This post is part of a retrospective series on our trip to South America in 2004. In this episode, we drive back from viewing Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side to our hotel in Argentina.
February 1, 2004
After exiting the Bird Park (through the Gift Shop, of course) and noshing on a traditional Brazilian snack of ice cream and cookies, we hopped in the car with our tour guide, Edson, and drove back across the border to Argentina. There was no hassle re-entering Argentina, although we had to give the guard a "tip," a common practice at certain borders. And by "tip" I don't mean, "Don't drink the water," but cash, pesos, moolah, dinero, or whatever the currency happens to be. Anyway, as long as we weren't subjected to body-cavity searches, I was not too upset by the process. I'm not sure the customs officials would have cared for what they found in Alexander's pull-up diaper, which came in handy for long car-rides, and was our secret weapon against overly intrusive border crossing guards.
Edson drove us to the town of Puerto Iguazu for a look around. It was a quiet place, with most shops closed on Sunday. It felt like a mixture of a German hamlet and a Mexican border town. The town had some quaint European-style buildings, painted in pastel colors bleached out by the sun. A few skinny dogs roamed the streets, but otherwise, there was not much happening. The entire town looked like it was taking one long siesta. We drove on through and didn't stop, since there was not much worth stopping for.
Frank wanted to go to the Three Borders Monument or Tres Fronteras, an historic marker with a view of the place where the rivers meet to form the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraquay. I was completely paranoid about this little stop, because I had read a review on TripAdvisor that said, "DO NOT GO TO THREE BORDERS! This place is a tourist trap full of drug-addicted children who will rob and kill you!"
I didn't stop to think that if this were true, the writer would be both broke and dead, so how would he have had the wherewithal to write his opinion on TripAdvisor? Unless, this were his dying wish, to have this warning placed for all to see. It was a warning in ALL CAPS, and you just don't get more serious than that, right?
Anyway, I was wary of the place, and didn't quite like the notion of hanging out with drug-addicted children ready to pounce and force Alexander to start downing tequila at age 3, like Drew Barrymore or Mackenzie Phillips. Edson assured us that it was quite safe during the day, but at night it got a little seedy with teens hanging out with nothing better to do. Kind of like the neighborhood skate park. Or in our town, Starbucks.
Alex fell asleep in the car, so I decided to stay in the car with him while Frank and Edson went to take pictures of the Monument. There was a beat-up sedan parked nearby, with a man and three kids inside. I was looking out the window, eyeballing the sedan and holding Alexander's head in my lap. Suddenly, the door on Alexander's side flew open, startling me. Standing there was a little girl of about seven, in a raggedy green dress and flip-flops, holding a cardboard box, and asking me questions in Spanish, pointing to the box in her hands.
Oh, my God! I thought. A drug-addled child has come to rob and kill us. With God as my witness, I will never doubt TripAdvisor again!
I threw my body over Alex and slammed the door shut, saying, "No gracias! No No No!"
Alex stirred a little, but didn't wake up. The dejected little girl hung her head, and went back to her car. I looked around the car for a weapon, or an blunt object I could hurl if her gang of street urchins decided to try to tip the car over. If Edson had left the keys in the ignition, I had every intention of laying down some rubber and leaving the two men to fend for themselves, so long as my baby was safe.
A few minutes later, the little girl got out of the car and approached Frank & Edson with her box. They both shook their heads, Edson shooed her away, and she retreated. I rolled down the window when the girl was out of sight, and asked Frank what was in the box, fully expecting the answer to be either heroin or hand grenades.
"Cookies," he said.
Cookies? I just slammed the door on a Girl Scout?
"What did you think she was selling?" Frank asked.
"I dunno," I shrugged sheepishly.
As a former Girl Scout, I was certain that I would be stripped of every badge I'd ever earned, except the "Paranoid Tourist" badge. Today, I earned that one.
Photos by Frank, because I would not get out of the car.