Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Buenos Aires to Iguazu

Slept in, woke up, then slept in some more. Breakfasts here have been lackluster, not really worth getting out of bed for. I think it was around 11:30 when I was trying to cram all of my stuff back into my pack after gradually exploding across the room during the course of the last few days. The bag definitely feels heavier from all the papers and maps and souvenirs. My backpack almost looks like it’s just about ready to give birth to a little baby pack; I guess that means the developmental/reproductive cycle of a backpack is about two weeks.

We hopped into the elevator and filled it up with just the two of us and our packs. There’s not even enough room to turn around, so we made faces at each other in the mirrors. After checking out of the hotel, we hired a remise for our ride to Buenos Aires’ domestic airport. Our driver tried to make chit-chat, though he had a peculiar pronunciation for the candidates in the upcoming U.S. presidential election: “Estados Unidos? Bush or Kay-Ray?” That said, I couldn’t tell you who was running Argentina at the moment.

At the airport, check-in went smoothly. Kacey was still doubting that we’d get tickets to Iguazu based on our experience getting taken care of so far, but we did. Lunch was a luke-warm rice and steak at the food court. The next table over, there was an English-speaking high-school rugby team on tour. That could be fun.  I pulled out some more cash at the ATM and we sat drinking coffee until we decided to walk over to our gate. It’s still somewhat early for the flight and the only people here are a woman, her little daughter, and her young sun who is entertaining himself by keeping a small yellow balloon airborne. He’s too short and not strong enough to hit it over the 2m glass wall between the gates, but that doesn’t seem to keep him from trying. We boarded a transfer bus that took us to our plane bound for the Iguazu Falls.
We're on a Mission to see the waterfalls from The Mission...




I’m not sure why they prefer not to have sky bridges, but it is easier to pretend that you’re a VIP boarding your own private jet this way. The flight was uneventful, and the skies were overcast beneath us for most of it. They never really broke, but when we got under the clouds, we were flying over some dense green jungles. The red clay roads that cut through the verdant foliage reminded us of Georgia. There were also controlled fires belching forth white smoke, scattered between large swaths of cleared forest. A river wound between them, but didn’t look like it really belonged there. It followed the shallow valleys between the hills, but looked as though it was really the result of flooding. Imagine a rainforest, then flood it with 10 feet of water. The trees in the water were fray and dead, except where a smooth path had been cut to drive a boat through. On the red banks, the tree roots have rotted from being below the waterline. A little higher up, the beginning of ground cover crept in between the gray tree trunks before returning into the dense jungle that was once there.

Our plane landed and we went to pick up our bags. Just before we landed, a Japanese tour guide stood up well into the “take your seats” period, mere minutes before we touched down in, so that she could point things out to her group of elderly Japanese tourists who fit every stereotype that just came to your mind. At the luggage claim area, there were women dressed like casino girls in red outfits with black trim who were advertising for a new casino in town…just in case the waterfall bores you, I guess.

Kacey got her bag and taunted me about her bag gets out before mine on every flight. All of the other people have received their bags now, and I am still waiting for mine. I feel like the only kid who didn’t get picked to play sandlot baseball. And the fact that I’d put our one fully exhausted disposable camera in my bag only to have Kacey joke that “we haven’t lost it, yet” didn’t really soothe my anxiety. But an old guy who said that my bag had come in on an earlier flight did. He walked me through the entire terminal check-in area to my bag that was sitting in the corner. Why just my bag? Was I supposed to pack half my stuff in Kacey’s bag and vice versa in case they got lost (which is actually a pretty smart thing to do, regardless of the present situation). Is it common to only send one of two bags early, not the whole set?

We met our driver for the hotel at the door of the terminal, and he had a sign with our names on it. It’s really hot and humid here in Iguazu. For reference, it’s as far away from the equator as Miami, just in different hemispheres. Three pairs of people were on our bus, which was heavily scented with deodorizer.  My seatbelt was too small to reach around me, but I suppose part of it was stuck under the comfortably overstuffed, bright teal seats. On the drive, we heard (for the third or fourth time), /band name’s-Foreigner?/ song “title”  that goes “I wanna know what love is, I want you to show me”, which fits Argentina’s apparent love for what was cool in the US in the 1980’s. Denim, mullets, Hard Rock Cafe, that sort of stuff.

Youtube link to video.

At our hotel /yelp/ “St. George” in Puerto Iguazu, everything around us is brown. Our road is paved with cobblestones, but it looks more like dried up red mud that is cracking. Everything—people’s clothes, hair, the dogs, the houses—all the same mud red brick color. The forest is also crazy dense here. We looked around our hotel a little bit. It’s got a pool, hot tub, drink bar and game room. We played a rather pathetic game of ping pong before getting a map of the town and heading over to the divergence of the Rio Iguazu and Rio Parana.

From our vantage point in front of a blue and white obelisk, we were able to see a green and yellow marker in Brazil and a red, white, and blue marker in Paraguay. We were so close to the other two nations, except for that massive amount of water flowing in each river. The current looks to be quite strong and the little boat motoring up the Parana on our left seems to be struggling to accept the fact that it is very much smaller than the river.

We walked back down the Av. Tres Fronteras after the sun set. Not by choice, it just happened to work out like that. We stopped into a restaurant where I got a rather salty grilled river catfish and chased it with a caipirinha; a quite strong one at that. We watched people walk by dressed so much more casually than in BA. I felt overdressed in a collared polo shirt and closed toes shoes. I’d probably fit in better if I dressed like a college student at a Phish concert, not full on hippy but very informal. We partook in some pineapple and green apple ice cream while we tried to find our way home in the dark…in a light rain…on streets that were poorly labeled but weren’t listed on our map anyways. We made it back to the hotel safe and sound, and went to sleep around 10pm.

The blister that’s developed over the course of this trip under one of my toes decided to let go today. It had grown while we were walking up and down the hills here. The town really has such a relaxed vibe. Maybe it’s too hot for people to be in a rush. The locals have a much more mixed appearance, owing to the local Guarini tribe and proximity to Brazil as well. Most people seem to be college-age or younger…or over 35. Other than the tourist industry, this town could be dull to grow up in.

Random stream of consciousness: Our trashcan in the bath room is a small ”step on the pedal, lift the lid” style, but is so small that stepping on the slightly angled pedal pushes it away from you without opening. Not sure why all the Argentine hotels we’ve stayed in have bidets. The shower curtain doesn’t appear to want to wrap around me when I bathe, which is a /blog/ nice change.

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