03/10/2010 - 03/10/2010 90 °F
I got up early to do the Jungle tour that I'd booked on my first day in Iguazu. The guide picked me up at the hostel and then we went to go meet the rest of the group. A woman from Georgia, her daughter who was studying in Buenos Aires, and the woman's friend originally from Chicago, but currently living in Buenos Aires as a journalist reporting on Latin American business affairs.
We drove out to the boonies of Iguazu, we didn't have to go very far. Driving down a packed red clay road through humble wooden homes and shacks we passed friendly locals who'd wave and smile. We eventually came to a stop at the head of a trail through the jungle.
We took a short walk through the trees to the first platform of the zip line, this was the "hike". I was told by the women that I'd be going first. The business reporter was simply here for support and wasn't doing the zip line or the wet reppelling.
I walked up the steps to the platform and they strapped me in. I looked down wondering if I fell was death guaranteed or was it still just within the range of probability? It is funny that while I do love rock climbing, I also have a fear of heights to a certain extent. I trembled a little and grabbed the zip line device. Luckily there is no need to jump you just lean back and you're off. Whoosh! All fear and anxiety disappeared behind me like the first platform. Flying through the trees was exhilarating and I loved every minute of it. I only wished it had lasted longer, or that I could have gone again.
I came down off the last platform, and waited for the rest of the group. Once they'd all come down, we were off to the waterfall. It was a little dissapointing. It wasn't as high as I would have preferred, and I don't know if what we did was technically repelling. The repelling I've done before was done by well me. My idea of repelling is where I lower myself on a repelling device. Here they straped you in at the top and then they lowered you down on a pulley system, much like a sack of potatos from a barn loft. I had my waterproof camera ready (with battery!) but unfortunately I had no way to use it while coming down the face of the falls, because I had no way of stopping the decent. I guess I should've figured it would be like this. Tourist operations are always overly cushy. It was still an interesting and fun experience none the less.
We headed back through the shacks and homes. The guide said we'd be stopping at a little trinkets stall, and to keep in mind that selling little trinkets was how this woman survived. Great there's that guilt again. We dutifully got out and looked at the wares on offer. I wanted an anklet for some backpacker cred anyway so I decided I'd get one. Unfortunately she didn't have anything long enough to fit my tiny ankle so I settled on a bracelet made of seeds for $10 pesos, or a couple dollars. I guess I was the only sucker as no one else bought anything, and we got back on the truck. The following evening I would lean on a table, with the bracelet sliding under my hand bearing the brunt of the pressure it came to pieces. Just as it was starting to grow on me.
I got back to the hostel, repacked my day bag with the necessary items and headed out to catch the bus back to the park for one last look around. There was a trail I didn't get to the day before that I wanted to check out. I got on the bus and sat in the first seat. A few moments into the ride the woman across the isle tapped me on the shoulder and asked if this was the bus to the falls. I said I didn't know for sure, but hoped it was. We struck up a conversation, her name was Valeria, she was Hungarian, but she'd escaped communism over 20 years ago and been living in the states ever since. She started her own business, a successful hair salon, and owned her own home. Poster child for the American dream. I adored her and her infectious personality.
We got to the park, and turned out we were both back on our second day because we both wanted to hike the Macuco trail. Coincidences are fun! We headed out trying to find the trail head. We ended up in the train station, which was clearly wrong. The platform is surrounded on all sides by an open field of high grasses. I caught glimpse of a trail through the grasses. We tried to determine if it was actually a trail or if it was simply for maintenance of the facilities. Two people came walking down the trail, and we stopped them to ask if it was actually a trail. It was indeed the way to the Macuco trail. That is how we ended up meeting Nathalie and Jamal from Belgium. Sometimes you get lost to find something you weren't even looking for.
We walked down the Macuco trail four brand new friends. It was quite a ways, but the trail ends at a waterfall underneath which is a swimming hole. The reason I'd come. The water was suprisingly cold for the tropics. I didn't care though. I jumped right in and went right up under the waterfall for a nice shower. We didn't stay long, Valeria wanted to see the Devil's Throat one last time, Nathalie and Jamal went to join her. I wanted to chill and swim a little while longer and thought about staying behind, but quickly decided I wasn't ready to say goodbye just yet.
