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Fall Season at Iguazu

23 March , 2008

Visitng Iguazu Falls on the Argentine/Brazil border

The Autumn/Fall Collection is out on display in Iguazu this year, in a blaze of striking monochromes. Set against a fabulous variety of greens in the dense rainforest foliage, which extends over miles of the region across the Brazil/Argentine border, a startling array of Blacks and Whites marked the designers’ moods this Fall. 

The wildlife  

First up, the Coatis, whose black and white raccoon tails perfectly accessorised their brown stoat-like clumsy bodies, as they scuppered amongst the shrub, foresting for food. All programmes are marked with warnings that, no matter how much they might smile and batter their lashes, coatis are not to be fed. Size zero, it seems, is maintained with rigour across these parts. 

The Vultures are, as ever, resplendent in their funereal blackness as they soar in packs over the forest canopy, landing to sleep with an eye crooked open on a single naked tree, all hooded and gothic, as the dark night creeps in overhead. Contrast could be found in the Toucans, whose shining squat black and white coats, glossed to a perfect finesse, are lit up by their magnificent yellow beaks, an oversized coating of bold lipstick so clown-like that one could believe they requested extra lip filler just to look different. Or it could have been botox, since the beaks are so rigid that they practically cause the birds to topple sideways out of the high branches. 

As the sun came out, so did a kaleidoscope of butterflies, with uniformly black slim bodies, dressed up in vintage lace designs, red and orange spots, electric blue wings and every bright blockprint imaginable. These girls are all about pretty, and they certainly know it as they flit about all over the place, eliciting exclaims of “how beautiful”, everywhere they go.  

The reptiles, also out with the sun, maintain their image as the gangsters of the neighbourhood. As ever, they let the side down with their monotonous greys. It is true that the odd lizard got somewhat decked out for the new collection in greens that would change to yellows according to the stage backdrop, but by and large, the reptiles hung back from accessories and stuck decidedly with shades of grey. As we traipsed over the raised walkways which crossed the broad tributaries of the river Iguazu, a dark grey crocodile lay sunning himself on the rocks just a couple of metres below us, face turned to one side to maximise his sun tan. Too much meat lends one to laziness, definitely not lithe and in shape. Perched on rocks a few ripples away sat a group of turtles, also preferring the camouflage shades this season. Very military. Thankfully, no serpents were out on show this year and the author of this piece had no reason to freak out. 

The big cats

Fur is happily out of favour again this season: For all my fevered imaginings of pink pumas and beady-eyed jaguars, the big cats were nowhere to be seen, though they stalk these catwalks of Natural beauty. Given the advice of backpacker’s Vogue (Known quietly, in a whisper, as the Lonely Planet), this was a good thing. That sage of wisdom counselled as follows: 

Park wildlife is potentially dangerous; in 1997 a jaguar killed the infant son of a park ranger. Whilst this is not a cause for hysteria, visitors should respect the big cats. In the unlikely event that you encounter one, don’t panic. Speak calmly, but loudly, do not run or turn your back on the animal, and do everything possible to appear bigger than you are, by waving your arms or clothing for example”. 

My companion practised this routine by flapping her red lycra skirt around madly. Frankly, I am convinced that would drive any creature to madness. As we say, fur looks much better on the television. The lack of any sighting on the catwalk this season was no doubt to be welcomed. 

The stars of the show – the Falls themselves 

The stars of the show – the ones we were all waiting eagerly to glimpse, from afar or near, whatever we were given – were the Falls themselves. Pouring, bursting and hurling torrents of white water over the black cliff faces, it is though the river is leaping from the earth and freefalling as far as the crater will let it go. Blessed with front-row seats, we viewed these creations from every possible angle, soaked by the mist as we gaped, mouths-open, from below, eyes glazed over as we stood literally beside the masses of water being flung down without mercy for any creature who may find itself in its clutches.

Brazil vs Argentina

Different views are afforded by crossing over the Brazil from Argentina, and no designer worth his salt today is content with showing his collection in just one location. We made the trip to both sides of the border, noticing the different habits of the human species on both sides too. The Argentine audience remained as addicted to its yierba maté tea as ever, carting around giant thermoses of the green leaves and hot water concoction, in leather or plastic cases specially attached to the hips for the occasion. Despite the heat and humidity, it seems maté is the new champagne for these folk. The Brazilians were having none of that. Tiny shorts, large ice creams and belly laughs came out of this audience. Both were equally appreciative of the catwalk, they just strutted around it in a different manner. 

An unfortunate ending  

Apparently, when the Falls first became open for public viewing, the locals would make a buck by rowing the aspiring photographers to within an inch of the Falls, and the furiously row on the spot whilst they looked down and took pictures. Eventually, one hapless canoeist did not have the strength to row against the overpowering current and the whole boat was taken down the chute, so to speak. Nowadays, those who make their way to the Devil’s Throat can view the giant whirlpool from a safe, but wet distance, over artfully constructed bridges on both sides of the border. The sheer unworldly scale of the water is overwhelming. No one with vertigo should attempt the views from above. 

A happier ending 

 Our unrivalled access allowed us to sleep without curtains to the gushing roar of the water all night, waking at first light to see the black curtains being raised over the jungle, giving way to the spectacle of white mists and spray over the Falls glowing red with the sun’s first rays. By dusk, our caipirinhas afforded us a blurry vision of the rocks, jungle and waterfalls that we had been climbing all day, and when we closed our eyes, we could hear the rush and see the shower of water that some wizard had created. So magical seemed these moments that we could have sensed the spirits of the jungle present in every flower and plant that we laid eyes on, and more profoundly, in those we could not see. 

What a tremendous privilege, and what a spectacle! This year’s Fall, it’s all about Iguazu. 

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