(What is the time now: 19:40 on Thursday 2nd Oct,
What am I listening to: Piú bella cosa by Eros Ramazzoti, Spanish version (Mas bella que tu), from the hostel’s speakers.)
Welcome to the Jungle
…we got lots of games, we got everything you want…” screamed Axel Rose in the world-famous Guns’n’Roses #1 hit.
Well, sort of true. I arrived this morning after a long 14hr journey on one of these double-decker buses. I asked for seat #3. That means top front right side, something like a glorified version of the “mother-in-law’s seat” (that’s how we call the front passenger seat in Greece – probably because we would wish the high fatality rate targets a specific group of people).
It was worth it (and yes mom I wore the seatbelt very tight all night). I missed a bit of the sunset because the bus left 45 minutes late but still I managed to capture some golden sunset shots over the Rio Paraná, as we said goodbye to beautiful Santa Fe.
The waking up though was totally worth it. Mist everywhere, low visibility and the only thing you could see was a narrow single lane road inching up into the jungle. Truly dense vegetation, you only realize that they actually CUT THROUGH the jungle to make the road, 5 meters on each side and there was a green wall of any type of plant you could imagine. For kilometers the road stretched forward, up and downhill, following the contours of the earth, the occasional small village or gas station on each side.
They even served breakfast: coffee and croissants – I was a happy boy. I’ve realized that it actually makes sense to travel by bus during the night. First of all, it is very comfortable, second you don’t waste daylight time, and third you don’t pay for accommodation during that night. (Hey, I’m still on a budget here…)
We stopped at a hundred villages, all with names that can put a smile on your face if you’re a Western fan: Posadas, El Dorado, Misiones… until finally I saw the sign, Bienvenidos a Parque Nacional de Iguazú. Getting out of the bus, it hit me. The temperature was significantly higher – it was 10:30 and already 32 degrees and humid. Birds chirping away (once the bloody buses turned their stinking engines off…), a very light breeze in my face and warm warm sun. Green colors everywhere.
The place has nothing to do with urban Santa Fe or mega-city Buenos Aires. It reminds you of a provincial outpost, only big main roads paved, dried mud everywhere and green vegetation everywhere. It would make sense that a village like this would be the entrance to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. I got my bearings and checked in at the hostel. Friendly people but modest place. I don’t need luxury but I was hoping for more people around, more “marcha”. “I guess they’re all at the waterfalls”, I thought to myself and went for a beer at the local tavern.
I sat there sipping under the shade, reading one of the books I’ve been carrying with me – “Into the Wild” (yes, the film one). Tania and Vasilis gave it to me on the last day (thanks guys, it’s great) before I left for my Into the Wild… a stark contrast to the adventures in the book, the dude froze his ass of in Alaska (I don’t know it yet, I am on page 56 but it says it on the cover) and I was sweating it with a cold local Quilmes beer under the shade, credit card in my pocket, listening to Latino beats… Cada uno a su cosa…
I’m going for dinner tonight with the only person in this hostel (so far) that seems approachable, interesting and female. Linda from Sweden (of all places). Now, don’t conjure up images of amazing Swedish blonds, the girl is a very normal-looking down-to-earth person (she is a nurse though, which for some of you readers scores extra points…) that lives in Stockholm with her cat. Right…
I am planning an early night, I am taking the 0800 bus tomorrow to the Park – I am on a Mission for the next two days just like DeNiro. I am just not planning on tying myself on a cross and falling down the waterfalls. I am growing a beard though… It’s been 11 days since I shaved and it’s itching like hell.
More to come, tomorrow. Sleep tight Europe (it’s 02:00 over there)
Friday 3 October 2008, 18:19, same bench, worse music (some latino beat)
Speechless over water…
I know it already. No matter how much I write, no matter how detailed the description, it is practically impossible to describe today’s experience. I actually thought of just attaching photos- even these wouldn’t do justice to the sheer magnitude of the Iguazú Falls experience.
I’ve attached some but they’re useless: simple frozen images that cannot convey the motion, the sound, the feeling of the wind and water spray created by millions of tons of water slamming down into the riverbed.
I just want to say that this is a place everyone should visit, and if not this, at least one of the big waterfalls that exist in the world. Niagara, Paraná, Victoria, anyone of those big ones. The truly amazing thing with this one is that is it really in a subtropical environment, very far from human intervention. Even the park’s buildings and layout are in perfect harmony with nature. It is spotless, not a sign of garbage, all well sign-posted and above all, easily accessible to anyone. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful water, you give life. Thank you.
Two small stories… Father & Son Adventures and My new wristbands
(Sunday 5 Oct– Day 10)
(Where am I now: Back in B.Aires on the bed of my Couchsurfing host)
(What is the time now: 12:40 on Sunday 5nd Oct,
What am I listening to: Gotan Project – finally some Tango!)
Father & Son Adventures and My new wristbands
Father & Son Adventure I
One of the most amazing things that I saw during my stay in Iguazu was the surprisingly unmistakable shape of a long-gone Citroen GS/GSA model. As I turned into one street on the first day of my discovery of the town, during the hot lunchtime period, I saw it standing there, next to a butcher shop, windows slightly lowered, engine turned off, key still in the ignition. I stopped and looked. You see this car is pretty rare to see now even in countries like Greece where we tend to keep the cars for as long as they can go.
