Photo of the Day - 2.27.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:40 am on Wednesday, February 28, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Argentina

Lichen and a red spider on a tree in Misiones Forest, Argentina
Lichen and Spider
- Misiones Forest, Argentina
Exif: ISO 400; f/4; 1/30 sec; 200mm
12.23.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Heart of Darkness

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:37 am on Wednesday, February 28, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Travel, Nature, Argentina

San Francisco River stretching away to a bend The San Francisco River is a small tributary of the much larger Iguazú River, which runs through the Misiones rainforest. Saturated with iron, which gives it a rich sienna color, the San Francisco is cloaked on both sides by thick green tangles of trees, vines and ferns.

Jorge, our Guaraní guide La Raymunda and I woke up at 5:30 to take a boat trip down the San Francisco. Breakfast was at 6:00 and by 6:30 we were hiking through the rainforest to a boathouse set high on the bank alongside the river. A steep downhill scramble took us to a wooden platform that extended out over the edge of the river, about twenty feet above the water’s surface. A flight of wooden steps ran down to the water and stopped at a small dock where our boat was. Ten of us, including our guides, Greg and Jorge, a Guaraní Indian, piled into the boat. We launched and Greg and Jorge began paddling.

San Francisco River, shoreline The river, perhaps forty feet across and choked with vegetation, evokes the solitude and claustrophobia of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It takes very little effort to imagine you are moving slowly up a forgotten branch of the Congo into deepest, darkest Africa. As on land in the rainforest, the air is still, thick and damp. The only breeze coming from the forward movement of the boat.

Greg, our Polish guideGreg and Jorge paddled for about thirty minutes until we reached the wide-open confluence of the San Francisco and Iguazú rivers. The Iguazú (”Big Water” in the Guaraní language) stretches more than a mile from bank to bank and forms the border between Brazil and Argentina in this part of the region. The river itself churns lazily through an eroded fault in a basaltic layer, thrown up over 100 million years ago by volcanic eruptions, before Dead wood in the river plunging dramatically over a massive span of cataracts a mile and a half wide and over 250 feet high farther downstream. The current is so slow, in fact, that once we entered the main body of Iguazú River it would have taken us twenty-four hours to float to the falls, just a few miles away.

Opening onto the Iguasú River (Brazil's shore on the far side) Inside the boat I stretched out my legs and settled into the easy flow of the river. With Brazil to our right and Argentina to our left, we floated downstream watching birds soar above the water and listening to the gentle, swirling dips of the paddles moving in and out of the water.

A Beatles song called “Tomorrow Never Knows” ran through my head - Turn off your mind/Relax and float downstream…

It wasn’t hard to do on the Iguazú. It wasn’t hard at all.

San Francisco River stretching away to a bend
Jorge, our Guaraní guide (Debra)
San Francisco River, shoreline
Greg, our Polish guide (Debra)
Dead wood in the river
Opening onto the Iguazú River (Brazil’s shore on the far side)

Some other places named “Big Water”:
Lake Okeechobee, Florida, named for the same phrase in Seminole
Lakam Ha, the native name for Palenque, an ancient Mayan city in Chiapas, Mexico
Atlin, British Columbia, taken from the Tlinget  Tlèn
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

Photo of the Day - 2.26.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:26 am on Tuesday, February 27, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Argentina

Guaraní Indian girl
Guaraní girl
- Yacutinga Lodge, Argentina
Exif: f/5; 1/60 sec
12.23.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Songs of the Guaraní

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:25 am on Tuesday, February 27, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Travel, Argentina

On our last night in Yacutinga we were sung to by a chorus of Guaraní Indian children singing Guaraní spiritual songs while standing around the fire. The children stood in rows, holding hands, swaying hand-in-hand and stepping back and forth as they sang. It was just beautiful. One girl, very pretty, was an absolute flirt. She stole glances at us while she sang, smiling and poking and giggling with her girlfriend the entire time.

