"Sing! O Muse of travellers, you Calypso of Ulysses and the Holy Mary of Columbus.
Sing of their successor, the hero Cristovo, and of his travels across America Austral.
Tell us how he rode, timeless, neverending, across the vast continental plains,
and how, donned with the helmet of Hades, snuck unseen into the netherworld
of Brazil to face the eternal roar of the forest god Iguazu, Great Water.
Of his victory in shooting him, and then, armed with the sword of wit and the shield
of foreign-ignorance, snuck back across to the real world; fearless, happy, exhausted..."
First, let me introduce myself. I am Glora, companion of Christopher, also called Cristovo, also called Cristobal. This is an entry about him, I guess, indirectly, but mostly about me. Before belonging to him, I lay on a shelf with a stack of my sisters, also called Gloria (go figure), and before that I was some form of tree, and before that assorted pieces of stardust from a galactic supernova... but then again, we all are, if we're going that far back. My point is we are the same, you and I, so don't judge me for being 'just a book'. Enough of that, then. I am here to tell you about a day in the life of myself, or more specifically the first day I arrived in Puerto Iguazu.
It was a long trip from Mendoza, and neither he nor I slept particularly well. His fault, though, not mine. He seemed consumed by some frenetic energy, and would occasionally pull me out to chat about a stray thought or make me memorise one of his (not to be critical, but) awful poems. I enjoy these late night tete-a-tetes though, and I am a patient and comforting listener as he works hard at making sense. Scratch out this, scribble down that. Sometimes the things he writes can be quite endearing, well worded, and beautiful... mostly, its brainfarts. Even so, I remember them all, proudly.
I sense alot of movement in the morning, and sooner than I expected he lifts me out of my special, cozy compartment in his rucksack. I ride VIP: my own slim pouch at the bottom of the bag, which I DO NOT share with those fat, pretentious boys he totes around to keep him busy. "Tues. 13th April: Barely know the day without Gloria's help...", he starts. I can't help feel a flutter of genuine affection for this pitiable little man who can't keep time straight. Who still even cares about time. Precious. We're riding a bus en route to Brasil, he informs me, hoping its actually heading the right way. We both laugh at this. An inside joke. "I may have an English tongue in my mouth, but not a Spanish one, and for SURE not a Portuguese one." he writes as an excuse, in reference to his mother's admonitions about his general dislike in asking for directions. "Shit. I don't even speak a WORD of Portuguese...and here comes the border." And with that, I am tucked gently back to the comfort of my bag.
He takes me out a little while later... time is less important for me than him, so I can't tell you exactly when. Fairly soon though. He is excited, and the pen is moving quickly across my pages. He is almost sure we are in Brasil illegally. Wonderful. They never stopped at the Brasilian border, just the Argentine one and after consulting his guidebook, (which I adamantly refuse to elevate, as he does, to the status of 'Bible') he is sure he should have gotten an entrance card to be later stamped on the way back. Once he finishes explaining this, he stops and bites the end of the pen. "3 Options:",he writes, "Stay in Brasil forever; Pay the hefty fine; smuggle myself back to Argentina via the infamous black markets of Paraguay.". He continues lamenting the years of Easters and Thanksgivings with his Portuguese friend's family, not learning the words necesary to bribe himself into slavery. Then he asks me to remind him to learn from the Dutch boys a suitable way to say, 'I swear I didn't know she was under 18. I also swear I thought she was actually a she!' in Dutch for when he gets baked in Amsterdam and ends up handcuffed naked to a boathouse in a backwater canal. I laugh, but I sense a little actual concern behind the sarcasm. This makes me a little concerned too. His concern is my concern after all, since we've become that close.
