The Iguazu Falls vs Itaipu Dam

We walked through the gates into another spotless Brazilian airport, everything was extremely smooth, organised and not a queue in sight. In 15 minutes we were ready to board the plane and before we knew it were looking at the night time Sao Paulo skyline, pointing out the features we recognised for seeing it from the BANESPA tower. In just an hour and a half we were at our stop over where things were not so smooth. The plane was delayed by an hour and a half. Being there 2 hours before we needed to be already this meant a fair wait at the airport. We had a chocolate McDonalds icecream as it was the only food stuff that was not hiked by 3 times the usual price and added some of our 100% pure Bahian cacau, which is a novel contrast! We sucked up the over priced coffee on this ocassion as well to pass the time, did some budgeting and discussed our future manouvers, which we had plainly ignored on the farm.

Some planes showed delays due to Meteors, which is more interesting that the palm off excuse of “leaves on the line”. Either way we ended up on the next short flight of 1 hour to Puerto Iguacu in Brazil and soon on the ground andlooking for a taxi.  This was a problem as it turned out that the airport was a long 40 Rs (13 pound) ride to our hostel.  Not good, as this is more than our daily budget.  So I asked a guy in broken Portuguese whether we could share a ride and soon we were hurtling down the road with 3 other guys in the 3am humidity of Iguacu (Iguazu in Portuguese).

We experienced our first accommodation problem at this point.  In a rush to book somewhere as we were leaving Sao Paulo I booked 2 places in the girls dormitories, there was a conference in town and there were no spaces.  As a result I had a sofa that was too short for me. The outside hammock was tempting but the swarms of mosquitoes and high risk of malaria in this region deterred me and made me suffer lack of fan and oppressive heat instead.  People stomping around all night and early morning led to a bad sleep.  We were going to rest next day, but after chatting to a guy about the merits of the Iguazu Falls on both the Argentine and Brazilian side, decided to push through and see the Brazilian side.

Well it certainly was worth it!  30Rs (12 pounds) to get in we were taken on a bus joined by a friendly cricket to the first view point where you got your first sight of the falls.

The 2km walk towards “devils throat” delivered better and better sights of this amazing spectacle.  Apparently 1,746 cubic meters of water cascade down this formation every second.

82 meters high this waterfall is intense and amazing.  Every turn you are saying wow again!  It really helped that the weather was spot on for us.  At this point we are thinking how amazingly lucky we have been with the weather in general.  It was cloudy to protect against intense sun and yet the acattered cumulus clouds looked beautiful in the setting and let through enough sun for fantastic lighting.

We ended up spending about 3 hrs in the park, ate our packed lunch that was taken from breakfast (cheese and ham toasties made by Laura herself!)  and pushed through our heavy, tired heads.

That evening we headed for another Rodizio, which we had heard was really good and cheap.  These are the two words we are interested in, especially relating to food!  The good news was that after an ongoing battle with Barclays and having 3 debit cards sent out, requesting telephone banking and other assortments of numbers that led us to Itacare, spending more money etc. they finally put some cash onto my credit card. So with the first amount of cash to spend in months I feel plush and pay by card.  What a novelty that felt and they mistook a beer for a soft drink, which made it even cheaper (44Rs or 18 pounds for 2 of us).  Great for all you can eat BBQ, salad and 3 beers!  We saluted Brazil for being such a good host and to our last Rodizio on our travels, thanksful that Argentina should be as good for its BBQs!

That night I was upgraded to the hottest room in the hostel, which saw me pacing around at 2:30am outside in the relative cool, dousing myself in water and trying to sleep again.  Another bad nights sleep, which was not enabling recovery from drunken Sao Paulo. Either way, more tired the next day we decided to go to the Itaipu Dam.  We may have mentioned that this was “Nazca Nick´s” (the guy from Leeds we met in Santa Cruz) favourite place in the whole of South America.  Despite not being the person you would take advice from, it often makes things more interesting when you do.

Plus it would be a great comparison. Man vs Nature. What is more spectacular?

Our Footprint let´s call it toilet paper only worthy guide book said this was free and gave us the times.  Both wrong, as so many other times when it has suggested prices and somethings existence. It was Rs20 each and we had the pleasure of a 20 minute marketing introduction on how great and environmentally sound the place was.  Did you know that they created a zoo to save the species they displaced in the first place?  Good work guys!  On the plus side they do produce enough power for all of Paraguy and for 18% of the whole of Brazil, with a population of 199 million!  This is perhaps not surprising since the area of the whole damn is 18,000 sq km and is 182 meters at its tallest.  This dwarfs the Iguazu Falls´82 meter height.  The water volume the overflow can release is over 72,000 cubic meters per second, so 42 times the amount of Iguazu.  So there are the figures. Here it is.

This is only about 1/5 of the whole damn which stretches for 3km in total across Brazil and Paraguy. Power, work and everything relating to the damn is share by the two countries. Benefits and cost.  Looks ugly though doesn´t it.  Powerful, but not intense.  Strong not flexible.  Ugly not beautiful.

