.

Then, suddenly, I walked out of the jungle into a clear area - and saw waterfalls as far as I could see. It was kind of like stumbling upon a visual oasis, or some kind of hidden treasure. Having traveled for about 2 hours at this point, I suddenly found myself in the heart of another world. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves (see pictures).

I think that, looking back, the way that Iguaz˙ "delivered" wasn't just in the beauty of the falls. With all of the things that I had worked through - including missing buses, wondering if my work for classes was going to get finished, wondering at times if I would make it home to the States safe - I suddenly found myself in a place where I had all day to wander around in God's creation. I was out at the end of the world - in the South American jungle - with no cell phone reception, no emails to answer, and nothing to do except enjoy a beautiful day. It was the first time in a long time I can remember having the privilege of spending a day as a human being, enjoying being a human being, in the middle of the jungle.

Perhaps that's what I really loved about Argentina more than anything else. When I found myself in places where I was, literally, at the other end of the world from everyone I knew, I felt a strange peace. Here there were no expectations for me to do anything, and no expectations for me to answer calls or respond to Facebook messages. I could just enjoy life for a bit. They way God intended it. Without distraction. In the future, I think I may make coming back to places like this a regular part of my vacation time each year. Sometimes, if you go on vacation in the US, you still can't really "get away."

So I found myself all alone, with a horizon full of waterfalls. It was breathtaking.

And I think I caught a bit of travel fever too - it seems pretty amazing to me that there are so many places in the world like this that, at times, are off the beaten path. Macchu Piccu is one of the more famous ones that come to mind. But you can only visit them if you take the risk of traveling and get out of your comfort zone. In the end, the risk is totally worth it.

That's enough talk - I'm sure the pictures say more than these words can.

Hasta pronto,

PS: While I was in the middle of the jungle, I couldn't help but think, "What would church look like in a place like this?" Whatever it would look like, it definitely wouldn't look like my church and denomination back home. This is something I want to think about more as I prepare for ordination and my own thoughts on the essence of what church is . . . and what it could, or should, be.
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