***There is so much to write about this trip that I feel like just one entry won’t do it justice. Bear with me, people (and by that I mean let’s all turn into bears =D).***
The first trip I took in Argentina was to Iguazu Falls (Spanish: las Cataratas del Iguazú). Iguazú lies on the border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay (it’s at the very tip of that protrusion on the northeast side that makes it look like Argentina is trying to flip off Brazil, but forgot that it doesn’t have fingers).
A short time after I got to Argentina, I was added to a group on Facebook called Intercambio Córdoba. I’m not sure whether to call them a business or organization or some other fancy sounding word, but on their Facebook page they describe themselves as “a project with the mission to offer exchange students the chance to get to know the most beautiful spots in Argentina.” Intercambio Córdoba is run by two guys in their 20s, but they also hire foreigners to help out with their events. They would organize excursions across Argentina and host events designed to help foreigners meet people (it says exchange students on their page, but they’re open to anyone who wants to participate). Almost all of my travels in Argentina were organized by this group because traveling with them was relatively cheap and I got to meet people from a ton of different countries. I met two of my best friends in Argentina on one of their excursions.
I will say this, though. You get what you pay for. Because they have such a small staff, their trips could get pretty disorganized. Some students got really annoyed with the way things were run, but I didn’t mind. The hostels we stayed in weren’t bad, the itinerary for each trip was a lot of fun, and traveling with them was a LOT cheaper than organizing a trip independently. If you’re not too high maintenance and picky, I highly suggest checking them out (even if you are high maintenance and picky, check them out anyways. You might still have a good time).
Anyways, one of the trips they planned was to Iguazú. The Intercambio Córdoba building is in one of those free-standing dorm type buildings that are similar to apartment complexes (about a 15 minute walk from Plaza España in Nueva Córdoba). I forget what time we were scheduled to leave, but the guys in charge told everyone to arrive an hour early. Even so, we didn’t leave until about an hour after we were scheduled to, and I’m not entirely sure why. It might have been that a lot of people showed up late, or that the preparations for the trip took longer than IC had anticipated, or that they purposely told everyone to show up super early BECAUSE they figured that people would be late, but it meant for a lot of awkward standing around and waiting. This wasn’t so awful because it gave everyone a chance to meet the people they would be traveling with and there were a couple of food places in the area, but I remember feeling restless and impatient.
In total there were about 90 people on this excursion and we went in two buses. It was a 22 hour trip from Córdoba to Iguazú, which sounds ridiculous at first, but bus travel is one the most common ways to get around in Argentina. Flying is expensive and I heard that the flights and connections can be chaotic and convoluted, but I never tried it myself. All of my travels in Argentina were done by bus.
The 22 hour ride was long, but it wasn’t bad. The IC people put on movies and gave us snacks. The bus stopped a few times so people could stretch their legs, use the restroom, and buy things if they needed to. After the sun went down, the IC guys went into Party Bus mode and dimmed the lights, put on dance music, and served us drinks. This may have been irritating for anyone who wanted to sleep, but most of us were on this trip to meet people and have a good time. People got out of their seats and mingled and danced in the aisles. It was crowded and noisy, but a lot of fun. Slightly tipsy is a great way to pass the time on a 22 hour bus ride.
Right before we arrived they started asking us who wanted to room together at the hostel. We were ten to a room with one bathroom, which sounds like an absolute nightmare for the squeamish, tons-of-space-needing American, but we survived. There were a bunch of people from my school on this trip, so we roomed together and it wasn’t horrible (we were five people from Mexico, two from the States, one from Colombia, one from Venezuela and one from France). I was actually amazed at how well we bonded over this trip. As long as people can be considerate and civilized, ten to a room can work. I actually had a lot of fun just hanging out with them, and I guess having to cooperate like that makes the bonding happen a lot faster. I’m glad it was this way instead of a fancy hotel room. A hotel wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting as three bunk beds, a queen, and two twin sized beds crammed into one room (I was on a top bunk).
We got to the city of Iguazú sometime in the evening. This trip happened in April (somewhere between summer and fall in South America) and we were up near Brazil, so it was hot and unbelievably humid. The Intercambio Córdoba guys threw together an asado, which is an Argentine barbecue consisting of tons of delicious meat.
One of the things I loved about this night was the thunderstorm. It poured so hard it felt like we were going to drown where we stood, and the raindrops were the size of quarters. The sheer hugeness of the thunder was enough to make my heart stop and left my bones rattling as the sound dissipated. BOOM doesn’t even begin to describe how enormous, how incredibly loud it was. Each thunderclap felt like the end of the world.
Still, the lightning had to be the best part. The sky was covered in ominous, low hanging clouds like so many dark bruises that reflected the lightning and lit up the entire sky. I really want to stress this. When I say “lit up,” I don’t mean there was a flash of light and then it was dark again. When I say “lit up,” I mean the entire fucking sky went from almost pitch black to blinding white that was bright enough to leave me seeing spots long after the lightning was gone. Each time this happened it threw everything on the ground into sharp relief, so the surrounding mountains and trees were silhouetted against this brilliant white sky.
I loved every second of it.
Now, I grew up in the desert, so this might not sound so amazing to someone who’s used to rain, but we desert people are fascinated by it. I remember sitting out on the balcony of the hostel and just taking it all in while the other students hung out and ate inside. I got soaked and a lot of people thought I was weird, but I didn’t care. I really hope I get to see a thunderstorm of that intensity again.
Even though we were supposed to leave for the Falls early the next morning, everyone stayed up late eating and drinking together. We were completely exhausted, but that seems to be the case any time you travel. You don’t know when you’ll ever get to do this again, so you try to cram as much into the time you have as possible. I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun if I had slept like a normal human being.
…Aaaand that’s all for now. Click here for part two!