It came out only in two colors (blue and this copper/whatever) and with two levels of “comfort/extras” (as extras you got a Rev meter and a rear-window screen wiper…) a striking contrast to today’s hundreds of versions and electric options. It is still more special than any car I’ve driven so far, par my Spitfire, but that’s on a category of its own.
As I was peeking through the window, looking at the instantly recognizable dash board (ah that little car with all the status lights, that used to turn on whenever you had an issue) I couldn’t feel but wanting to get in and take it for a spin. This, after all, is the car of my childhood years, the car I learned to drive in, the car in which I gave my first kiss in the summer of ’95 (or ’96?) when Elena had come over from Spain for the second time. This is the car that had the funniest hand-break (there was a lever on the dashboard) and could not be parked on a steep hill and couldn’t even climb one with its little engine when fully loaded. But it still was the car of my childhood times, the one I used to take my brother for his afternoon courses on his last year of high school, the one I used to drive down to the “paraliaki” with Yiannis and Aris on our first “club” outings and this was the car I used to park on the top of Ymitos mountain, those cool summer nights, where we would just go there put music on and have a few beers overlooking the vastness of Athens, all lit up, lights twinkling and the distinctive sound of the cars from far away…
And now, I was there standing under the hot sun, 35 degrees in another continent, 15 years later looking back… The owner came out of the shop; he saw me looking at it and started talking to me. I quickly reassured him that “my dad had the same – I learned how to drive in it” and not that I was looking into stealing it… (car theft? On this?)
He opened the door let me peak in and full pride said, “it is in perfect condition, this is all original French parts (reminding me of the mistrust Greeks also had on cars coming from other countries than Germany or France, even if it was the same brand), it’s more expensive than that!” and pointed at a new Peugeot 307. “Look, even the tires”, showing me the truly rare Michelin 145 dimension tires (this has to be the only car in the world that still wears them). He even turned the engine on, that sound so familiar, the car slowly raising itself once the special suspension started working, and then the “chick, chick” of the engine every minute or so when it was left on idle for a while…
What a flash-back this has been for me, I am posting this for my brother and my friends, Aris, George, Ody that will surely smile when they see the dashboard photo. And of course to remember that rainy Sunday afternoon more than 15years ago, coming back with dad from his office on a road (that is now part of Attiki Odos). He didn’t want to take it but we thought the car’s hydro-suspension could handle it, after a while, the streets flooded with water and the car’s carburetor completely wet & unable to start again. Abandoning the car in the pouring rain my dad and us decided to walk the remaining 2-3km. He turned around and said: “Περιπέτεια δεν θελατε, εε?” (you wanted a little adventure, eh?) and looking back at that point, the thing he said seemed as the funniest thing in the world…
Father & Son Adventure II
This is the quick story of Jamie and dad. I met them during breakfast at the hostel on the last day of my stay in Iguazu. Miserable weather (pouring rain- welcome to the sub-tropics) prevented me for going a second day to visit the waterfalls, I was thanking my luck for having seen it the previous day. I first met dad. I don’t know his name but we started chatting, I mentioned it will be tough to visit the waterfalls today with this weather. He seemed pretty determined: “Well, Jamie has already seen them but I would also like to make the trip” And then I got the background. Jamie is one of the thousands of people that take a backpack and decide to travel the world. An English, 22 year old college graduate from Manchester, he’s been on the road for +5 months, visiting Latin America. These are the times when I feel that my trip is simply too rushed but that’s a different story. Anyway, the background is that, with Jamie on the road, dad decided to join for 10 days, shorts, t-shirts, youth hostels, backpacks and all. They are visiting Argentina and maybe Brazil, the two of them, on the road for about 2 weeks so they spend time together – no fancy hotels or rental cars, just 2 people trekking around like they were two school buddies.
Now, you see, I really like that kind of stuff...
My new wristbands are not from Vicky but my watch is from Nana & Costas
I am not a hippy and I don’t think I could ever become one. My relationship with “neatness” is a condition I’ve been trained well into, be it the school, be it 8 years of corporate culture (great…). I find it rather difficult imagining me growing my hair long, leaving a beard and wearing trash clothes. But I like wristbands. You know the ones made out of beads or threads that have different colors. Every summer I came back to Greece on holiday, my friend Vicky, who’s part of a group of ex-colleagues and friends, always used to buy me a little wristband as a summer souvenir for me to wear and take back “home” to Geneva. It would eventually get destroyed but that was ok, there was always another summer coming up.
I bought the two you see on the photo on Friday from Iguazu for 3 pesos. I chose the colors because I love blue, white and red but also because these are a nice souvenir from Latin America – after all they have the colors of the 2 countries I am visiting: Argentina & Chile. I am not sure I want to do any more shopping here…
What you also see in the photo is the inconspicuous Swatch my “koumbaroi” gave me for my trip. It’s definitely less flashy than the one I wear in Geneva, although I think wearing a watch in this place already draws attention. Anyway it’s perfect for the job and it reminds me of them and little Vasilis on that special day whenever I look at it. I even got a great compliment on it the last week I was in the office from Barbara my business boss. So, Nana & Costas, sthanks again…!