Because in a few days we fly ourselves and our bike back home to Chicago for a few months' rest before we then head on to Africa. But as I reflect on all that we've seen and done not just in the past two years of travel, but also in the past two weeks here in Argentina, I know that at least we ended our Great Americas Journey with a bang. Or a splash I guess I should say.
The place feels like an untamed and crisp wilderness, like you could be lost somewhere in the Colorado Rockies. We took a gorgeous winding dirt road through the park that ran along mountainsides with views of glittering blue lakes below us. And that night we found a camp spot with a view out our tent window of fish jumping out of the crystal clear water of a glacial lake. Pretty hard to beat.
It's a little like the Midwest, where we're from, except instead of corn fields as far as you can see, it's just grass. Barbed wire fences and grass. And maybe a grazing animal or two. And wind. There's something austere and comforting about it all, for sure, especially since it reminds me of home. But it's also terribly boring.
There's not anything particularly special about Pehuajó, except that I felt like I had entered a “Leave it to Beaver" episode and found myself in 1950's Perfectville, USA. Because as Tim was putting more oil in the bike (we still have a leak) and cleaning out the air filter right in downtown Pehuajó, people started gathering around. Sure, he and the bike are definitely attention-grabbing, but you would have thought everyone's long-lost cousin had showed up. So many people were coming up to him and talking, giving him their number for if he needed any help, inviting us to join their motorcycle club, we even got invited to someone's 80th birthday party!
There were children playing on the street, people riding by on bicycles with little bells, the owner of the hotel greeted every person who walked by with a smile and by name. There was even a woman on a bike with her baby swaddled into the front basket (probably not the safest thing, but hey, it's 1950's America, nobody cared!). The opthamologist across the street kept coming by to make sure we didn't need any of the tools he had, the woman next door gave me a map of the region, it was so much friendliness, that this tiny town with not much there will forever stay in my heart and memories.
On the other hand, even though most people might have never heard of Iguazú Falls, it's one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in the world, and is more than twice the height and width of Niagara. It has been a bucket list item of mine for years, and so despite it not making sense when considering finances and time, I told Tim that it would mean a lot to me if we went.
Tim had very little interest in the falls, but out of a favor for me, we headed north to Iguazú.
After a few days on the road, we started to see signs for something called La Alemana (the German Woman), and not just one sign, but an incessant amount of signs. Have you ever driven through South Dakota and seen all the signs for Wall Drug? There's nothing else to look at and you just can't tune out the obnoxious billboards, until you find yourself actually anticipating whatever this proclaimed amazing business is.
Part of the problem is that we wouldn't be going to the Brazilian side of the falls. Although the entirety of Iguazú Falls is technically in Argentina, Brazil has a fantastic lookout point (poor Paraguay, again... so close, but they somehow missed out on all the action). But it would cost us even more time and money to enter Brazil, and we had decided against it. So whatever Argentina had to offer, that was going to be what we got.
We woke up on the day of truth to see rain-filled clouds above us. Great. I started to get the sense that this was going to be a disaster.
The train was crowded and slow, but as we started hiking along a congested metal walkway over the river, feeling squished and herded along like I was stuck in line at a Disney World ride, I noticed a thick mist forming over the river in the distance. And then as we got closer, there was this constant roar. And before we knew it, we were standing on a platform actually built over the largest part of the waterfall! It was loud, wet, and intense, like we were inseparable from the water, a part of the action, feeling like we were about to tumble over!
So we left the Devil's Throat, now with smiles on our wet faces, got back on the packed and sweaty train, and made our way to a trail that was said to be the best: the Lower Circuit. In Spanish, this trail is called El Paseo Inferior, which, as opposed to the Paseo Superior, did not sound like it was going to be better. But sure enough, once we trekked through the dark and humid rainforest, we arrived at an opening with a view that just erased any doubts I may have had.
And I could have cried. Except that he wouldn't have noticed from all the rain on my face. Yes, it was raining, but I realized that it didn't matter. After all, we were in the rainforest and we had come to see water, lots of it. But also the ferocity of the clouds seemed to fit right in.
Those deep tones of the grumbling sky against the angry water hurtling itself over the edge and punching its way down against the rocks, that whole battle scene was in perfect contrast with the ballet dance of the bridal veils of singular streaming falls on either side, like delicate silk threads becoming lost in the wispy forest foliage. If I had to describe a place like heaven with all its strength and beauty wrapped into one, it would be simply this image of Iguazú Falls, and the feeling I felt as I stood there marveling at its grandeur.
I have to say that this National Park really puts your money to hard work. Most of the trails are metal walkways built over rivers and wetlands, and they have done a fantastic job. As you walk the miles of grated boardwalks, you will see huge fish and stoic egret beneath you, and you'll really appreciate how it was no easy feat to create these trails. There are bathrooms, benches, garbages, recycling bins, food stores, handicapped-accessible ramps to nearly everything, and best of all, friendly employees standing around guiding people and giving directions. For being a water-laden site in the middle of thick Amazonian jungle, they've really made it easy and comfortable to get to. Even the slow train is ok, I suppose.
We rode back east to Buenos Aires (stopping at La Alemana again for more German chicken-in-a-jar), and yesterday we had a marvelous time exploring this dynamic city of culture, arts, food, music, and dance. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with a posh atmosphere that somehow feels relaxed at the same time. I mean, steaks and wine and tango and museums and nightlife, this historic city is always vibrant, always having a good time, and always awake (probably due to all the mate drinking).
But now it's time for us to go back home.
Don't worry, the trip is not over! First we'll ride our bike out to Flagstaff, Arizona to give a presentation at the Overland Expo West on May 17-19 (we hope to see you there!). And we'll also be getting married in June! Whoa, that's a big one. And then, off to Africa!
So lots of exciting stuff to come, stay tuned and we'll keep you updated here, on facebook, and instagram.