Pandora anyone?

25 Oct

For any of you who have seen Avatar and loved the beautiful landscape that Pandora offered, there is one place in the world that you must see: Iguazú. Named one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Iguazú Falls is beautiful, and I’m pretty sure is at least partially the inspiration for Pandora. No joke, I saw a plant that looked just like Eywa! Even more interesting (for the nerdy Political Science major inside me) is that it’s located in the Tri-Border area, which beyond being a semi-dangerous area if you stray outside of the touristy area, happens to also be (shocker!) home to three borders! Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina all border this area. Sadly, I did not get to leave Argentina, because the only way to get to Paraguay is to either steal a boat and illegally cross the river and try to maneuver your way through the rainforest, or to go through Brazil. And to get to Brazil, as an American at least, you need a visa that requires a lot of annoying steps if you happen to be in Argentina already and can’t easily get to a bank statement of the past 6 months, among other things (such as $140).

But, las tres fronteras is not the main attraction here. As should be pretty obvious from the name Iguazú Falls, the waterfalls are where its at. And can I just say, WOW. Some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat) was probably the best part. As you can probably tell from the name, it’s just this massively huge gargantuan of a waterfall that comes in from all sides and kinda resembles a throat. You really can’t do anything but just stare at it in disbelief that this is seriously your life. That you really are there looking at this massive natural phenomena that is just so freaking beautiful. That, and of course, think about how you might actually be on Pandora. And when you look down, you can’t even see where it ends, because there is so much water falling down such a great length that the mist that it creates comes all the way to where you are standing overlooking it and you see nothing but a big cloud of white wetness. It’s intense.

The other part of the national park that was amazing was a boat trip that we took. For just 110 pesos (about $30), you can take a boat trip that takes you almost to the bottom of The Devil’s Throat and then back around to the, like, 7 other huge waterfalls that are all in a row. Then, because being next to all the mist and water just isn’t enough, the takes you under the waterfalls. Twice. Clearly, you pretty much just get soaked and can’t see anything at all. Water is in your face and all around you and for about 3 seconds you can open your eyes and see that the water is more of less above and/or behind you, and then you’re back under it soaking wet. It was pretty epic. Clearly no cameras can be used while you’re under there, but for 120 pesos (yes, more than the actual trip!) you can buy a video of the group underneath the falls (the staff on the boat have a waterproof camera thing with them). Being the poor college student that I am, I didn’t get the video, but the trip was pretty awesome even without it.

Outside of the national park (which is where all of the amazingly cool waterfalls and whatnot are located), there are some small excursions you can do, too. For example, my friends and I decided to be adventurous, yet again, and go on a trekking, canopying, rappelling trip that happens in the rain forest, right outside of the park. It was rainy that day, so our trekking was pretty short. However, the zip lining was EPIC. I have never been before, and there isn’t much cooler than flying above, between, and below a rain forest full of trees for 800 meters (2,625 feet). At the highest, we were about 20 meters (about 66 feet) above the ground, and after the original 800 meters, we had two more 400 meter sections. Incredible. It’s so beautiful and you are going so fast! It was awesome.

After the zip lining, we went rappelling. This is the interesting part of my trip. See, as most people do when packing for an entire semester, I left a few things sitting on my bedroom floor that I had originally intended to pack in my bags. One of those very important things happened to be my tennis shoes (hence why, if  you read my earlier posts, I went trekking in the Andes in Pumas and not proper tennis shoes that have, you know, traction). Well, I also hadn’t bought any yet because they run about 400-600 pesos for a decent pair ($100-150). To top it off, to save space, I only back flip flops and these jellies that I own when I went to Iguazú. This is a bad thing for rappelling. However, I was reassured that my shoes would be fine. And also that we should all know we might get wet. And by wet, he means soaked. While rappelling? Yeah, as it turns out, we were rappelling down a mini waterfall-esque thing. Yet again, however, I was reassured that my shoes would be fine. So, I hooked myself into the harness and began my descent down the mini waterfall of death, as I will from this point forward call it. First, it had two waterfall areas, with a semi-dry area in between. And by semi dry, I only mean that there wasn’t water directly falling on my head there. It was also pretty much straight rocks with no place to put your feet. You were also hooked up to a “safety” man whose job it was to pull you to the side where to platform was should anything happen. Instead, he liked to just yank you under the waterfall part and watch you struggle and get soaked. Nice guy.

Anyway, as I was descending down the mini waterfall of death, my jellies began to slip off of my feet. This happen, with me stopping, re-putting them on, and falling under the waterfall in the process, about three times before I decided that it wasn’t worth it and I was going to just hold them in my hand the next time. However, “safety” guy had other plans for me. Rather than let myself have all of the fun of soaking my body from head to toe, he decided that the next time I wanted to lean forward and mess with my shoes, he was going to help me out by letting me swim on the side of a huge freaking rock instead. And then he was going to yank me to the platform. And while he was doing this, he was going to let me shoe fall. down. the. waterfall. and. down. the. stream. in. the. middle. of. the. rain. forest.

No joke. After almost falling on my butt about six times because I was now lacking a shoe and standing on the wettest part of the platform, he finally decided to pull me forward and look at my foot with an expression that pretty much said “tough luck, kid.” After waiting for the rest of the group to finish their equally wet descents (thanks, “safety” guy), I was told there was nothing they could do about my shoe and I should just start walking to the truck. Through the rain forest. Barefoot.

Needless to say, after losing my favourite shoes that I own and having to walk through a muddy forest with nothing covering my feet, I went to the next sports store I saw and bought a pair of tennis shoes (for only 250 pesos!). Overall, Iguazú Falls gets an A+ and rappelling down a waterfalls gets a D. However, should you not be an idiot like me and wear proper shoes, you’ll probably avoid the problem of having accidentally polluted a rain forest. (Seriously, though, they were plastic shoes, so I’m pretty upset that they got lost in a natural setting. We all know how bad plastic is for the environment.)

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