Tuesday, February 16, 2010


You can see the jungle stretching away forever well before you land and get hit in the face by the heat and humidity. Jungle is the first thing you notice when you go to Iguazu (Big Waters).

Well, it's the first ting I noticed, probably because I hadn't really thought about the place before, and all I can remember about that film, the missionary one, was Jeremey Irons or someone going over the falls tied to a cross. I'm not sure now if I've actually seen the film, but even so, I don't like it - I don't like Jeremey Irons, I don't like missionaries and their presumptions, and I don't like crosses, symbols of execution, which I abhor, as well as nods to salvation by sacrifice, which I reject.

We went on a jungle ride which sounds like something you'd do in Disneyland. (Actually, it reminded me of staying at Fort Wilderness at Disney in Orlando when K and I were much younger.)

You sit in an open truck, dripping with sweat, camera at the ready and everyone trying to sit at the front to get the perfect, and only, shot of the monkey or tiger ot toucan or whatever photographic trophy is waiting to be claimed by the lucky front-seaters. It doesn't really matter where you sit in the jungle truck because all you see is green.

That's not quite true. You do see the arrangement of the jungle, how the light works, penetrating enough that the understorey thrives, and the muddy roads puddled from recent heavy rains, and spider webs sweeping past just too fast to ever really see if anyone is home. And you do get a sense of the density of it. And it's noisy, but you only get to hear the constant tsst tsst tsst tsst tsst tsst when the truck stops and before the guide takes the microphone to tell you about the trees and how the jungle only comes alive at night, even for those sitting in the front, cameras cocked. What she doesn't tell you is that it is busy all the time - removing carbon dioxide.

The real purpose of this jungle trip is to get us down to the river where, once outfitted in garish orange life jackets, we clamber onto a jet boat, the same front-seaters at it again, and fasten our seat belts for a ride into the falls. Cruising down the river is almost boring till you finally round a critical corner and get that first glimpse, not of a waterfall, but of mist, a gossamy white outer orbit.

Something overtakes you, a wonderful feeling that not only is this going to be good, it's going to be fabulous and bigger and better than you ever expected, like Mahler's First. Everyone on the boat is beaming; it's impossible not to.

Everything seems to accelerate, heart beat and jet boat, speeding down the river with the cataracts now in full view, their creamy coffee tops becoming churning white walls whose lower halves billow out in swirls of foam and fine drifts of mists.

We are there, at the walls, in the noise, wondering what will happen next when the boat slows, then drifts, bobbing in the boiling brown water, easing away.

Without any warning, suddenly the engines rev, the boat takes traction and lifts up at the front surging foward and with wild screams we are driven into it. I didn't see anything. My eyes were squeesed shut, stinging madly with water, running mosquito repellent and blockout, drenched, sunglasses hanging around my neck, roaring with everyone else like children at Luna Park.

We emerged, eyes opened, everyone was still there, all laughing that silly laugh of thrill, risk and survival. It happened again and again, driving into the waters, drifting back out, in and out, as we worked our way across several drops. Nothing occupied your thoughts except the enormity of it all and the realisation that the boat was being carefully steered between being in just far enough to come back out, and in too far to be swamped and read about in the next day's Sydney Morning Herald.

It turns out the idiot who kept standing up at the front and filming was in the team and for a very modest fee we now have the we-waz-there video tacked onto a fine documentary about the Iguazu National Park and its famous falls.


Smorg said...

Awesome, W! :oD I was something of a daredevil on my mountain bike when I was still considered youthful... but even then I doubt that I would get in a boat that's scheduled to go and plunge down waterfalls! You sure earn that 'been there, done that' video. :oD

Thanks for living and telling the tales (with awesome photos added)!

wanderer said...

INTO Smorg, not down. You don't blog after down! Thanks for reading.