Friday, February 24, 2012

it's a double rainbow all the way across the sky...whoa it's so intense

I kind of know how he felt now: the double rainbow viral madness

Angela and I had a pretty ridiculous schedule for her short trip here to visit me. The climax was two days at Iguazu falls, and I can't think of a more beautiful place to share with a friend. Sure it tooks us a long time to get there, and the toll taken on our wallets and bodies was significant, but I don't think either of us would have traded it for the world. I'd heard it was amazing, that it was beautiful, that it made Niagra look like a joke...part of me believed it, but part of me knows not to get too excited for things in case they just can't quite live up to the hype. When we were walking into the park the first day I saw a t-shirt and it made me smile. I thought it was cute: "every single sunny day, there is a rainbow over Igauzu."  I soon learned that it was true, I saw it with my own eyes.  Angela and I were blessed enough to spend two sunny days there, and I lost count of the number of rainbows, double rainbows, partial rainbows, and it's so bright it has to be fake rainbows.

In order to get to the falls we had to use a variety of vehicles; taxi, plane, bus, walk, bus, taxi, bus, walk, bus...walk, but we did eventually get there. We split up the travel by spending an afternoon lazily napping, reading and soaking in thermal baths in Salto, Urugay. We were optimistic for the night bus, the one that was slated to take us all the way to Iguazu, would be comfy so we could try to sleep. It was better than the plane, but still that doesn't say much. After a few delays we did roll into the town, significantly later in the morning than we were both hoping, and were now faced with the task of finding a place to stay. We were a bit unsure of our schedule and didn't have the chance to book anything in advance. It was no big deal, the town was pretty much just built to service the tourists coming to see the falls. After agreeing on a place, we unloaded our packs and headed straight back to the bus terminal, we didn't want to waste any more time. We had some falls to see!

Apparently so did about 10 thousand other people.  No biggie, we can walk fast and I'd like to believe that I have gotten really good at taking pictures without other people in them. I can make it look like we were the only people there. :) We knew before we even walked into the entrance of the park that we would be needing 2 days. Maybe if we'd had a full day we would be able to blaze through all the trails at once, but the bus made sure that was not possible. In the end I'm glad, it let me feel like I didn't have to run from lookout to lookout, that we could, you know, slow down and enjoy ourselves. That and stalk coaties, monkeys, toucans and other Iguazu fauna.

First things first though, el garganta del diablo AKA the devil's throat. It sounds unpleasant, but it couldn't have been more poorly named, this place is beautiful. This is supposed to be the most impressive lookout of the whole park, the place where the water drops off in a half-moon and clouds of billowing mist steam up from wherever it lands. Of course it's not that simple and it it's not just the one half-moon, but this feels like the dramatic origin of the falls and from there hundreds of smaller ones (smaller, ha!) spill over the crest that wanders on for miles.

You can hear it long before you can see it. You can feel the mist in the air before you can see it. It's a pretty good length trail raised over the very wide river you have to walk before you get to the lookout, but nothing can prepare you for it. You can get a sense of how big this might actually be just because it takes so long, walking above the water to get there...and that sound. Eventually we worked our way right up to the handrails and stared. They were right...poor Niagra. Alright, I'll give it to her, Niagra is pretty impressive too. But she's just one half-moon, a massive half-moon, but I could see from here that the Iguazu spread out much, much, much farther. That, and I'm in south america which means I get to get much, much, much closer.

And there it was, my first rainbow at Iguazu. It was a gloriously sunny day, and the mist from the falls was definately welcome, but it didn't just cool us down, it made itself a perfect canvas for a rainbow. I had to smile to myself, because I thought about that silly t-shirt. Well at least they weren't lying. The both of us stood there taking in the sight and noticing the pack of people had started to thin out. It had been more than the standard 15 mins of click-click-take-my-picutre-move-on, so we weren't alone out there, but clearly surrounded by much less people. I pulled out the park map so we could decide where we wanted to go next. There are a variety of trails that you can take that all give you different lookout points. This one, La Garganta del Diablo was the most popular, but there were still 3 others that traced along the path of the falls, some up high, some down lower and some on an island across the way.

