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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Niagara WHAT?

The road from Punta del Este led to Iguazu Falls, the 300+ waterfalls that border three countries: Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. I took the bus from the fantastic Punta to Montevideo, where I waited out my hour until flight in the cleanest, smallest and emptiest airport I´ve ever been in. I couldn´t fathom where all the people came from when it came time to board. You would´ve thought the airport was created only for me. Very odd.... But, after my Buquebus TO Punta, I was determined to fly just about anywhere to get to Iguazu.

I entered Iguazu on the Argentinian side, of course, staying true to my love of my future country of residence. :) As we flew into Puerto Iguazu, the pilot announced in both Spanish and English that if you moved to the right side of the plane, he´d be flying over the Falls. The whole plane shifted seats, it should´ve tilted. For good reason. Iguazu, from overhead, is mammoth. I couldn´t imagine standing underneath falls this huge. And from air, you can not only see the breathtaking Falls, you can see the triangle of all three countries, living in perfect harmony within such beauty. Pretty outrageous.

WITHIN the Falls of Iguazu, there is only one hotel on each the Brazilian and Argentinian sides. On the Argentinian side, it is the Sheraton, so I used AmEx points to book myself a room. There you can sit on the balcony, with a view of the Falls in the distance, bloody mary in hand, mariache band making the rounds singing songs in spanish in the background, and watch the sunset over the water. Not too shabby. Until you look around and realize that an elastic-banded-high-waisted-khaki-pant-wearing-over-50-convention EXPLODED at the Sheraton about four hours before I got there. And, add to that, they all have Chi-caaaa-go accents, singing the songs in mock-midwestern-espayyynowl accents, with sweaty-beet-red-drunken faces and shiny-wet-comb-overs to go with their fanny packs of various colors., I guess I´ll be spending my nights in Iguazu solo. No worries.... Happy to separate from the group on this one. ;) I console my young self with a call to sweet Lukoff who´s bridal shower was today, likely the only regret I´ll have all trip, missing my best friend´s shower. But hearing her excited and enthusiastic voice across the miles, more than compensated for my lack of attendance at the party going on down below.

I woke at 8 AM for La Gran Aventura, a combination 4x4 expedition that takes you through the jungles of Iguazu to a boat ride which will take you straight through the Falls (why I´m capitalizing Falls, not I supposed to?). The jungles of Iguazu remind me a little of Costa Rica, a little of the Peruvian jungles, so it doesn´t seem THAT new to me, but the view once we got to the boat was worth the trip. OF COURSE, as we board the boat, I realize I was again left off the ´wear your bathing suit´ memo, as all of my fellow travelers undress down to their skivvies and bathing suits. I might´ve well have been dressed for winter in my baby yellow pants and wife beater that would make for a somewhat familiar sight of me during this trip. The sopping wet, see-through look, I´ll call it. Yeah, hi...what is with me and wearing the wrong thing around water, rendering me a walking fashion faux pas for hours to come. I mean....

However, as you approach the Falls, your breath is literally taken away. They are MASSIVE and omnipresent. Left, right, center, WATERFALLS. It´s amazing to see, it´s so absolutely beautiful, being there right under them, they stretch for miles and are populated by rainbows everywhere. It´s nature at it´s absolute best, anyone who has the opportunity to experience Iguazu in their lifetime, should. Looking around, you can´t help but take photo after photo (I´m still not sure which are best, I must´ve taken a hundred pictures) and stand in open-jawed awe at this sight in front of you. Thank goodness for me I had Olga and Anna on my boat. Two Spaniards who were OBSESSED with taking pictures. To the point, that they spent many hours trying to feign the nonchalant, candids...Olga pretending to be too obviously unaware of the camera, only to have Anna take four, five, six, photos, look at them together like schoolgirls, decide they sucked and Olga then would assume another "unknowing" pose again for Anna. But, they loved taking pictures for me, which was GREAT. After their session, Anna would go, "Marie Elena, poose for Olga," grab my camera, tell me how to hold my hand, head, leg, and then shoot about 10 pictures (many were discarded), turning my camera in various directions and making me "hoold poose" for too long. I felt ridiculous, but it was worth it!

Then, just as you´re content with the view, pondering questions like....

1) How do waterfalls occur in nature?
2) What makes rainbows?
3) Are Niagara Falls a joke? (On a side note, we´ve all been on teen tours, ridden the Maid of the Mist, have photos in the blue raincoats smiling like happy teenagers, which we were. Lemme tell you, it´s a sick joke that we call those WATERFALLS, Niagara Falls are, FACT, nothing more than the drippage when you don´t turn off the faucet properly...) see yourself coming WAY too close to the Falls, and BAM! there you are, underneath them, hearing the wa-hoos of properly clad passengers, as water pours into the boat, a refreshing reprieve from the heat, yes. But, god I wish I was wearing my bathing suit!!!

The second day of Iguazu after much hiking around the Argentinian side in my see thrus, I went to the Brazilian side, Foz de Iguacu, as I was flying out of the Brazilian side to get to Rio. For anyone taking notes, the Brazilian side is better. If the views on the Argentinian side are breathtaking, the ones on the Brazilian side are heart-stopping. The "Devil´s Throat" or the largest, wildest waterfall is on the Brazilian side, and you walk out onto catwalks that take you right under it, mist spraying everywhere and really take in the views in a way that you can´t from the Argentinian side. I spent about 2 hours on the Brazilian side before my flight and it WASN´T ENOUGH! But, all in all, Iguazu was a fantastic, amazing experience, something I´ll likely never see again. And, I couldn´t be happier that I made my way there.

Now...onto fabled Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
My second to last stop. Which, even writing, makes me sad.
Alas, I will not focus on home, only where I am now (which is actually Buzios, Brazil -- a place I´m in love with, dreading departure...)

Until the next one...which will be soon because I´m coming home in a few days... Wait, really? NO!!!!!!


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