I'm in the bag and its getting progressively damper and cooler. Not good for my skin. I am little worried about my complexion, and smudging my ink when I get put on his lap under a canopy of dappled green light. Seems we are in a rainforest, and all the leaves look as if a madman went wild with a hole puncher. Also not good for me. Butterflies, he explains to me, later, and certainly they are hundreds of butterflies hovering around of every different colour in the world. Like snowflakes, no two seem the same. A Darwinian wet dream. The pen touches the page, and I get that familiar shivering sensation as his mind blots out onto my pages, and I can hear his thoughts and feel his heartbeat through his fingers. Explosions of memories come to me about Iguazu. Masses and masses of water. The exhiliration of the spray on his skin and the roar in his ears. The vistas! The VISTAS! "Truly Epic!" he says to me, with a sigh of contentment. A slight change in tempertature. A quick shift of pulse. He has an idea. He is inspired. He begins to scribble it down, unintelligible to anyone but us. "The Iguaziad? The Iguazodyssey?". Just those four words, hardly words, but we both catch the meaning. He intends to write the blog for Iguazu in the style of the classical epic. He has visions of Homeric grace, however I am a little more skeptical. I remind him about how arduous a task that would be. I recall Virgil's insanity; didn't Milton go blind writing 'Paradise Lost'?; and Keats died after finishing just one canto of 'The Fall of Hyperion'. He doesn't care. He scribbles down the beginning of his epic, his muse incantation, and seals me up and slips me away feeling quite satisfied.
We get back to the bus station. We are waiting for his dinner, the first real meal he will have in ages. He informs me quickly that there were no problems with immigration, that they simply skipped the Brasilian border crossing again. Maybe he got on a special bus. He is mildly disappointed that he has no stamp in his passport, but far more relieved that he didn't need to see the inside of a Paraguayan cargo truck. He is busy correcting the tempo of his incantation, counting syllables off on his fingers...perplexed. I can't resist gloating. This will not work. He sighs and flips me over as his meal comes. He is determined to be a master mimic of style, but will not unless he gets it right. (You will see more of that if he ever actually manages to finish his recently begun, Farewell to Argentina). He eats and drinks and is thoroughly satisfied. I know because I can see it, but also because he tells me so. Only the second time he mentioned his food to me, so he must have been madly starved. He then recounts how he tried to find us accomodation at the MarcoPoloInn and was turned away with the exact phrase, 'Lo siento, pero no hay lugar en el inn', which he thinks appropriate for his Christ-like qualities. Arrogant little prick. After paying the bill, he nods at me in thanks for keeping him company for dinner, and bids me goodnight.
The following day we explored the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls (its the better side, and takes a whole day to see). We rarely spoke as he was busy walking around and clicking away with his camera... in vain, apparently. I am not a needy companion, so I dont mind a quiet day, week, or fortnight. Still, the little contact we had convinced me that he did in fact have another 'Epic' time, despite his dejected acceptance that he wouldn't be able to discuss it Homerically. (I kept the desired title and the beginning as compensation for this). I will leave you for now with a little piece of our conversation from today, so that maybe you too can get an idea of the scale of this place.
Until next time,
--Garganta del Diablo: The Devil's Throat. An appropriate name, for sure. This final edge of the Falls has a 360 drop of water. It literally looks like hell has opened its mouth and is attempting to quench the flames with the whole Iguazu river. You can't see the bottom since thick clouds of mist, churned up like smoke from a furnace, rises up from the depths. Its like standing over a massive, white thunderstorm. The roiling clouds below and the thunderous roar of the water as it enters the pit. Every now and again a plume of mist escapes the gravity, drawn up by some stray wind, and rises geyserlike hundreds of feet in the air. If you are fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on perspective), to be downwind of this, you end up drenched! The hundred s butterflies foolishly attempt to cross this chasm and you can only watch helplessly as they get swallowed by the rising clouds. I tried to take pictures, along with the dozens of other tourists, but its impossible to convey this with pictures. Firstly, its 360. Secondly, its wet! and Thirdly, the pictures all look like they've been taken in fog. Ah well. Epic nonetheless.