We made our way to the Devil's Throat. Valeria and I gave our interpretation of the American way of life to Nat and Jamal: a hollow facade of unnecessary possessions hiding massive debt. Nathalie explained that in Belgium you knew who could actually afford their nice possessions by opening their fridge. If they had a nice house, and nice car but an empty fridge they couldn't afford their lifestyle.
Once on the catwalk, Valeria and I walked together. I was suprised to learn she was over 40. Her looks and jovial personality would keep her eternally young. She confided that she was ready to move on in life. She wanted to sell her home and business, and move back to Europe. All of her family had remained in Europe, and she wanted to be closer to them. She also wanted to travel more, and Europe was a great hub for that. I told her she had to follow her dreams, you only get one shot at life and you gotta make it count.
If possible the falls were even more spectacular the second time. The late afternoon sun illuminates the them perfectly. We took it in, and got plenty of photos of ourselves enjoying the moment. We stayed until a park employee came around and herded everyone back to the train to exit the park.
On the bus back to our hostels, Nathalie and Jamal discussed their plans for dinner I asked if I could join them and they said of course. Valeria unfortunately had plans. We were all so caught up in talking I missed my stop and I had to get off a little up the road and walk back.
I got ready and then tried to called Nathalie's cell phone to let them know I was on my way. I used the hostel phone, but could not get the call to go through. I was running late and the time wasted trying to call didn't help. I said screw it and went to catch the bus into town, where their hostel was. I panicked a little bit the whole way there. I worried they were going to think I flaked and head out without me. I don't miss having a cell phone at all, except in instances like this.
I followed Nathalie's directions to their hostel getting slightly lost only because the hostel was down a dark residential street which I wasn't expecting. I walked in, and asked the guy sitting in front of the front desk if a Nathalie and Jamal were staying there. He didn't speak English. He lead me to the back of the hostel and pointed up the stairs. I have no idea why he did this, because they ended up being on the ground floor in the front, oh language barriers. Obviously I found them.
We went out to look for a restuarant, ended up doing a little shopping along the way. I bought a pair of sandals that were too cool and unique to pass up from one of those shops that had a little bit of everything, and I wanted everything in the shop.
While searching for a restaurant we ran into people Nathalie and Jamal had met in Iguazu and they joined us for dinner. We ate at funky place that served stir fry. I was so excited to get stir fry. At dinner I was a little frightened to learn that one of the guys who'd joined us had just had his laptop stolen out of the locker at his hostel. Out of the locked locker at his hostel. I already knew it, but it was a grim reminder that you and your belongings are never totally secure no matter what precautions you take.
We hung out for a long while, and then I took a taxi back to the hostel having long since missed the last bus. Once back I ran into Renata, the lovely woman who worked as the hostel concierge and had helped me book my activities in Iguazu. The night before she saw me on my computer and invited me over for drinks with her group. It was about half past midnight so I needed to get to bed for the early day I had planned the next morning. I finished up and went to find her to accept the invitation if only for a few minutes, but she'd stepped away and I missed her. I explained what had happened the night before, and of course she understood. She said she loved guests like me, so nice and easy to work with. She said it was hard to keep a paycheck as she often was invited to hangout after hours for drinks but it was a fun job. I asked her if it was difficult, getting to know people just before they left, but I guess I already knew the answer to that. It is but it isn't, she felt the same way. The alternative of never getting to meet anyone new would definitely be worse. She gave me her info, and told me to keep in touch.
I headed off to pack and get to bed. Renata was further proof that I needed to let go of the doubts I had about myself. Stop being so timid, and let myself be fully open to people. If they liked what they saw when they only caught a glimpse, imagine if I let them in completely.
I'd hoped an extended trip would some how be a magic cure. That being away from home, and all familiarity would be like pushing some sort of mental reset button. The truth is that when I packed my bag, I packed the mental one too. Guess you can't run away from your anxieties, you just have to face them and deal with them as they come.
I think it's time for a Stewart Smalley daily affirmation: I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it people like me!
"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom" A favorite quote from Anais Nin