Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 28

A breakfast balancing feat:Such things must be done since breakfast in Argentina's hostels is never balanced. We are given coffee, bread, ladies' fingers, dulce de leche, jam, and some form of margarine that looks, feels, and tastes more like Crisco than butter. Delicious. So, in lieu of most of that, we bought fruit from the market for breakfast every morning, and sometimes enjoyed ladies' fingers dipped in dulce de leche as well. (When in Rome...)

We had all planned to leave today, but because there are only two buses that go to Obera each day, and we have already missed one of them (and we'd really like to go to the geode mines in Wanda) we decided to stay.

Keren is leaving this afternoon, so we spent the morning walking around town, looking at shops, enjoying the day. It has been so hot and muggy in Iguazu compared to home, and the clouds have been welcome!

Kayla, Keren, and I found the Brazilian market, full of olives and dried tomatoes, sausages,

and meat dripping on grills, and decided to return later for lunch.

It was a bit off the beaten path, and packed with locals, so we knew it would be good.

While Keren drank coffee and read her book, Kayla and I walked to los tres fronteras (the three borders), a place that the people that run our hostel told us about. Here is one of the cobbled streets on our walk:
and some of my favorite wild leaves I saw... aren't they beautiful?
Looking over two rivers (Rio Parana and Rio de Iguazu) from one tip of Argentina, you can see Paraguay on the left and Brazil to the right. So cool!
There were people of native descent making and selling various artistic goods there to tourists...
And some not-to-be-missed photographic opportunities (joking)...
On our walk we also saw tiny flowers hanging on trees in bloom:
and this ginormous tree that we nearly missed had Kayla not seen it hiding behind this store! I wonder what kind it is...
Our lunch was lovely, consisting of a big plate of stewed squash and meat.

The rest of the day was relaxed, and we bought empanadas for supper from the market and went to bed early.
Tomorrow we go home, and while it has been fun to see a new part of the country, I am so ready to go back to the peace of the jungle and home!

Here is Sasha, exploring a giant wood carving in one of the parks:
I wonder what it will be like to return to a whole new set of interns. Keren has gone, and there will be five new faces at Mama Roja when we arrive. Lots is changing, which makes me both excited and apprehensive. But I know it's good. Here we go!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 27

I woke up early this morning, excited to go to the falls. Heading there on the bus I expected to see the landscape open up into spectacular views, but like with the rest of Argentina, the roads were banked in jungle that doesn't share its secrets.

We entered the park, unsure of where to go, and a very sweet man encouraged us to start from the top and work our way down.

We walked on metal cat walks over many rivers, finally making our way to garganta del diablo (the devil's throat), which is the biggest of the falls, and the most magnificent. From the top, only part of the falls is visible- the rest is shrouded in mist from the falls. I wish that pictures or description could do the falls justice, but they don't even begin to convey the awe that you feel seeing them in person.

I can't even begin to imagine how much rushes over the edge every second! Here is just one tiny part...

On our way through the park we saw other wildlife: coati, which are like little mischievous racoons, monkeys, lizards, birds, and of course butterflies. I tasted guava that had fallen from the trees, and walked through mist created by the falls. There were so many rainbows everywhere!

Here is one of the jays that lives here. This kind hangs out all around the yoga shala at Mama Roja.

Looking out over the falls from catwalks...
The lizards in the park are much less shy than those at home...
The views were stunning, filled with waterfalls and rainbows.
Kayla taught us a fantastic waterfall game that you should do if you have a chance: stare at one point in the fall and count to 60 slowly. Your eyes will drift down with the water a bit, but try to just stare at one spot for the whole time. Then look to the side... you won't believe what happens! I found that the effects were the most striking when looking at far-away green fields and forests after the falls.
There were so many beautiful epiphytes in the trees! This one looked like a blooming cactus.
Many of these epiphytes are orchids and bromeliads...
I saw coati (pronounced kwah-ti), but wasn't quick enough to snap a photo. A family of 10 came up like a wave and stole all the food off of one woman's table and then whisked it away into the jungle before she even realized what had happened. So, I took a picture of this warning sign for you. I loved how basic it was: "Coatis bite. You've been warned."
We also saw two different groups of monkeys playing in the trees!
and more lizards...
We got views of the falls from above, from the middle, and from below, all beautiful.At the end of our journey we took a boat ride in a raft that took us under the falls while we all squealed and laughed and hooted, the perfect refreshment after a hot day walking in the sun.
Here's a boat headed underneath:
We were drenched and elated after our ride!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 26

I woke up to the sound of a man who walked onto the bus with a large basket. He was yelling "Chipas! Chipas! Chipas! Quatro por cinco!" I bought some from him because I want to support him, they are dirt cheap (that's about 30 cents each), and I knew we might get hungry before we arrived in Iguazu. Chipas are delicious chewy rolls made with mandioca flour and cheese.

