Arriving in Puerto Iguazu

I was very ready to leave the next morning and relieved that my digestion had improved. After a quick breakfast at the hotel where we had spent the night in two separate beds, we took a taxi to the bus station and purchased tickets for the ride to Puerto Iguazu, the Argentinian town nearest to Iguazu Falls.

The bus ride was uneventful and we walked the two blocks from the station to our hotel with my rolling luggage clacking on cobblestones when I couldn’t navigate a flat path through the streets. Often, we put Guille’s bag on top of mine so we could roll them both along rather than carry them.

After a brief siesta and cleanup in the hotel, we went out for a walk through the town. We searched for a restaurant for dinner and, after wandering around a bit more after finding the restaurant we preferred, we returned and ate there. I got a great salad with lots of vegetables, including peas which Guille doesn’t like, then he had ravioli and I had gnocchi with pesto sauce.

Before entering the restaurant, Guille asked if he could purchase a bracelet as a souvenir, then for dinner he asked about the price of an expensive glass of wine and ordered it. I got a bit antsy about the financial aspect of things but felt uncomfortable bringing it up in the restaurant. We had some uncomfortable tense moments before talking about it. I explained that I was trying to keep to a certain limit on spending each day and apologized for not talking with him about it sooner. I told him I really wanted him to be happy. He apologized for asking for expensive things, which actually weren’t that expensive, and I felt bad about bringing up the whole topic. We seemed to work things out then walked back to the hotel.

4×4 to Posadas

We drove in a 4×4 from Ypa Sapukai posada in Colonia Pelligrini to Posadas. We stayed at a lousy hotel. We walked around town, spent a couple of hours catching up on email at an Internet cafe, and ate a couple of meals, the first at a pizzeria and the second at a fancier pasta place, where one waiter dropped some dishes with one broken piece sliding dramatically across the entire length of the restaurant, coming to rest under a table by the front entrance, to the surprise of many of the guests and seemingly unnoticed by the staff. We ate too much at the restaurant but, perhaps bolstered by the bottle of wine we drank, decided to get ice cream as well. I suggested the small dish but Guille insisted on a larger one. Dirty children came by our table begging for spare change. I tried to give them the ice cream but Guille was horrified and the kids didn’t want it and quickly moved on. Guille thought I meant for him to share the ice cream with the kids, rather than just giving it to them.

We wandered the streets of Posadas a bit more, heading toward the walkway by the port, but suddenly I didn’t feel so well in my digestive tract, so we headed back to the hotel. Sure enough, I had a bit of diarrhea. That settled my feelings about Posadas.

A Day By the Pool

The next day, the new guests headed out on the boat ride while Guille and I spent the day jogging and swimming in the pool on the hotel grounds. He can do cartwheels and even flips on the lawn and can run much faster than I can. He’s also easily embarassed by things I would never even think to worry about — for example, he insisted on holding a small towel over his swimsuit while running after swimming in the pool, yet he snuck his swimsuit off to swim completely naked a couple of times too.

In some ways, travelling with Guille is idyllic. He’s gorgeous for one. When he touches me, I go crazy. And most of the time when he’s not touching me, I’m still lusting after him.

He’s a big fashion fan and loves the stars and everthing that has to do with them. He fantasizes about helping stars who are in trouble and loves the music of Madonna (which I kind of like) and Britney Spears (where are my ear plugs?!), and others. He has little interest in local film, prefering horror and suspense films from the U.S.

I’m not really sure what attracts him to me — perhaps because I’m the first norteamericano he has made love with — or some kind of mythical association with the U.S. and all the stars? He has preferred older guys in the past. And he worries that I am just attracted to him for sex, which is definitely not the case, although I really love making love with him.

He likes to sleep until 1:00pm every day and recently lost a hairdressing job when the owner of the shop shut it down and didn’t bother to contact him. I have to decide how much further to travel with him. Considerations: compatibility, cost, experiences enhanced, experiences missed (like meeting other guys).

Anyway, after a lovely day by the pool, we joined the other guys for dinner at the hotel. The hotel staff, with whom Guille was by now quite intimate, prepared a local gaucho (cowboy) breakfast which looked really heavy and wasn’t vegetarian — they had forgotten to prepare a vegetarian dish for me but showed up with rice and eggs a bit later. Dessert was a flan with caramel.

After dinner, we all went for a couple of drinks — Quilmes beer in large amber bottles — at the only bar in town, which also served as a bike rental and souvenir shop. I met some cute guys from Entre Rios at the next table who worked a tractor in the countryside. I noticed a family resemblance between two of them and asked if they were brothers — turns out they were cousins. One of them laughed and looked at me in a kind of flirting way before leaving, which made Guille jealous.

A local mule trudged up to a window and stuck his head in as if expecting us to give him a beer. A cowboy sat with his pre-teenage son, both sharing a big bottle of beer. Strange black beetles flew into the light then flopped helplessly on their backs on the ground.

On the way back to the hotel, we tried without success to recognize any of the constellations in the beautiful starry sky.

