After about 14 hours of traveling, it was a huge relief to arrive in rainy Buenos Aires. As a pleasant surprise, I was met by my worried family at the airport (my flight had been delayed more than 5 hours) and was whisked off through a beautiful part of town to our hotel. Gigantic, healthy-looking trees towered alongside the streets, bending towards each other to create what seemed like tunnels of soft, flickering forest light, and an enormous park full of trees, statues, and seemingly endless recreational trails was only a few blocks away. It was amazing!
We decided not to waste a minute of our Argentinian surroundings, and headed directly to a crowded, popular restaurant for a dinner of everything Argentinian: local wine, provoleta, and the best steak of our lives. Ridiculously delicious.
Buenos Aires, as it turned out, was our in-between stop, and suddenly we were at the airport heading to Iguazu Falls! (The falls themselves are a meeting point between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, but we were staying in Argentina). We arrived on a terrifyingly short runway, in what seemed like the Middle of Nowhere, Amazon Rainforest. That said, it was pouring rain. We took a taxi to our hotel and walked into the sprawling, random little town, complete with the sharpest cobblestone I have ever seen. Not surprising that no cars were driving on it. Our dinner was probably one of the weirdest buffets I’ve ever had, but nonetheless exciting. We sat outside and listened in confusion to a series of alternating sounds – first a sort of roaring, then a kind of harmonic screeching, then a deep humming sound – all extremely loud, so loud you could hardly hear yourself think. Then it dawned on us: we were in the rainforest. Those sounds were insects, the most unbelievably loud ones I have ever heard. It was wild. Lightning flashed in purple explosions through the sky, thunder boomed alongside the roar of the insects, and rain poured. Such began our time at Iguazu Falls.
The next day was rainy, grey and weirdly cold. Iguazu Falls averages about 90 degrees Fahrenheit this time of year, and it couldn’t have been more than 60! Being Alaskans, though, we obviously managed. After our initial tour of the stunning falls, curving in a semi-circle in a fashion reminiscent of cartoon films, we took a speedboat right into the heart of the falls. We screamed in mass delight as the boat swerved underneath the thundering downpour, straining our eyes to keep open to witness the waterfall directly above us. Soaking wet and shivering in the “cold”, we returned to our hotel.
What followed was one of the most surreal things I have experienced. I was awoken the next morning by a blast of golden sunlight streaming into the room at 6 AM, and blinked the view into focus. In the distance, far outside my window, Iguazu Falls stood, spewing clouds of mist in all of its glory. Blue skies, almost unnaturally green forest, gleaming white water, surrounded by flocks of white birds that soared in majestic circles around the waterfall – it looked positively unreal. We hurried through breakfast and made our way to the top of the falls, gazing at the incredible panorama of waterfalls in every direction. Words cannot describe – we simply felt like we were in a movie, a computer-generated parallel universe of scenery so beautiful it didn’t seem possible it could actually exist.
We filled that day with activities, ecstatic with the bluebird weather. Ziplining through the rainforest, trekking through the jungle, rappelling down a small cliff. Interestingly, the Argentinian army was also spending time in that particular section of the jungle, and all our activities were accompanied by a soundtrack of distant gunshots. We were also joined by four Mexican girls, who proceeded to shriek and squeal at everything, leaping in terror at the slightest rustle of a leaf. We guessed they were somewhere near 16 or 17 – no, on the bus ride back we talked to them and discovered that they were in their mid 20s, fully educated doctors, architects, and accountants!
Since then we’ve been back in Buenos Aires, enjoying the stunning botanical gardens, the zoo, and the lovely bohemian atmosphere around Palermo. Today we had lunch at one of the most intriguing restaurants I’ve ever been to – a Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant called Sipan. You wouldn’t have been able to find it if you didn’t know it was there. Our lunch consisted of empanadas, sushi, seafood ceviche and something called a tacu-tacu (a pie full of rice, beans, cheese, and various exotic seafood), all of which we ordered without being exactly sure what it was. Of course, it was insanely delicious. Adventurous eating for the win!
Tomorrow, we go to Patagonia. Antarctica grows closer by the minute.