Dump 141,000,000 litres of water over a cliff every minute for eternity and you're going to impress people. The power of standing close to any of the 275 or so individual falls that make up Iguazu overwhelms. And yet there is something about all that power being unleashed that is oddly peaceful. As is the walk through the rainforest on both the Brazilian and Argentinian side of the falls. Coatis scurry across the trail to beg for snacks, cicadas hum like tires on the freeway, and a full music library of birds sings as I make my way to the dozens of lookouts along the Argentinian trails. Like Banff or the Grand Canyon, there are too many people collected in one place to make the ecosystem happy, but everyone wants a chance to see from here and here and here. Even some shoulder jostling in the busiest spots can't get me down though. I'm in too much awe from the natural beauty.
A woman on the trail ahead of me begins to scream. A stick bug has leapt onto her backpack. She does a dance that looks ritualistic, spinning in fast circles while bobbing up and down and holding her pack at length. Then she starts whacking at it. Fortunately, her aim is bad and she misses the insect. I heroically come to the stickbug's rescue. “It won't hurt you, it won't hurt you. It doesn't bite.” I try to be reassuring but I can't keep the urgency from my voice. I don't want her to kill it. She holds her pack out like I'm mugging her and she's happy to be rid of it if I'll let her go with her life. And just as I'm about to shovel my hand under the bug, I realize that I don't know that much about stick bugs. I've seen them in the Bug Zoo in Victoria and I've held them in my hands. I know that they're called stick bugs because their long, straw-like shape and green colour helps camouflage them perfectly on the foliage they live in. And here is the very beautiful detail: when it is windy, they dance. They sway and tango as they hold onto branches because if the rest of the plant is blowing in the breeze and they're not, they stand out. Anything that dances in order to hide better can't be dangerous. But my mind asks this question, “Are you sure that all stick bugs are the same? Could there be a rare species of stick bug in the Brazilian jungle whose bite is lethal?
My hand is suspended and rather than cupping that delicate creature I give it a flick with the back of my hand and it crash lands on the brick at the side of the path. The woman with the pack looks at me not with relief and thanks but with what I sense is embarrassment for me. She could have done that herself. Ah well, I was always more the sidekick than the hero anyway. The stickbug climbs a fence and, holding still, disappears.
After six hours of hiking trails, I wander into the interpretive centre near the park gate and read a troubling statistic: the jungle upstream from Foz de Iguazu used to be 1,000,000 acres. There is a map that shows how the area of jungle has been reduced to 60,000 acres in just a few decades. The land for miles around is relatively flat and when we were flying in, I remarked to my brother that it looks like southern Alberta. Because it is southern Alberta now. Miles and miles of range land for the cattle that have made the country wealthy. I'm going to feel quite guilty in the Parrillas (barbeque restaurants) of Buenos Aires. Really, I will.