How to get marooned in a monsoon on your sabbatical

There’s nothing quite like the look on someone’s face when you tell them your agency offers a month-long, paid vacay, just for sticking around for a while. Well that’s what I got to experience earlier this year – four weeks of total bliss, travelling around South America with my partner (in crime), Jack.

Or so I thought…

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time. Brazil and Argentina are incredibly beautiful countries. The culture was contagious, the food and wine (mainly steak and Malbec) were delicious and switching off from the world we know was pure bliss.

But what will really be stuck in my mind forever is our visit to the Iguazu Falls, a vast system of 275 waterfalls, spanning 2.7 kilometres on the border joining Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The day we were at the mercy of the most awesome display of Mother Nature’s power we’ve ever beheld.

So, if you’re thinking of being edgy and visiting a tropical climate but think playing it safe is boring, here’s my guide to getting marooned in a monsoon on your sabbatical:

  1. Check the skies – Regardless of how far away they are, and how gloriously hot and sunny it is at the present time, make sure that ominously dark clouds are clearly visible on the horizon, no more than a few hundred miles away. That way you definitely won’t escape the monsoon that’s brewing.
  2. Ensure you’re an un-safe distance away from safety – If you want to get that thrill, don’t make your escape easy. Like us, you may want to ensure you’re perfectly situated at the end of a 1km long spindly, metal bridge, which protrudes over the end of one of the world’s largest and most dangerous waterfalls. Aptly named ‘Devil’s Throat’, this waterfall plunges for over 80 metres into a milky abyss that emits a constant mist so that you can’t see the bottom.
  3. Be unequipped for getting drenched, and electrocuted – Be a proper tourist. Wear a sundress, or board shorts and a wife-beater if you’re Jack. Don’t put your water-poof rain coat on or that will make it less easy to get electrocuted (especially with the abundance of trees around you and water flowing beneath you). Definitely wear flip flops as this will make running to safety difficult in the slippery water. And finally, make sure all your valuables are in a non-water-proof bag so that your camera and phone give up and you won’t be able to travel with your bloated passport.
  4. Be ready to leg it – Don’t forget to look out for the mobs of other tourists who’ve also had your brilliant idea. If you’re on the spindly bridge like us, the flight back to shore will be a lengthy affair. And when the heavens finally open and all hell breaks loose, get ready to run with the rest of them. Watch out for the lightning bolts too, they’ll be coming for you…
  5. Don’t speak the local lingo – Finally, when you get to the shore and need to get on a mode of transport to escape the water pouring down on you and filling your eyes so you can’t see, ensure you don’t speak the local language. That way, when you present your sodden ticket to the instructor, you won’t be able to explain to him or her that it used to be valid, and he’ll drive off without you. Who needs to speak Portuguese anyway!

Jokes aside now, it was an epic experience. Aside from now knowing what not to do when in danger of being swept away in a tropical storm, my sabbatical enriched me as a person. I had the time I needed to unwind, relax, reflect and have fun; to get out of the London bubble and appreciate a small part of all the beauty the world has to offer.

Thank you, Octopus Group, for giving me the experience of a lifetime!