Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Water Whirl

Water never waits. It changes shape and flows around things, and finds the secret paths no one else has thought about - the tiny hole through the roof or the bottom of a box. There´s no doubt it´s the most versatile of the five elements. It can wash away earth; it can put out fire; it can wear a piece of metal down and sweep it away. Even wood, which is its natural complement, can´t survive without being nurtured by water.

-- Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

After one week, I´ve taken a real liking to this place. Traveling in Argentina combines the best of several worlds. One, it´s relatively cheap. Not as cheap as say, Southeast Asia, but still quite manageable. And the people are not in the throes of poverty, as in SE Asia. Since the currency crisis several years ago, I´m sure they´re less well off then they used to be, but they still maintain a high standard of living. There are certainly a lot more amenities and services here then you´d find in many places. The population is also heavily European in nature. I´ve yet to be harassed by any vendors, beggars, or taxi drivers. Most people speak Spanish to me, or they´ll ask me if I speak English. Not to mention the fine weather we´ve been having - a little on the chilly side at times, but it is the end of winter. Can´t complain too much about that.


My first stop outside of BsAs (Buenos Aires) was Puerto Iguazu. This involved a 16 hour bus ride, which was actually quite comfortable. Double decker bus, three seats across the width of the coach. Reclining. Akin to business class seats on a plane. I arrived on Friday afternoon, and just relaxed in town the rest of the day. On Saturday morning, I set out for Iguazu Falls, located on the Argentina - Brazil border. It´s quite the site, with falls stretching out over a couple kilometers. From the Argentina side, it´s not possible to see all of the falls at one time. Just sections of them. But you can get quite close to them - there are several paths with walkways that extend out to the edge of the falls - both on the lower portions and upper portions. At several points you stand directly over roaring cascades of water rushing headlong into the abyss. At other points, you´re awash in the spray of the thunderous conclusion. There was also a hike into the jungle to see a hidden waterfall. At any other time, this hidden waterfall would have been impressive, but after seeing the rest of them it was rather insipid. Still, the hike through the forest was pleasent. Seeing the density of the rainforest is amazing, as well as the wide variety of vegetations - everything from the occasional orange tree, to bamboo, palm trees, and varacious vines swallowing everything in reach. And after being given a pamphlet about what to do in case of a ¨big cat¨encounter, the rustlings and noises from within kept me attentive.

The next day, I managed to negotiate multiple bus connections to reach the Brazilian side of the falls. No visa is needed for this day trip, and I even managed to get two more stamps in my passport (which is already over half full after just a year and a half). From here, you get a much wider prospective of the falls. There is only one path to take, but it leads along the bluff over the river where you can take in the full breadth of the falls.

The town of Puerto Iguazu itself (about 15 km south west) is a pleasent little village. Definitely lots of tourists, with everything from hostels to 4-star hotels. El Centro is filled with handicraft shops, restaurants, and internet cafes. It´s certainly a much different feel then BsAs.

A section of Izuazu Falls

A section of Iguazu Falls

Getting up close and personal with the falls

Iguazu from Brazil

San Ignacio

So the next day after that, I hopped on a bus from Puerto Iguazu to San Ignacio. San Ignacio is the home of one of the better preserved Jesuit missions from the 17th century. It was interesting, although not overly impressive. Especially compared to say, Angkor Wat. Although that´s probably an unfair comparison. Still, I probably wouldn´t suggest it as an overnight trip. It´s a quick jaunt from Posadas, which is much more lively. And the Casa de Horacio Quiroga (Argentian poet, writer) isn´t worth the trouble. Trust me.


And finally, I have now traveled to Posadas. There´s not a whole lot of things to do in town, but it is a nice and relaxing stop over. I´m staying near the main plaza, and the streets are filled with pedestrians. Lots of small shops, bars, and cafes. Walking around last night, I realized how late I need to go out to hit the dining crowd - after 9pm is when they seem to start filling the restaurants.

That´s all for now. Chao.

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