Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Clearing the Mind in Iguazu

"Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the places and experiences that take our breath away" -Anonymous.

Heaven on earth never seemed so real until I witnessed the sheer beauty of Iguazu Falls. For many North Americans, Niagara Falls comes to mind when mentioning the most beautiful waterfalls on this planet. First lady Elanor Roosevelt said it best when she first visited Iguazu, stating "oh, poor Niagara". Iguazu waterfalls lie on the border of Argentina and Brazil, though two-thirds of the falls are on the Argentine side, the largest of the 275 falls is on the Brazilian side, Garganta del diablo or Devil's Throat. Devil's Throat is a U-shaped 490 by 2300 ft. cliff that literally transcends a continuous cloud of mist down the Rio Parana (lower river that the waterfalls dump into). I only was able to see the largest of the falls from a distance since we remained on the Argentine side but rest assured, we were able to see about 200 of the 275 waterfalls on our journey.

We began our journey down the river on the boat tour which takes us through the river canyon up to the falls. The sights from the lower river were just the beginning of the jaw-dropping. The boat allowed us to snap some pictures then put all of our belongings in water-proof bags to prepare for our much needed showers from the cool waters falling 210 feet. The feeling of going under these falls was nothing like a calm stream running over your head, it was so intense that you can't see anything around you like trying to open your eyes under a shower with quadruple water-pressure. We were then dropped off by a path that took us up to the top of the falls where we were greeted by numerous animals, including iguanas and coati's, and different angles of more beautiful falls that had yet to be seen. The sights from the top of the falls were even more incredible, how could it get any better? My mind was in pure meditation as I watched the string of waterfalls from above. I was not thinking or doing, just being in the presence of heaven on earth. Being able to close the eyes and only hear the sound of 200 waterfalls in a 1-mile stretch was as much therapy as three albums of Enya. My heart was content and mind was as fluid and pure as the setting around me. The one thought that continuously crept into the emptiness of my head was 'we are too fortunate to be witnesses of heaven on earth.'

It also helped to have incredible company as well. Mike and I were so lucky enough to have our girlfriends Daniella, Carley, Ashley, Rena, and Steffany visit us for several weeks. We all took the 18-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu, which really wasn't that bad. The bus was luxurious with very comfortable and spatious seats that offer complimentary wine, beer and food. If you are ever lucky enough to be able to visit Puerto Iguazu and Iguazu falls on a budget, I recommend Hostel Inn Iguazu which is comparable to a resort for only $10 USD/night. http://www.hostelworld.com/availability.php/TheHostelInnIguazuFalls-PuertoIguazu-3798. It had all of the necesarry ammenities; free continental breakfast, a large beautiful swimming pool, pool bar, fooseball, ping-pong, free internet, pool tables, lounge rooms and transfers to the falls which was only a 20 minute drive. Our first night at the hostel, we had a large asado and a Brazilian dance show, which Mike ended up dancing salsa and samba with the two Brazilian show dancers who appeared to be straight from Carnaval. How could I not mention that we met more great people from around the world. This time, it was guys from England, Colombia, and Israel that would provide more connections for us.

The 18 hour drive back to Buenos Aires was capped off perfectly by an incredible sunset over the Pampas region of Argentina. This symbolized the end of my vacationing for some time as I now must get back to the classrooms and interviews to create more income. The time spent in Brazil and Iguazu was enough vacation to last me a couple months or at least until I save up for another vacation.

In signing off, how can we sum up Iguazu? Oh yeah, "Poor Niagara!"

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Opening 2008 Brazilian Style

Eyes burning, mind tired, writing this blog off no sleep in the last 36 hours, yet my heart if filled with full joy from the amazing six days spent in Brazil. It was a six-day span filled with surfing, drinking caipirinhas, body and soul resonating in hammocks, hiking through the forests from beach to beach, and meeting the beautiful people that inhabit the island of Florianopolis, Brazil. Our day of arrival was spent at our hostel meeting people from Germany, Peru, Chile, Spain, Argentina, and Brazil. We all found common bond in admiration of the positive energy radiated throughout the island. I have never been in such a state of peace for such an extended time and feel there was no better way to welcome a turning of the annual calendar. Our second day, we tested our surfing skills in the waves off of Barra do Lagoa, the northern beach of the island and village of our hostel. We then hiked a trail to the other side of the island to the natural swimming pools while encountering many different animals on the hillside. Then we immersed with the locals more that night by going to a small club on the trail to the piscinas naturales. However I wasn't expecting the samba dancing lessons that we would receive from the locals, a true test of allowing the body flow to the music in a rhythm as exotic as the island itself.

The next turn of the sun, we hopped a boat to the island of Capeche, where the sand is pearl white and the water crystal blue. This was your typical small island where human meets nature. A racoon came down from the trees to keep me company while enjoying a caipirinha. What is a caipirinha? It's Brazil's drink and can be compared to a Mohito or Margarita. It is made of limes, sugar and either vodka, 51, or Cachaca. Cachaca is a rum made of sugar cane. We then spent New Year's eve on the beach watching fireworks and running into the ocean for the opening seconds of the new year. This very well was my best New Year's celebration. The following days were spent exploring the island and going to the city center of Florianopolis which has a small-town/San Diego feeling to it. The final night was spent enjoying time with the friends we met from Germany, Spain, Chile and Brazil playing music and enjoying the moment. Yes, we very well could have went to sleep before our return to Buenos Aires, yet where is the fun in that? It's amazing how much energy the people of South America have since they sleep so little compared to what our conditioning. They carry little pessimism and transform positive energy to those around them. However, these eyes are ready to shut in preparation for my five hours of teaching tomorrow. Back to work, yet I am looking forward to it, that's not right is it? I hope your New Year's celebration was full of good energy and spirits as well.

Buena Suerte in 2008!