We decided to leave the island for the next day, which still gave us lots of options for the rest of the afternoon. We started with the highest trails and worked out way down. The weather continued to cooperate with us and we were snapping pictures left and right of what felt like every single different vantage point we came across. Eventually I started to reign myself in, but it was so hard! Every turn presented us with another breathtaking view...and those rainbows. I kept looking at the little pictures on my camera and thinking that nobody was going to believe these are real. They totally look photoshopped! This is my favorite photoshopped picture of me + falls + raimbow. Really, I just have been sitting at home googling stuff and photoshopping myself in picures. This one, almost looks real.

It came too quickly, but before we knew it, it was time to head out. The park was closing. We went slowly, and happend to spot a toucan high up on a vine on one of the lesser falls. We also passed a bunch of people feeding the monkey and coaties. I know it's terrible, but I couldn't help but hope these people got bit or scratched or something. There are signs everywhere telling you not to feed the wildlife, that they bite, that human food is not good for them, and that they are WILD ANIMALS. One guy got swiped at. Another woman was all up in this mama monkey's face and chasing it around and it had its baby riding on its back. Idiots. They were locals too, and by locals I mean from Argentina. So they can't even use the excuse they couldn't read the sign. I'm not enturely sure why this was so upsetting, maybe it was the blatant disregard for the welfare of the animals, maybe it's the frustration of knowing that there are so many people who don't care about following rules that are put up for their safety and the safety of the environment...maybe it makes me think back to some fool that thought the rules didn't apply to them and burned down half of a national park.

Sometimes I think this trip is making me dislike people. Not on an individual level, I meet lots of wonderful, friendly, interesting and intelligent people. But on general terms....the human species seems to be full of knuckleheads. Knuckleheads that chase mother wild animals when the baby is nearby. General rule of thumb, don't EVER mess with mamas. It seems so common sense. You know, kind of like, don't wash your dishes in the river, don't shit where you eat, don't touch a wild animal. Angela and I just shook our heads and walked away. What more really, could we do?

The next morning we got up and organized ourself to go straight to the island. We heard that you could swim in the river down there and that just sounded like too pleasant an experience not to. We had to walk down some of the same trails we had already visited the day before. Neither of us minded. It still seemed surreal to be there and the weather was still sunny and beautiful. Of course there were more rainbows. It was a sunny day, and every single sunny day there are rainbows over Iguazu.

There was a very short boat ride to get us to the island, and then we were mostly alone. There were a handful of other people on the boat, but we got there early so it wasn't too bad. I think all the new people went straight to the devil's throat. If my assumptions were correct, we would have most of the morning with the island pretty quiet.

The recommendations were wrong. The best view of the falls is not from the devil's throat, its from that little island. First off, you're down low enough to understand how far it drops, second you are close enough you feel like you can reach out and touch it, and 3 there are way less people.  See for yourself:

I think this is where we stood the longest. From this view point and just watched the water slide down all the steps and stairs. Angela said it best, almost in a trance, "it's like watching fire, I could just stare at it forever." 

But we couldn't. We had to get back to town, we had to get on a bus, we had to get back to the city, we had to get Angela on a plane back home. But first we had to stop and swim with the fishes. From the base of the falls we splashed around a bit, cooled off and drank in on more long last view.

It was like a whirlwind to get us here and it was just as crazy when we left. I almost slumped down in exhaustion on my host family's floor when I got back and slept like I hadn't slept in a while. I felt bad for Angela and wondered how she would hold up having to get straight back to work. If I was this tired, I'm not sure how she would be functioning. It made me realize just how grateful I was that I didn't have anything I needed to rush back for or anywhere I needed to rush forward to. I could just be right where I was and let today take care of itself....and for me, that meant I had lots of sleeping to catch up on.

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