Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Iguazu redux

You may have thought, broad readership, that last week's Iguazu Falls video tour was the only post I'd be offering ye about the Iguazu experience. Well, you'd be wrong about that, and herein lies your correction. For Iguazu was not the kind of experience that can be contained in but a single post, and while I am not going to bore anyone--self included--with a series of useless superlatives to describe the waterfall, there were salient details of the trip that bear retelling, which I will herein retell.

Firstly: the Iguazu trip began early on a Sat AM, at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. This is the point of departure for domestic flights within Argentina, and is commonly known as the "aeroparque" as opposed to "Ezeiza" which is the international hub. The destination was Iguazu (obv.) in the state of Misiones, which is a nub that protrudes out of the northwest of the country up toward its intersection with Paraguay and Brazil.

The first impression I had upon landing in Misiones was the blessed, blessed warmth of the atmosphere. Bs As is many good things, but during the "summer" (June-Aug, that is), it is not warm. But Misiones, happily, was, and the tropical sunrays were a blessed change from the dank citification of BA.

We had but a moment to change and regroup before heading out from our very nice hotel out to an open-topped jeep that was taking us to various excursions. The first was ziplining, which triggered DF's well-known fear of heights quite intensely. Despite aforementioned fear, I managed to zipline very efficiently, and my only regret was that the experience ended so quickly that I barely had time to realize I'd conquered my vertigo and that I was enjoying myself.

Then came rapelling, which raises all manner of double-entendre possibilities (e.g., "repelling", "repellent" "I repel myself"), but in fact required us all to launch ourselves backward off the lip of a steep cliff and bounce laterally down to a creek bed below. This is both easier and harder than it sounds. Easier, because it's all managed by competent Arg gentlemen who more or less assure that even if you freaked out and flailed like a newborn, you'd avoid death. And harder, because if you don't manage to execute it quite right, you can go into a tilt or a spin and find yourself humiliated if not in danger.

My result was adequate if not spectacular. I managed to avoid any major fracases but did not descend as gracefully as I might have. The trip to the bottom also afforded the chance to explore the creekbed, and a nearby waterfall that provided a small taste of the Iguazu experience the next day, at least in the sense that taking a bath prepared Titanic victims for the ship's foundering.

Night came, and back at the hotel I looked forward to a decent night's sleep free from the noises of the various deafening clubs located infelicitously downstairs from my otherwise very nice depto. Hence the borderline-tragic irony when just about when I was heading to bed, I heard the couple in the room next to me stumble noisily through their door. Their mighty battle with the lock forced me to look outside, and I saw them struggling with the lock, clearly too inebriated to perform basic motor functions. Another bad sign: Down the hall, where they'd just passed, someone (i.e., one of them) had ripped a painting off the wall and smashed it on the ground, casting glass about everywhere.

So you can guess what happened next: Domestic disturbance! Nothing violent, mind you, at least not that I could tell. I think what happened was that the woman of the couple passed out, and the man went into a drunken rage, as I could hear him bellowing "hijo de puta" and whatnot constantly, as well as slamming doors, and generally raging, and someone (not me) called the police, who knocked on his door for the next hour asking him to open it (him: "no!"). This was not only enormously disruptive to my attempts to sleep, but also puzzling. Why were the police being so polite? Why didn't they just barge on in?

Anyway, the fracas ended around 1am, and I finally managed to sleep, up relatively early the next day for the big Iguazu tour. Iguazu may be in a rain forest, but it's extremely well-developed in an almost Disneyland-style way. There are touristy shops selling Guarani crafts all over the place, there's a train that takes you around to the various parts of the falls, and the falls themselves are accessed through paths and steel walkways that are packed with pic-snapping tourists so that you have to jostle your way to the front to get a peep of the falls.

I won't say much about the falls themselves, and instead will let the videos and pix do the talking. But I will relate one event, the final activity that we all did after much falls-goggling and mild hiking and a gut-busting parrilla. When all this had finished, we all descended a slippery staircase down to a dock and were trundled into a speedboat. We put our belongings in waterproof bags, and then the boat took off into the lake, doing several rounds until it revved up and charged straight into one of the massive falls. This was indescribably exhilarating, especially for the few moments that it initially appeared that the driver was going to drive us all the way up into the crushing falls themselves (which, of course, he did not--rather, he pulled away at the last minute, leaving us soaked but alive, which was a fair tradeoff).

Besides the massive effervescing of the old adrenaline, the other major advantage of the boat tour was that, after we'd charged the falls thrice, the boat sped down a back section of the lake at exhilarating speed, and also happened to be across the international border, so that now I can officially say I've been to Brazil (though sadly not Paraguay, as I'd hoped), if briefly.

By then it was late afternoon, and we were all deposited back in the main Iguazu Falls shopping area for a gratuitous hour obviously designed to maximize the chances that we'd purchase commercialized Guarani goods, though I spent the time trying and failing to get a feed of the US/Jamaica Gold Cup quarterfinal game, and also cursing petulant Apple for freezing out Adobe (which was why I could not get aforementioned game).

Then the bus ride to the hotel, and the napping and the showering and the dinner, and the sleeping and the plane back to cold harsh Bs As the next day, where I sat next to a friendly Argentine gentleman who explained that he made his own wine that magically did not leave its consumers with hangovers (NB: not sold in stores--I asked).