Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 3: 6/7/11... I Swore I Would Not Tango

              Iguazu Falls day! All day with one of the wonders of the world. It was truly epic. The weather was not perfect, but what do you want with a rain forest? The good part was that the torrential rain the night before and in the morning made the falls as full as possible.
               Buffets are a very bad thing for me. Something in my brain has always said, “Clean your plate. People in China are starving.” Where could I have gotten such an idea? I’ll ask my Mom if she knows. With buffets, the plate can never be cleaned. So buffets kill millions of Chinese every year. Not this morning, though. I single handedly saved an entire Cantonese province. It was a great personal sacrifice, but a delicious carb saturated one.
               I got another very friendly cab driver to take me to the bus station, which looked much less frightening in the daylight. Whilst I awaited my coach, I spent some time with a street dog’s belly. He was a sweetheart – just walked up and rolled over. I went and bought him some crackers but he was like, “pssh… muchas gracias…NO”.  It took him six crackers to figure out he didn’t want them, though. Later I was told that these guys aren’t actually strays; they have owners who just let them out all day. Weird.
               The hotel dudes recommended the city bus since it was only seven pesos, and I never miss a chance to pinch a penny. It was a good choice anyway, because I got to see more of the locals and their regular life. Not a lot, but some.
               Inside the Iguazu park, there were these cool critters wandering around and coming up to people. Later I found out that they were considered raccoons, but they looked more like big brown possums to me. No burglar masks. (Big Brown Possums – store that one in the band name archive.)
               I was flattered when a park employee called me over and suggested this jungle safari dealio he was selling. He had a uniform so it was legit. He dismissed the whole Iguazu thing as Disney World and said these safari jeeps hold seven people, max. Of course he could see I was a crowd-hating misanthrope and was working that angle for the pesos, but dammit it worked. So I was to meet at the cool dude spot at four. Right on, man.
               The Iguazu experience was in fact slightly Disney World, at least until you actually get to the falls, at which point nature bitch-smacks the Mickey ears off your head and says, “How ya like me now?” There are four trails, roughly, each with a little complex of snack bar, banos, and souvenir shop. It’s not really easy to escape the fat nor old, as the way has been paved for them so they can keep up with you. There was a train to the first trail, where I hatched a devious plot.
               As someone who hates everyone I don’t know, I’ve become an expert at avoiding crowds. So I’m like, “Hey. This train has about a twenty minute round trip. So the herd jumps off the train and fall victim to the urge, however subconscious, to one-up each other and get there first. So just let the stampede trot ahead and I’ll enjoy the twenty minute lull before the next swarm is disgorged from the train.” Ya know what? BOO-YAH! Worked like a charm. Screw people, right?
               The falls are amazing. Like the Grand Canyon or a perfect night sky, it’s one of those things that simultaneously puts you in your place but also is a revelation of the power of nature that doesn’t always show itself so directly. So in that way maybe it’s an ironically intimate experience of nature where you meet eye to eye and are forced to your knees in respect.
               I did as many of the vistas that I could. There are actually quite a few excellent places to see them. At Niagara there are maybe a tenth of the angles to see, but that’s also because Iguazu is significantly larger. It’s basically like ten Niagaras lined up in a row. Not to say Niagara isn’t great, too – it is. I mean, Iguazu doesn’t have a casino and Hard Rock Café.
               So four rolls around and time for my safari. Let me say I did like it, but really it was just a really bumpy ride down a dirt road and a few stops to look at plants. To be fair, it was maybe a little too chilly for the animals to be romping and scampering. The best thing, though, was that it was just me! The guide was really good and the driver looked like he was One With The Jungle. We at least heard some monkeys – almost definitely in the same jungle we were in – but they had some other business to attend to. Monkey I say monkey business that is….
               Otherwise I saw a couple deer and a really big mouse from a distance. Again, though, I did enjoy it. I guess a big part of it was that I was further away from the Disney World crowd as possible and feeling all smug about it. All they got was pseudo-raccoons.
               Also the jeep dropped me right at the hotel, so I didn’t have to revisit the bus station at twilight. It was nap time, and then down to dinner. Another excellent dinner here at the hotel. This place is tucked away from the main town (YES!) and so it’s not convenient to eat anywhere else. It would suck if the food was blah, but it’s very good.
               Tonight we got a surprise “treat” – a Tango show. In my never-ending eagerness to zig away from the zaggers, I was going to make it a point to stick my nose too far in the air to see any dancing whenever I heard an accordion. But this was actually great. They couldn’t get me to the Tango so they brought the Tango to me.
               I’d never witnessed it first hand. It’s pretty intense. To me it looks like a hyper-exaggerated display of gender roles. It almost looked more like a fight than a dance. The guy had this really intense expression like he was staring down a lion. The woman looked like every move was an affront. At times all the stops and starts and jabbing motions made me wonder if it might possibly be an ancestor of the Robot.
               They did a whole series of dances, and then – shudder – it was audience participation time. The man and the woman started pulling diners kicking and screaming away from their meat and onto the dance floor for some public humiliation to cap off the evening. OF COURSE the woman came for me. Have you seen the Bugs Bunny cartoon with the dopey vulture going “NOPE nope nope nope noooope”? That was me. I tried to shrivel into a tiny ball of Catholic shame, but she apparently wanted revenge for being pushed and pulled and dropped in all the previous dances and sought out the best opportunity to make a guy look like a chump.
               But I liked it! She was pretty cool about it and pretended to compliment me just enough to keep me from crying. We didn’t do the rose-in-the-teeth-cheek-to-cheek thing, but dammit I tangoed! (In my own way.) So that’s done. I don’t feel obliged to have any more tango experiences. Unless another soft, squishy woman offers to teach me. Nicely.

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