Here Comes the Sun-Intermittently: Foz do Iguaçu, January, 2007


We escaped the January rains of eastern Brazil by heading to some of the world’s biggest waterfalls, Foz do Iguaçu. It was 19-hour ride on a bus that ambled its way through Brazil’s countryside. The bus stopped again and again, letting off people who carried packages from the city and the pillows they’d used to sleep on the bus.
After more than a week of drizzle and rain, the sun beat down full force in Foz do Iguaçu. We walked more than a mile under a blue sky to check on lodgings, me with my daypack and 27-pound backpack. David lugged a 40-pound duffel bag, and a backpack.
Getting to the falls the next day required standing in a Disneyland-like line at Brazil’s national park. We waited about 40 minutes to get to the start of the line, only to have a crowd of more than 20 local people jump ahead us. By the time we got into the park, the clear blue sky was gone and clouds would return at times for the next two days.

None of that mattered a bit once we saw the falls. They look like supersized versions of the paintings of New York’s Catskill Mountains done by painters in what’s known as the Hudson River School. Falls of rushing white water sprang against rocks everywhere you looked.

“Opening Act “

And, the Brazilian park is like the opening act for the Argentine side. In Brazil, you look at the falls and get near the biggest one on a catwalk.
In Argentina, you walk through trails in falls. A long boardwalk takes you out to biggest fall of them all, the Devil’s Throat.
Part of the fun too was being in Argentina again. I flipped over my blue bus ticket for the short ride from Brazil to Argentina and found a quote from Machiavelli. I felt like the character in a Proust novel for whom a pastry tripped a flood of memories.

I stood waiting for the bus to the Argentine side of the falls, telling David about sugar packs I’d seen in a Buenos Aires café on a 1999 trip.
They had pictures of people like Sigmund Freud and Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. I remembered carefully opening one with Ghandi’s portrait along its seams. I brushed out every last grain of sugar and glued it into my journal.
A man had set up a telescope on across from the ornate Teatro Colon on the main street in Buenos Aires, selling the chance to see a distant planet for two pesos, then worth $2. It might have been Neptune or Pluto.
There was no line for the Argentine side of the park for the waterfall, just an information booth with free maps. There were bottles of wine on display in the cafeteria where we bought tasty empanadas, a change from the beer and hamburgers sold everywhere in Brazil.
People strolled the park carrying thermoses for hot water to make a kind of tea known as mate. They carried dried gourds with silver straws , used to steep and drink mate. Some carried their mate gear in carved leather bags, boxy with separate compartments for the thermos, the gourd, the mate.
Two men played harps, full-sized harps, in the park for tips. I dropped a few pesos for a harp player and he played for us.
Our wandering on arrival in Foz do Iguaçu had paid off with a $35-a-night hotel room. The drawback had been the music blasted around the pool. It was what David derides as international thump-thump. An extended remix of the theme from the 80’s movie, “Flashdance” was in heavy rotation.
On our last night, someone switched to music we liked. We danced to a Gypsy Kings medley in the pool, with the scattered skyscrapers of Foz do Iguaçu looming above us in the distance.

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