Magic Kingdom.

Right now, I’m sitting outside in the shade of a vine-clustered pergola, listening to the whistles and chirps of a few different jungle birds. It is 90-something degrees, but my typing isn’t yet so wild as to make me sweat. I’m quite comfortable.

Matt and I are spending Thanksgiving this year in Asunción, Paraguay. He’s working; I’m vacationing. A bit of a last-minute trip for me (didn’t have my visa in hand until the Wednesday before my Saturday flight, didn’t make a dogcare reservation for Vilas until it was too late to get in at our normal place), so it feels just a tiny bit surreal to be chilling by this salt water pool with my computer.

I have much to say about my modes of transportation these last few days, but I’ll get to that later. For now, I want to share a few stories and pictures from Iguazú Falls, one of the seven modern wonders of the world. Matt painstakingly organized this trip, which required many, many details to figure out and fall into place, and because of his excellent planning, we had about as perfect an experience as you can imagine. It was, in many ways, on par with my trip to Huangshan from my China days: both were points in time that allowed me to feel really hopeful about the world because it is So Freaking Beautiful.

Matt and I spent Sunday night in Ciudad del Este (more on this later, too) and traveled (ahem, snuck) across the Rio Paraná to Brazil’s border city, Foz do Iguaçu. Sidebar: I am at the point where I can look at words in Spanish and feel like, yeah, I can pronounce and maybe even understand some of those! But Portuguese words make me feel like I am looking at Elvish or possibly Klingon. So hats off to you, Portuguese speakers, because you have amazing brains.

Anyway, we get into Brazil, find a couple of breakfast empanadas, follow some signs to the falls- cataratas– and by the miracle that is My Husband Driving in Foreign Countries, we find Iguazú. You can visit the falls from both Argentina and Brazil; in Brazil, they are housed in a lovely national park. Everything about El Parque Nacional do Iguaçu is immaculate, kind of like Disney World. It is so clean and well-organized, and it also has many colorful maps starring cartoonish people and animals who can probably talk. And like Disney World, it hosted approximately 85,000 chattering children on the day we visited.

This is not to poke fun at the park. I highly recommend a visit. You’ll find getting around very easy, along with lots of helpful staff who instantly recognize you are American because you and your husband accidentally wore matching plaid prints and thus will speak mercifully to you in English, rather than in Klingon. Also, the bathrooms are fully stocked with toilet paper and soap. Just a win-win-win all around.

For the early part of our visit, we hiked a trail that first provided wide panoramas of the falls and then allowed us to walk out over them. We were so close- we had to shout to hear each other and we were covered in waterfall mist. I mean, we were standing next to a rainbow, for crying out loud. If that doesn’t say “Magic Kingdom,” I don’t know what does.

For the second part of our visit, we were part of a guided tour that took us through the jungle and down to the beach on Rio Iguazú. Once there, we hopped into these crazy raft-like boats with 225 horsepower engines. The sun was so hot that the staff was dousing the seats with bucket after bucket of river water so that we wouldn’t burn ourselves getting in. After being knotted into our life jackets, we took off for the falls, skimming over rapids and swirling pools that looked so, so dangerous. I basically screamed the whole time. It was incredible.

And then, our boat took us close, closer, and still closer to a pair of waterfalls about halfway through the nearly two-mile corridor…and then, we were under! It was total chaos. Deafening, soaking, a little suffocating, amazing. I mean, relative to the other behemoths we saw, we were passing back and forth underneath a little weenie of a waterfall, but the force, the power with which it beat down on us was unreal. We chose not to bring our cameras, out of concern for their inevitable deaths by drowning, and I’m really glad we didn’t. Just eyes and ears and mouths. I loved it.

Enjoy the pictures and video! I apologize in advance for my crappy narration. I was completely overwhelmed with awe. All I could think about was Jurassic Park. (Guess how many times Matt and I hummed the theme song to that fine film? A lot. Guess when it got old? That’s right- never.)

Definitely enlarge this picture to check out afore-mentioned cartoon people and animals.

Oh, don’t worry. That’s just a coati grabbing some lunch.

Here he comes!

Sweet, sweet garbage delights.

Approaching the falls.

Can you spot the perfectly intact spider web in there?

Rio Iguazú below.

Jurassic Park!

Ha! Falling rocks man. I love Matt so much.

 Thoughtful Matt.
Happy Matt!

(Clearly, taking pictures of rainbows never gets old.)
Can’t you just hear the din of millions of gallons of water?
(You can now!)

Difficult to see, but we’re looking at some Argentine visitors across the way. Matt described the Argentine side as more on top of the falls, while the Brazilian side is more underneath them.

Inconspicuously taking a picture of the border crossing while trying not to look like a tourist sans visa.

So there you have it! The next time you want to plan a family vacation with a killer flume ride and sparkling restrooms in a Pandora-like setting, you know where to go. What a day!


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