As I was queuing to check in for my flight to Iguazú at the airport of Salta, the lady standing next to me suddenly awakened me from my reverie by asking me “Ben je Nederlands?” – “Are you Dutch?” My instinctive reaction was to answer “No, I’m not”. But then felt the need to add “I’m Belgian”. Not so distant from The Netherlands, after all.
Once again, I hadn’t opened my mouth. So I could not possibly have been categorized because of my accent. No. She just thought I “looked” Dutch.
A few years ago, a friend of mine – I can’t remember who ( if you recognize yourself, please step forward ) told me “Oui mais bon. T’as une tête de Flamande, quand même” – “Come on, Sarah. You do look Flemish”. Somehow, I didn’t like the idea of it. I like to think of myself as a chameleon. Obviously, I am not.
It is funny though, how nobody ever thinks you could be “Belgian”. When I speak, people here think I am either Spanish or French. When I keep my mouth shut, they think I am either Argentinian or Dutch. But Belgian? Where is that country anyway? Does it even exist? I mean… The Smurfs. They come from Belgium, right? Are Belgians therefore not supposed to be blue?
So there. I do look Dutch.
The conversation stopped there at first. But then I realized I didn’t book a hostel in Iguazú and maybe this lady who had just read my face could maybe help me with that. I found her back, asked for the information… and while I was at it, if I could sit down and have a coffee at her table. And that, my friends, is how I found my buddy for the next three days. Annabel, a teacher from Amsterdam.
When we arrived at Iguazú, it was already dark. So the visit to the waterfalls would be for the next day. We would start with the Argentinian side.
We were staying in the same room and had only one key for the two of us. And I was the one who received it. Oh boy. Too much responsibility. At one point, Annabel asked for it. I turned the room upside down to find it. It did reappear. And so did the key of the padlock in Salta.
As when I visited the Niagara Falls, in September 2013, my first impression when arriving at the Iguazú Falls, was that I was about to enter an amusement park. As a matter of fact, there is a little train that will take you to the different viewpoints. But we opted to go on foot. On our walk, we were accompanied by colourful butterflies and coatis. I had been warned about those animals by Mathilde, in Puerto Madryn. But, although there were signs forbidding tourists to feed them and warning of their attacks, they looked quite inoffensive.
When we got our first glimpse of the falls, Annabel and I were stunned and started shooting them with our cameras. But then, there would be many other viewpoints, where they would look even more beautiful. Argentina continued to amaze me. Each new place I visited got a “wow” effect on me.
It was lunch time. Our bellies told us so. So we stopped to eat the sandwiches we had bought in the morning. We were enjoying them carelessly when, all of a sudden, popping out from nowhere, we were attacked by 3 or 4 coatis. We were quick to react but couldn’t prevent them running away with the plastic bag we were using as a garbage bag and which contained the remains of two tomatoes. Just incredible how fast they are! And how, apparently, they smell food from far away. There was no coati to be seen when we sat down.
We didn’t take the boat. It was very expensive and I had had the opportunity to approach the Niagara falls that way. There was, however, a pathway that allowed us to get close enough to feel the water. Not that I particularly enjoyed getting wet but being that close you realize the power of the falls. I could hardly breathe.
Back at the hotel, Annabel needed to fix an issue she had with her bank card. A rather nasty one: not being able to get cash anymore. She had been asking for some information at the reception desk and, moments later, a guy came to see me, mistaking me for her, to offer his help. Or at least a few pesos, so that she wouldn’t be without any money. I thanked him, told him that I could lend her what she needed and then asked “You’re Spanish, right?” Positive. Never before had I recognized an accent that clearly. Now I understood why people kept asking me if I was Spanish. I just didn’t realize my accent was that strong.
And so did we get acquainted with Carlos from Madrid and Guadalupe, from Buenos Aires. We had dinner together and, on the following day, the four of us visited the Brazilian side of the Iguazú falls. And… again. What we were seeing was even more impressive than what we had been admiring the previous day. It’s impossible to find the words in which to describe something that is so breathtaking. When you see it, you are astounded. So I can only invite you to go and visit them.