Sunday, July 27, 2008

It´s a magical world

Our flight to Iguazú was via LAN, the very airline I´m taking from Buenos Aires to Miami next week. I decided the flight to Iguazú would be my gauge of what to expect when I return to the US. At check-in, some LAN employees (on strike or something like it) were handing out fliers explaining how LAN is filthy rich and getting richer, yet the salary of the working class employees was pissant to began with, and had just gone down.

Our flight was supposed to take off at 11:50. First we heard it was delayed by an hour. Then the screen just said, "Consult agent." Finally at 13:15 we started boarding from a different gate. Then we heard we had another half hour before takeoff. Then we heard the same thing half an hour later. It was 16:15 by the time we arrived in Iguazú, and it´s only an 80 minute flight. To be fair, the Aeroparque Jorge Newberry airport was having issues with its radar, but I still don´t think this bodes well.

As we arrived we could see mist rising from what was doubtless the falls. We were not in Buenos Aires anymore. The hotel was something else. It was four stars, and spending three days there felt like a proper vacation. It offered a nice view of the sunrise over the forest in the morning. The breakfast was complimentary and a proper one, not the continental kind. There was a wide assortment of teas, honey, bread, croissants, dulce de leche... and fruit. And there´s nothing like having tropical fruit while you´re right in the tropics.

Nothing I say here will do our tour of the falls justice. We hiked through various trails and stopped at various points along the falls. It was followed by a boat ride that got us soaked. Brenda was terrified, and I had fun telling her the boat was going to capsize and there would be piranhas and leeches and crocs in the water. Then we saw La Garanta del Diablo, or the Devil´s Throat, and it looked like the beautiful vortex of death. The bridge that leads to it is 3 kilometres long and made of metal plates, and I´m terrified of heights. You can imagine how that went.

We didn´t get to see any jaguars or toucans or pumas, which is a shame, but there were plenty of cute critters like wild guinea pigs and coatis. Coatis are in the same family as raccoons and just like the hanuman langurs of India, they love stealing tourists´food. I had to resist the urge to grab one and cuddle it.

We got back to the hotel maybe an hour before sunset. Our hotel is about half a mile from a point where the Parana and another river meet, and it´s the tri-country frontier between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, and at sunset, the view´s sublime. Brenda and I hauled ass to get to it. I confused Brazil and Paraguay before I saw their flag colors because there was a city skyline on the Paraguay side and I assumed that must be Brazil, as Brazil´s more cosmopolitan. Then I saw the red, white and blue arrangement, and I thought, "Why the French flag in Brazil?" before it occurred to me that that´s the Paraguayan flag, and that on the other side was a pole that was yellow and green. We also managed to talk to a family from Mendoza, and I got a lot of practice with my Portuguese that day too.

At every moment, I was hit by my own insignificance in the vastness of the natural world. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Poor Niagara!" And Iguazú still isn´t the biggest waterfall system in the world, that would be Victoria Falls in Africa.

Two weeks from now I´m to see Niagara.

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