Life in Ibará

We woke up at 8:00am to take a “lancha” (boat) on the lagoon to see all the animals and plant life. The carpinchos and caimanes (alligators) live with endangered species of deer and hundreds of species of birds on remarkable floating islands called embalsados. We saw (and photographed) all kinds of animals, but my favorite is still the carpincho. Guille preferred the caimanes, and I have to admit that the newly hatched alligator babies were very cute.

Our guide Emilio explained that the male (macho) carpinchos have a gland in their foreheads which secretes a substance they use to mark their territory. The strongest macho carpinchos apparently have a harem of several female carpinchos that are only accessible to other male carpinchos when the strongest macho is sleeping. I asked Emilio what the other carpinchos did when not sneaking time with the female carpinchos and he suggested that some of them probably spent time together.

Everyone at the hotel seems comfortable with Guille and my relationship which, although only a week old has blossomed. We did have a moment of confusion when we first arrived about our request for a “matrimonial” bed. The hotel manager asked if we were married and we both answered yes, although I couldn’t help laughing about it.

I decided I should write a children’s story about life on the embalsados.

After the boat ride, wwe took a siesta in our room, then we walked over the bridge to the “interpretation center” and two paths in the ecological reserve: the monkey path and the little hill path. We saw several monkeys and trees with hanging plants, but the mosquitos were intolerable so we didn’t stay for long. The other path wasn’t very interesting. We ran into the Spanish tourist from the bus.

We returned to the Ypa Sapukai posada and took a siesta along with some maté, using the maté tea, the maté cup made from a calabasa pumpkin gourd, the thermos, and the matera bag we used to hold it all, that we had purchased in Montevideo. The hotel staff prepared us vegetarian tortillas (like omelettes) for dinner and three new guests joined us at the hotel (we had the entire place to ourselves up to that point): a guy from Portland, Oregon, and two guys from Slovakia (Milo and Peter).

We were most happy to meet Milo and Peter because they also were seeking a way to head north from Colonia Pelligrini rather than taking the long way around to the falls at Iguazu with the broken-down bus back to Mercedes. We saved a bunch of cash by splitting the cost of the 4×4 vehicle rather than paying it all ourselves.

A Crazy Ride to Ibará

After grabbing a quick breakfast at Hotel El Sol, Guille and I took a taxi to the bank where we kept the young driver waiting for more than a half hour while changing money. We made it to the bus station in time to catch the bus for Colonia Pelligrini, the site of the ecological reserve called Esteros de Ibará.

The bus ride was crazy — an old bus packed full of people and supplies. We traveled to several local homes  looking for passengers before heading on our way to Colonia Pelligrini. The road was packed dirt and quite muddy in places where the rain from a recent storm gathered.

Along the way, we came across a broken-down van with several tourists and a drunk man, probably a migrant ranch worker, who we dubbed the “cowboy”. After shuffling people and luggage around for half an hour, we were ready to continue on our way.

About ten minutes later, the bus’ motor died and the driver and faretaker went through a complex procedure to get it started again. This gave us a welcome break to stretch our legs from the cramped position we were in.

Crazy Bus Breaks Down on Journey to Esteros de Ibará, Argentina

The drunk cowboy offended Guille when he boarded with a muddy bag that he rubbed on Guille’s coat and hand as he sat down, practically in Guille’s lap. Finally, I told the guy to move over onto the wooden plank the faretaker had placed across the middle aisle for him to sit on. Guille said it wasn’t necessary — I replied that it was for me, not for him — and I could see that Guille was relieved when the guy did move over.

Then he started coming on to the Spanish woman seated nearby, which horrified most of the people on the bus. I wanted to help, but there wasn’t much I could do except ask her if she was upset and wanted to change seats. She said she preferred not to change, but eventually the outrage of the other passengers was so great that a forceful local woman practically dragged her to another seat, which she admitted afterwards was more pleasant.

A little while later, we noticed the smell of wine on the bus and a puddle of wine on the floor. Several people checked the cases of wine stored on the floor to see if they had broked, but it turned out that it was a box of wine in the dirty bag the cowboy brought on board that had spilled everywhere. He took the box of wine out of the bag and started drinking more. He was so drunk that even Guille couldn’t understand much of his Spanish. He claimed to have German parents and tried to speak a few words of German with me.

His skin was the texture of leather, hardened and bronzed by the sun. Had he not been eternally drunk, he could have been a handsome man. Finally, he got off the bus at a local ranch and tried to persuade a man there to hire him, or so it seemed.

As we neared the ecological reserve, we saw more of the diversity of animal and plant life, including the first capibaras, known locally as carpinchos, that I had ever seen. Guille calls them big rats, but I think of the carpinchos as huge guinea pigs and I find them adorable. For that reason, I gave Guille the nickname of “carpinchito” (small capibara).

The bus ride scheduled for three hours ended up taking six hours, but we did finally, after miles of “mud skiing,” end up at Colonia Pelligrini, where there is a charming campground and the wonderful Ypa Sapukai hotel where we are staying. After watching the sunset from a little tower on the hotel grounds, we had a vegetarian meal and slept well.