Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 20 - Descending to New Heights


Like theater
There are few sounds in life that are as miserable as an alarm clock. Even if it’s waking you for an epic day – the shrill sound of slumber dying always evokes misery. After around 5 hours of sleep, Pete and I hit the breakfast buffet, stock up on some bars, and walk a couple blocks to the bus station. We’re heading to the Brazilian side of Iguacu Falls National Park, which is a 45-minute ride away.
San Dimas High School Football rules!
When we arrive at the park, we take a double decker bus to the Path of the Falls stop, which overlooks the mouth of the falls and has several lookout points, or as they called it - contemplation belvederes. (An aside - how pompous was Mr. Belvedere? And how annoying was Wesley? Can’t believe how successful that show was. A testament to Bob Uecker.) There are about 275 falls on the Brazil side, which dates back to about 150 million years ago.
The main fall is Devil’s Throat, which is about 90 meters high (around 288 ft). It Is a beast. There’s a walkway that takes you near the fall, which is so powerful that the spray leaves you more drenched than Napoleon in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”.  I don’t remember what Niagara Falls is like so I can’t compare, but the scope and power of these falls is magnificent.  I wonder how much energy can be harnessed by these powerful falls. On that note, I’m amazed at the brilliant scientists from back-in-the-day that thought it possible to harness and convert all that natural power. Incredible. Some people are so smart. Bastards.
Brazil needs cups
As we walk the falls, we encounter a Greek-German woman who is excited to run into some people who speak English. At first, she’s so eager to talk, that I keep checking my bag to see if she’s got a partner who’s pickpocketing people. Don’t know if she’s working with Linus from Ocean’s Eleven. Turns out, she works for Mercedes Benz and has been sent to Argentina for work. She and a coworker are trying to catch some sites while in the area. She’s excited to find out we’re from Southern California, because she’s visiting for the first time in a few months. She says she can’t wait to go to Southern California and be away from Benzes. Good call. No Benzes in LA. We mention that we’re thinking about rappelling down one of the cliffs, and her co-worker mentions that it’s not worth it; that we should take the safari boat ride that goes underneath the falls instead.
More powerful than a Blake Griffin dunk
After exchanging facebook info with this woman (crazy how Mark Zuckerberg has changed the way we communicate), we head to Canion Iguacu where the excursions are. Listening to Benz co-worker dude, we eye the ropes course, which looks fun but is in the rainforest area and doesn’t really take advantage of the waterfall views. It also looks geared more towards families. Meanwhile, the pictures of rappelling really don’t look that gripping, so we ask a staff member what’s the most thrilling adventure they offer – he says rappelling hands down. We decide to rappel despite dude’s advice. Best. Move. Ever.
Tom Petty's "Free Fallin" comes to mind
We march down a steel sky walk that juts over a cliff, where we’ll rappel 55m (180 feet) down to the river bank. The guy at the top speaks no English, attaches a waist harness with belaying device similar to rock climbing, and tells us in Portuguese to essentially walk the plank. He spends a good 5 seconds pantomiming how to rappel, before telling me to sit off the edge of the plank and plummet to my doom.
That first step off the plank was certainly unnerving. A stunt double for “XXX 3: Forcing a Franchise” I will not be.  Not knowing how much weight assistance I was receiving, I gripped the rope as tightly as I could as I teetered off the edge. It takes me about 15 seconds of death-gripping the rope before I ease up and get comfortable with my environment, but once I do – it’s mad funzies! I start to spin and kick off the ledge. As Pete goes through his gravity initiation, I’m now comfortable and start smacking him around on the butt. Uncool dude. I’m sure Pete is contemplating murdering me at this point. But he quickly adjusts and it’s bombs away.

Pete trained Bruce Wayne
We control our speed of descent for the most part, but if it seems like we’re out of control, an employee at the bottom tightens the slack and slows us down. I tried to let go completely of the rope and see how fast I could freefall, and after about 2 seconds, the dude quickly slowed me down.
This Fisher Price helmet feels safe
Even though we’re a good distance away from the falls, the 360 degree view is incredible. Like hang gliding, the freedom of dangling in the air is invigorating. We’re completely out of our element, and it’s awesome. Pete described it best, at no point during our 5-10 minute descent, did we think about jobs, interviews, or anything else, we were completely wrapped up in the moment. I hope that everyone has one of those moments at least once in the day – when you don’t stress about any of life’s details and just enjoy the thrill of it all. 

Dip Dap
After the abseiling, we headed back to Foz do Iguacu. I guess on Sundays most of the city is off work, because the whole town seemed abandoned like theaters showing a Nic Cage action movie. We found at churrascaria called Gaucho, so naturally we UCSBers dined there. The food was tasty, including some strong stroganoff, but there were so many flies inside the restaurant I thought Piggy and Ralph were going to run out of the kitchen with a conch.
Lord of the Flies
Back at the hotel, we relaxed in the jacuzzi (or kiddie pool, come to think of it there were no jets) and played some ping pong. Despite being Chinese, I suck at ping pong. Pete’s actually pretty good, but he lost to me so I don’t know what that says.
Tomorrow we add another stamp for our passports as we head to the Argentina side of Iguacu Falls. Gauchos in the land of the gaucho. Fitting.


  1. Your pop culture references kill me! Mr. Belvedere and Lord of the Flies in the same blog. Poor Pete; I hope he got hazard pay.

  2. "No Benzes in LA." Classic!