This is a retrospective series on our trip to South America in 2004. In this episode, we spend a restless night traveling, and finally make it to Iguazu Falls, Argentina.
January 29-30, 2004
On the first leg of our southbound journey, we boarded an American Airlines plane in San Jose for a non-stop flight to Dallas, Texas. American had only recently added a Dallas to Buenos Aires flight, and we took advantage of that convenient route. Our San Jose flight was delayed forty-five minutes on the runway when someone noticed a "smokey smell" in the cabin, which caused maintenance crew to come out to inspect. Being plagued by unknown noxious fumes doesn't bode well for the start of a trip. Fortunately, they didn't find anything, but the delay made us nervous about our connection in Dallas.
We made it in time for our flight to Argentina, with a little time to spare. Alexander was very well-behaved on both flights, something I attribute to his bringing along a little traveling companion named Charlie. Charlie is a little stuffed bear (one of many in his collection) that was his designated buddy for this trip. On a trip to Japan the year before, we lost his beloved baby blanket "Becky" and noticed that traveling with him was something of a nightmare without a little bit of home along for the ride. So, we picked out Charlie the Bear as his travel companion, and it worked like a charm. Charlie didn't exactly replace Becky in Alexander's affections, but he was close enough to get Alexander to sleep for six hours straight on the flight from Dallas to Buenos Aires.
I could not sleep at all during the flight. I don't like sleeping on airplanes, and usually stay awake until the final hour or so of a long flight. During the flight, I struck up a conversation with two ladies sitting in our row who were en route to Argentina to catch a ship to Antarctica. I mentioned that Frank had been there in 1992, and they told us they were going to be onboard the Marco Polo. Frank whispered to me that this was the ship that he heard every single passenger got sick on in 1992, and that he was grateful he took a different tour. They were so excited, I didn't want to spoil it for them, but I hoped they brought plenty of Dramamine just in case. Cruises to Antarctica are through notoriously rough seas, so it's a good idea no matter what.
On the morning of January 30, we landed in Buenos Aires at 9:30 am at the International Airport, and had to make our way across town to the Domestic Airport by 1:00 pm to catch our flight to Iguazu Falls. This was akin to landing at JFK in New York, only to have to go to LaGuardia to catch your connecting flight. Frank was a little nervous about making it through customs, finding our bags, and getting a taxi to the airport in time.
Did I mention that neither one of us speaks Spanish? I had one semester of Spanish in law school, and for anything other than telling people "I am your lawyer. Please be quiet with the police," ("Yo soy su abogado. Por favor, silencio con la policia.") and asking, "Donde esta el bano?" ("Where is the bathroom?") I am not much use unless we were arrested or really needed to go potty. I brought along a Spanish phrasebook, just in case, and figured with my mad skills with intransitive verbs, we would be fine. Frank was not so sure.
We got through customs with no trouble, retrieved our bags, and for some reason had to have them screened before leaving the airport. At the baggage conveyor belt, Alexander insisted, quite emphatically, that he be able to put the bag on by himself. The bag was almost as big as he was, and he struggled, but any time we tried to lend a hand, he protested. The customs official gave me a disapproving glare and told me in Spanish to "help the boy," so I did, deciding that it was better to face a screaming toddler than a strip search.
Outside the customs area, we found the "Remises" Stand, which is where you hire a taxi. We had been advised that Buenos Aires cabbies were notorious for taking unsuspecting tourists on scenic tours of the city and running up the fare, so we should pay in advance at the Remesis Stand inside the airport. The attendant there spoke perfect English, and helped us out to the car.
The driver was a very tiny young woman who drove a small white car with a cavernous trunk, surprisingly large enough to hold all of our luggage. I was disturbed by the fact that there was no seatbelt for Alexander in the car (or anyone else for that matter) and spent the entire ride with Alexander in a death grip with my arms around his waist as he squirmed.
My first impression of Buenos Aires from the back of the taxi was that it looked a great deal like Texas. Large superhighways encircled a sprawling city with no central skyline, much like Houston. I mentioned this to Frank, and he didn't think the weather was quite as bad as in Houston, but it was still pretty muggy all the same.
We made it to the Domestic Airport with plenty of time to spare, and had no trouble finding our connecting flight on Aerolineas Argentina to Puerto Iguazu. While we were looking for our counter, we were approached by a representative from a luggage security firm who offered to wrap our bags in layer upon layer of plastic wrap for mere 15 pesos (about $3 us). Along with the hermetic sealing, they offered some additional loss insurance, so we tried it out. Alex was completely enthralled with the bag-wrapping process, which was basically setting the bag on a big lazy Susan and spinning around and around while wrapping plastic wrap around it.
In the entry to the terminal, they were playing a funny video cartoon of bag that was wrapped compared to his friend, who remained unwrapped. The unwrapped bag was subjected to sun, water, and heat exposure, theiving ants and hostile, pinchy crabs. The wrapped bag, on the other hand, stayed pristine. I remember this video very clearly, not because it was such a great product/service, but because Alex made me watch it about 20 times. In their fully-wrapped condition, I half expected butterflies to emerge from the luggage when we finally cut open their cocoon.
We ate lunch in the upstairs portion of the airport at an Italian fast food place called Strada. There was a small play area with a plastic playhouse and slide that Alexander enjoyed. He tried to make friends with two little Spanish-speaking girls, but they seemed a little frightened of our big, rambunctious American boy.
Even though it was only an hour and forty minute flight, the flight attendant hopped up immediately once we were in the air and started serving beverages and sandwiches. I thought this was nice, given the fact that most US airlines have long since abandoned giving out anything other than peanuts or pretzels on short flights.
I started to nod off during the flight, the fatigue from being up all night finally catching up with me. For some reason, this upset Alexander tremendously, so he kept yelling "Wake up, Mommy! Wake up!" every blessed time I would close my eyes.
Flying into Iguazu Falls, I finally woke up long enough to be astounded by the beauty of the rainforest below. As far as the eye could see were verdant, lush jungle in every imaginable shade and variation of green. The landscape was punctuated by undulating rivers flowing through the junglescape, breathtaking, alive and vibrant.
We landed in Iguazu around 3:30, and found our luggage easily in the tiny airport with only two gates. We found the remises stand and hired a car to take us to the Sheraton Iguazu Hotel, located inside Iguazu National Park, our home away from home for the next few days.
Exhausted after a day and a half of travel, we had arrived at our destination at last.
Top Photo: First glimpse of Iguazu Falls, taken by Glennia; two additional photos taken by Frank. Photos in this blog are all rights reserved and may not be copied or distributed without permission.