The children were accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a drum. I was impressed by how the melody, mode and feel of the songs were much like those we heard sung in Tonga and Fiji, half a world away. Could there be a common major key vibe among tribal music? The small sampling of tribal music that I have heard, from Oceania, South America and Africa, seems to share similar traits in the way the melodies rise and fall in harmony, the way they soar and play like birds on the wind. And the songs always sound uplifting. I say this, of course, without knowing what the people are actually singing. They could be singing stories about the rat-bastard Europeans who came to their land and wiped them out with diseases and guns and how they wish they’d all just go back to their cold, grey European countries and die slow, horrible, unremembered deaths there. But if that’s what they are singing about they sure sound cheerful about it.

So my question is this: Does it require modern-day stresses and oppression to create a minor-key blues? If Africans were never enslaved in the New World would the blues never have existed? Or are there examples of minor key music among the world’s tribes? From what I have heard so far it seems that a human’s natural music is not one of oppression but one of joy and hope.

Or maybe I just can’t understand the words and I’m full of hooey.

Photo of the Day - 2.26.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:55 am on Monday, February 26, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Argentina

Image of a sign at Yacutinga Lodge in Argentina
Sign - Yacutinga Lodge, Argentina
Exif: ISO 400; f/3.5; 1/60 sec; 100mm
12.22.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

One Man’s Way to Handle the Heat

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:29 am on Monday, February 26, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Travel, Nature, Argentina

The Debra came out of the shower and found me naked on the bed in a position I won’t describe but which is appropriate only for certain medical exams or the generation of airflow to areas that normally never experience a breeze.

“What on earth are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m fanning my nuts,” I replied.

Yacutinga Lodge is an environment-friendly “resort” plopped in the midst of a sub-tropical Argentine rainforest near Iguazú Falls just south of the Brazilian border. We were there in late December, which south of the Equator is the middle of summer. There is no air conditioning in the bungalows. There are no ceiling fans. Throw open the windows and your dreams of a gentle, cooling breeze fall wet and soggy on the damp ground. The air is still - the only breezes are self-generated. And it was hot. And not normal hot, either. It was a swampy, stagnant, dolorous, stifling, endlessly-sweaty sort of hot.

Hence the fanning of the nuts. 85 degrees and 600% humidity never felt so good.

So why this torture? Because we were on vacation.

Now, before I go any further and lead you to believe that we hated the place, we actually enjoyed it.


Yacutinga has a pool and an outdoor bar and a gathering place where a fire burns round the clock to ward off jungle insects. Inside the lodge is another bar and a dining area and back outside you can climb up to roped skywalks that stretch among the rainforest trees which tower over bungalows scattered along a dirt road that bisects the property. There are knowledgeable guides working there, guides like Greg, who woke us at 5:45 in the morning to take us on nature hikes in the rainforest, who taught us how to tell a male palm tree from a female palm tree, who piloted us in small boats up sienna-colored streams whose banks overflowed with riots of vines, tree roots and giant ferns. We learned how the native Guaraní Indians lived and how they trapped their prey. In short, Yacutinga is a lovely and sedate out-of-the-way spot where life passes lazily in a Fuji Velvia world of rich, oversaturated greens, azure blues…and drip-drip-dripping humidity.

We met a newly-engaged couple in Yacutinga sitting around the fire one night - he was British and she American. I would reveal his name but he might find the following revelation incriminating - so I’ll call him John Doe.

We met up with the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Doe in Buenos Aires a few days after we left Yacutinga Lodge. We ate at a tony restaurant jam-packed with terribly chic and attractive people and whose wait service moved slower, if possible, than the air in the rainforest. (And the air in the rain forest doesn’t move, remember?)

That night, over two bottles of Malbec and plates of steak and seafood, in a moment of forthright honesty, John revealed that I was not the only one obliged to address the overheating of uncooled nether-regions and he confessed to having generated man-made Chinooks to cool his man-bits and under-man-bits.

So see? I’m not as nuts as you might think.

Photo of the Day - 2.25.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:48 pm on Sunday, February 25, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature

Purple Flowers
Purple Flowers - Yacutinga Lodge, Argentina
Exif: ISO 200; f/5.6; 1/1250 sec; 200mm
12.23.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007