Sunday, May 9, 2010

The power of water

Today I was quite literally blown away.

I am in Iguazu Falls with my friend Illa, who I went to high school with. I met her in Sau Paulo, Brazil two days ago and went with her for our first peak at the world's largest waterfalls on the Brazilian side of the River Iguazu yesterday.

When we arrived, the falls looked so far away. Neither of us said anything but we both admitted later that we were hiding mild feelings of disappointment. We'd heard these monsters were born to impress the pants off tourists.

As we walked slowly along the pathway, letting massive groups of tourists come and go as we leisurely snapped hundreds of photos, the falls grew in majesty. After a few hours of walking, we arrived at a path that took us out in front of one of the biggest among the seemingly hundreds of vast waterfalls here in this chain. The wind created by the movement of the water was enough to blow a small child to Kansas from this remote corner of South America.

More than the wind, we noticed the water.

The water coming off the fall flew with extreme force, much the way I would expect the rain of a hurricane. We were drenched to our underpants.

We followed the visit to the falls up with a trip to the bird park, which featured hundreds of exotic birds, many flying freely where we could reach out and touch them. Illa and I have photos of ourselves petting a Toucan!

Today was even more impressive. After a casual 45-minute wait for the bus that "forgot" to pick up our two new friends from England the day before we arrived at the falls.

If the Brazilian side was impressive, this side was awe-inspiring. We have a million photos a piece of the amazing beauties from every angle possible. We were also blessed with a sunny day, which made the scene with the cameras even more embarrassing than it normally would have been.

We went to the top of the falls and stared for a straight hour into the Garganta del Diablo (Throat of the Devil). The water in one of the falls looked constantly like it was growing larger and coming toward us. I was so convinced at one point that it would overtake the the platform we were standing on that I staggered backward and yelped, "don't you see that, it's coming."

When I realized it was just a super-natural trick on my eyes, much like 3-D movies play, I felt like I'd woken from a short previously unnoticed nap in history class shouting, "I didn't have sex with him!"

I've noted a trend on this trip. I've been able to see water in its various and most amazing forms. First: Ice. The glacier water in Patagonia moves so slowly that it can wait thousands of years to be water again. Second: Iguazu. The water rushing toward these waterfall moves so fast it makes its own wind.

The river is running 8 meters higher than usual, our hostel staff told us. It's so high they're not offering rafting trips and some of the tourist boat ramps along the river have closed. There's no way to reach an island between Brazil and Argentina that's covered with walkways and paths because the beach where bosts usually land is submerged deep below the surface of the water.

It's been a wonderful trip so far. Illa got wet today. I took her picture. Tomorrow we're going back for more.

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