Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Foz do Iguaçu

The first thing that comes to mind about “Foz” is water. Water, primarily the Parana and Iguaçu rivers almost define the very existence of this tourist destination. I use the term “tourist” loosely, as the remoteness of the town keeps tourists to only the most adventuresome and curious. Without the Parana River, there would be no Itaipu Dam with the world’s largest producing hydro-electric plant and without the Iguaçu River, those famous, completely spectacular Iguaçu Falls would not have been created. In addition it is also the cornerstone for the Brazilian border with both Paraguay and Argentina as evident by the Marca dos Tres Fronteras (The Three Border Monument). Foz do Iguaçu co-exists not only with Brazil but also in its close proximity to the other two countries with many visitors entering and leaving daily. In addition, our visit was highlighted by our choice of camping facilities. The Hostel Paudimar is beautiful, clean and well-maintained. We were able to have power and water and much to Tom’s surprise and delight, a sewer dump. These have been few and far between and he has had to resort to using the “bucket technique” for emptying our black water tank, not an enviable task but we absolutely refuse to jungle dump. There is laundry service, swimming pool, restaurant and a huge field where we can let Winston run. What more could a traveler need? The other thing we need to do is go to the Paraguayan Consulate in town. Like Brazil, Tom being a US citizen needs a visa; Angela with her UK passport does not. We also have questions regarding the motor home – do we need Carnet (insurance) or not – and Winston. The weather is gloomy and rainy so we spent the first couple of days relaxing at the campground. We are told that by midweek the weather will be sunny for our trip to the falls. Tuesday found us at the consulate. It was easy. With just a photo and payment of $100.00 we have the visa and according to the consulate, driving into Paraguay with the RV and Winston will not be a problem. On the way back to the hostel, we stopped off at the Tres Fronteras Marca. The view is amazing with the Parana River running down the center, Argentina to the left and Paraguay to the right, both national flags clearly visible from our own vantage point on the Brazilian side. Wednesday, we go to Itaipu Dam. Built as a joint venture between the governments of Brazil and Paraguay, Itaipu Dam is the second largest hydro electric plant (China now has the first) in the world but it is the largest producer of hydro-electric power. Classified as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, the dam is a feat of engineering and ingenuity. In addition to the panoramic tour we elected to take the technical tour which gives an overview of not only the workings of the plant but also how Brazil and Paraguay by joint agreement and personnel (50% of employees are Brazilian, 50% Paraguayan) who do not share a common language (Brazilians speak Portuguese and Paraguayans, Spanish) manage to co-ordinate their efforts into this huge power-producing facility. Thursday and Friday, we dedicated to the cataratas, Iguaçu Falls. Spectacular. Awesome. Amazing. Jaw-dropping. There are not enough adjectives to explain the absolutely powerful, thundering, beauty of these falls. Since they border both Brazil and Argentina, they can be viewed from the National Parks on both sides. Wednesday we spent on the Argentina side, doing a boat trip which took us up close and personal to some of the areas. It was very exciting and very wet! Thank goodness it was a sunny day and we could dry off quickly. We were also able via a string of trails and walkways, to get extremely close to many areas of the falls especially an area called Garganta Del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat canyon). The sheer amount of water that cascaded over the edge was amazing. The trail back through the park also provided close encounters with coatmundis, monkeys and, what has quickly become my most favorite of birds, the beautiful Toucan. Friday, we visited the Brazilian side with another couple who are travelling from Ireland. Steve and Jenny have been on the road for three months going first to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Then onto Australia and New Zealand and finally Peru and Brazil before going home to Dublin. They are young, energetic and loving life and Tom and I enjoyed spending the day with them before taking them to the airport to visit Rio before going home. The Brazilian side is more tranquil, more serene and gives the most beautiful panoramic views of these amazing cascades. Again easily accessible trails and walkways give up close and at times very wet experiences. On both days we saw gorgeous rainbows, single, double, triple ones created by the mist and sun. We were truly awe-struck. Everyone, it seems has their favorite side. Neither Tom nor I could decide as both are vastly different and both should be seen. The Argentine side is larger, more developed and more dramatic where as the Brazilian side is definitely more panoramic, scenic and with a greater overview of the falls. We took hundreds of photos, which once I have sorted them, we will post. Friday night we gave ourselves a treat. We got dressed up and went to a dinner and show at the Rafain, an event center in town. It was a churrascaria (Brazilian barbeque) buffet and a show featuring traditional music and dancing from South America. Since we rarely get gussied up and go out for the evening, this was a great way to end a remarkable few days of sight-seeing. Our last 4 days, we stayed around the campground. Tom did a little maintenance on the R.V. and I did some cleaning and preparation for the upcoming border crossing to Paraguay. We gave Winston a much needed bath and generally lazed around enjoying the solitude and sun. Wednesday we will cross the border into Paraguay and as there is little written by overlanders about that small land-locked country we are not quite sure what awaits us. Exciting!

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