We have found our way to El Guembe Hostel, a friendly place that's close to everything but off the beaten path.
We have our own room, so we don't need to worry about our things being stolen, which is nice. It's hot here today, and we've decided to spend the day relaxing, napping, swimming, and exploring before going out dancing tonight. Tomorrow we will go to the falls!
Iguazu is somewhat smaller than Obera, and full of tourists. We have been enjoying making a game of guessing where people are from when we see them from a distance. It's surprisingly hard! Ethnicity and clothing are not give-aways very often, and we usually have to wait until we hear them speak to have much of a clue.

For dinner we went to a restaurant called Wok Grill, and had wine and snacks. I had fries with eggs, per Jon's suggestion, and they were incredible (of course!)... Mmmm!

We did go out into the evening, but three of us folded before the 2-3am hour when things in Argentina really get lively. Maggie and Sasha have gone out dancing... The rest of us are content to head to sleep though. It's nearly 2am, and we're tired!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 25

Some of our morning adventures involved running around Mama Roja with Marcelo, looking at new and interesting mushrooms that are growing in the jungle:
These ones look like acorns to me, with little flower petal bonnets:
The ferns here are so delicate:
These little parasols, so tiny, so cute! Perfect for fairies, I think.
The mosses that grow on the trees here are all so beautiful and lush...
Today is a bit of a different day because it's Friday, so we have the day off, but we're leaving tonight to go to Iguazu so we have to get all packed before lunch. I've been working on this prayer flag for Keren before she leaves... finally I finished it!
Today we were supposed to go to Chakra Suiza, a sustainable farm nearby with lots of cool ideas and much to share, but with all the rain we decided to postpone it so that we get the most out of our experience there.
This was a bit of a blessing in disguise, and Alvaro led the rest of the menfolk (and Sasha) on the farm in building a quick makeshift sweat lodge with bamboo and tarps and stones.
They heated the giant stones, and dug a hole in the lodge to put them in. They covered the floor with guembe leaves and ginger flowers, gathered various herbs (Rosemary, lemongrass, and eucalyptus) and used them to throw herb-scented water on the fire and all of the participants. Because of tradition, I chose not to enter the lodge today. Marcelo said we can do it another time though. Each session was 15 or 20 minutes long with a break between for bathing in the river. Most people did 3 rounds, and when Sasha finally emerged she said she felt invincible, tingly, and never before so clean in her life. I remember that feeling fondly.

In lieu of entering the sweat lodge, Keren and I watched Estrella Azul as she slept in the hammock:
and I found this cool snake! It was all bronze and shiny with a thin black stripe down each side... and incredibly fast and wiggly...
Here is a map of Mama Roja that I drew... if you click on it, perhaps it will be big enough for you to read...?!!
After the sweat, Kim took us into town where we bought bus tickets, and we sat down for dinner snacks and wine...
We had cheeses, pickles, membrillo (quince paste), Dulce de batata (sweet potato jelly-like thing that taste vanilla-y and delicious), prunes and raisins, and salamis. We laughed a lot too...
And then Kim dropped us off in town. We had quite a bit of time to kill, so naturally we decided the best place to go was the casino.
We sat and had drinks there, and then headed to the Esso for snacks and coffee...
(The infamous Frutigrans, our favorite cookie... They are delicious, and good for you too! We know that because we buy them at the healthfood store, they are made by 7th day adventists, and they contain things like chia seeds, flax, and dried fruit disguized in deliciousness. We may have eaten too many though...)
We played in the parks, and watched the moon...
And then we returned to the casino to bowl before re-claiming our bags and heading to the bus station.
The walk there in the cool night air of 3am was silky smooth and peaceful. The quiet night was punctuated by out chatter and laughter, and the occasional passing car.
I fell asleep while we waited for our 4am bus, but it finally came. We crawled into our seats and curled up into little sleeping balls for as long as possible. I threw my waterproof pack cover over me for warmth and slipped away into dreams.