We took an airconditioned bus in the baking around the damn with a guide who was good at his job and could answer all my “boring” questions about the turbines etc.

The damn was amazing, it is the largest in the world and one of the 7 wonders of the engineering world. The Iguazu Falls are currently in the shortlist as one of the 7 wonders of the natural world and in my view needs to be in there.

So after our 2 hour tour around Itaipu, we concluded that Iguazu was more spectacular, but it was good to see something man made as we had not seen something like this yet on our travels.

Back to the hostel where our bags were already packed we set off the the bus stop towards Argentina.  A fast stop off to grab our exit stamp from Brazil marked the 20th January 2010.  I asked a couple who turned out to be Columbian about the location of a few things.  Luckily it turned out they could speak better Spanish than us and were going to the same place.  Voted the second best hotel, sorry, hostel in the world in 2009.

Another bus took us to the centre and then together after grabbing our first wad of 600 Pesos. Every amount we get out of the cash point amounts to about 100 pounds so we know the kind of increments we are working with when we look at our bank statements. This works well to help identify fraud and also how quickly you are burning through cash (or not). We recommend this practice.  So with a new conversion rate of 6.33 pesos to the pound we get a cab and arrive to the sight of the largest swimming pool in town and loads of young to middle aged people swaggering or posing next to the pool.

The next thing we saw was old people.  I like old people I really do, but old people do not go to any hostel. Does not happen.  This place is more like a hotel.  The reception was busy, the atmosphere bustly with people playing games, jumping in the pool, loud music being played.  This was an 18- 30s resort surely!  We debated the definition of a hostel and concluded that it was ultimately any place with domitories and a share kitchen for use.  Even though here most people ate the buffet and lived in 2- 3 bedroom houses reminiscent of suburbia.  Brick individual houses!  The place was nice but this kind of standard comes at a price we are rarely able to pay.

This was 45 pesos per night, although we chose the room with broken air-con, cheaper than the cheapest room literally.  This was still 7.50 pounds though and the drinks were 2.50 for a cocktail or 1 pound for a can!  Good job we crought a last minute bottle of cachaca from Brazil for 2 pounds per litre!

I sat that afternoon on the Internet writing the blog and Laura went to grab some supermarket food.  Meat in Argentina is not cheap despite being produced here.  Either way we grabbed some mince and now being accustomed to Brazilian food, black beans, onions and the usual, cheap tomato/ spaghetti combo.  Laura also picked up a 2007 bottle of red wine for 18 pesos or 3 pounds- we are definately now in wine country! A bottle of good wine, a few years old is just not possible in Brazil.  Their wine is all over 12 pounds a bottle for rubbish sweet headache juice.

Unfortunately our bottle of cachaca got the better of us and we drank too much.  That decided our fate in waiting for our Iguazu Falls visit from the Argentinian side till the following day.

The next day was a day of recovery, pool side relaxation and Intenret, Internet and Internet.  A backlog of writing is hard, as the detail is crucial and this is harder to remember!

The next day came and we headed out early with another gorgeous day on our side, the same weather as on the Brazilian side.  Suspicious that despite the assertion that this side was to be better, we wondered how that was even possible.  It was.  100 pesos or 16 pounds meant we had a train ride and experienced a much larger area of the falls, some of which are hidden from the Brazilian side.

We started at the finish and after a 15 minute gang plank walk over the rio Iguazu we reached Devils throat, this time looking down into the cascading water and hearning up close and personal the roar of this huge torrent of water falling into the chasm. Really incredible.  The spray stretches up and soaks everyone when the wind changes.  This is a real waterfall!

Although the Iguazu Falls on both sides are touristy, this is to be expected with such an amazing sight and worth all the people.  Even the Americans who tell you off for smoking “in a national park”. Shame he didn´t get the memo that said that US laws are different to other countries and where he was. Idiot.

Anyway we spent around 7 hours walking around the board walks, past more and more waterfalls that make up Iguazu. Permanent rainbows abound, sheer drops combined with small pools and stepped cascades.  Really beautiful.

I am not sure about you but this reminds me of scenes from the Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?   We ended at the best place, underneath one of the major falls, getting soaked with the spray and with a clear rainbow surrounding the mist.

Leaving the park we appreciated having seen both sides, as the Brazil side was all about the panorama of the falls, while the Argentine side was about looking over the falls and getting up close.

We headed back to the hostel happy and enjoyed our last generic meal of beans and meat and pasta, while watching everyone else eat a BBQ and the “entertainment” of a Bahian guy with a drum and carnival dancer. We had seen that in Sao Paulo and this was just tacky, especially getting the guys to come onto the walkway “stage” to rub bums with the dancer.  Cheap resort style entertainment that made us cringe.  We had an evening swim and went to bed at about midnight to get up early for our bus ride to San Ignacio Mini.  One of the best restored sites of the Jesuit missions, which we had missed in Bolivia.

Onwards and towards real Argentina!

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