Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iguazu Part II: Hiking Through the Jungle

As the title hints at, the second part of our adventures in Iguazu involved a jungle hike. Okay, that sounds a little dramatic...But it was a dirt path through jungle-like terrain--wet, red-brown earth; creeks winding their way along the path; trees growing within trees; exotic birds and animals I couldn't identify peeping their heads out from the brush; and MONKEYS! I felt like I had stumbled upon the set of Gorillas in the Mist (a version with a happy ending) when we came upon a bundle of tall trees linked together with vines and branches, and nuts and berries began to hurtle down at us from the monkeys looming in the branches above. There were two young women studying the monkeys, taking notes and silently observing. Nick and I looked up and watched these funny little creatures move around in their natural setting. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't in Woodley Park at the zoo--I was seeing these little guys in their home! They were adorable, but we read in the Park brochures that their innocence is all a facade if there is food involved; thus we kept our packed sandwiches hidden in our backpacks and watched them, hoping they wouldn't catch on to the scent of ham and cheese goodies we had tucked away. Luckily, the monkeys never found out we had food on us and they let us watch them as they did their daily thing: hop from branch-to-branch, occasionally make a squeal, nibble away at the branches, and throw down unwanted nuts. They were so cute...When we were quiet and watching them, we heard twigs cracking and other noises coming from the forest. Our imaginations wandered and we wondered what was in there making those noises...We had read of the jaguars that prowl this jungle at night, and of the rare times when they did make day-time appearances. I tried to imagine how I would act if we did encounter a jaguar, tried to think if I could follow the guidebook's advice and NOT betray my fright...Somehow I didn't think I could pull it off... Luckily, we never had to find out if I would be tough enough to pull it off in front of a jaguar; they seemed to all be sleeping that day. Nick and I finished the hike unscathed--3 km into the jungle. At the end, we celebrated at the base of a miniature waterfall. This little guy shot down from about 30 feet into a small basin of water surrounded by large rocks/small boulders. It was like a scene from Now & Then, or Stand by Me, or any other feel-good movie where little kids are having the time of their lives in the outdoors. Nick and I ate our ham sandwiches sitting on top of one of the aforementioned rock-boulders. I took off my shoes and dipped my toes into the water. I briefly flirted with the idea of swimming in the pool before I whipped my freezing extremities from the water. But Nick had a different, doable, and adventureous idea--to climb atop the circle of rocks so that we stood next to the waterfall. We took turns and it was a blast. Over one rock and onto the next, being careful not to slip, getting our tennis shoes soaking wet, and hopping over little streams that wound their way through the stone. Finally, we stood underneath the falling water, getting sprayed with offshoots, freezing, and laughing so much. We were all alone in that magic little spot, and I think that also helped to make it feel like a movie; our own private little waterfall. It was too much fun... But alas, as Nelly Furtado says, all good things must come to an end...We packed ourselves up and hiked the 3 km back out of the forest...Bye-bye to the baby waterfall, and bye-bye to the squeaking monkeys. But all the better from it, that's for sure. :-)

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