After exploring options by land (I.e. Bus), I decided to fly to Foz do Iguaçu (in Brazil). It was a good thing that I set aside several days to explore the region in detail.
Iguazu Falls … On the Brazil/Argentina/Paraguay intersection, shared between Brazil and Argentina. To get to Argentina’s Iguazu National Park, I had to ping-pong between Brazil and Argentina. I had entered and exited Argentina when I visited Argentina. I had exited and entered Argentina when I visited Uruguay (My flight was from Buenos Aires). Today, I exited Brazil and entered Argentina. Around 45 minutes later, due to some goof-up with the bus, I “accidentally” exited Argentina back into Brasil, instead of going on to Argentina’s Iguazu National Park. Within 5 minutes, I entered Argentina again! I must have set some World Record for the fastest Argentina Exit-Entry … 🙂 (Or Brazil Entry-Exit). I get a feeling that Argentina Immigration must have had enough of me by now.
On the way to Iguazu National Park, there are road signs saying “Look out for Jaguars and Puma”! The Park has within it, Green Trail, Lower Trail, Upper Trial Etc. Explored all the trails in around 3hr. There was a point where I got irritated. There was a large tour group of slow-moving elderly people. It is great that elderly folks are showing the passion to travel and explore. But on narrow railed pathways, where only 2 people can walk in parallel, is there really a need to walk in pairs and ensure the entire crowd of tourists move at the pace of the slowest person. After traversing 20 meters in 20min, I had enough. I changed to “George the Bullet Train” and with a continuous shouted warning “Excuse me!”, I blazed my way through. I must admit that my “Excuse Me!” got progressively rude-er as time went along and the slow moving crowd appeared never-ending … 🙂
Iguazu Falls consists of around 270 individual falls over a span of approximately 3 Km. I saw as many as I could, including all the major ones. To get to the Devil’s Throat, I used the Iguazu Train (Not that the 2 Km hike appeared daunting, but because I wanted to try the tiny train).
There are easy-to-traverse walkways (both on the ground and elevated ones). The walk to Devil’s Throat, the “highlight” of Argentinian Iguazu Falls, is along an elevated walkway over the Iguazu River. At Devil’s Throat, we can feel the thunderous power of the Iguazu Falls. we have to be ready to get soaked and also ensure your devices are protected. Amazingly, I could see medium-sized fish right above the falls. They must be adept at swimming against the powerful current.
Overall, Iguazu Falls might be the biggest “Waterfall System” in the World (Note how they cleverly used the word “System” to get Top Ranking in some category 🙂), but to me, it somehow did not pack the punch of Niagara Falls. Maybe because I saw Niagara first …
Itaipu Dam has received 22 million (M) visitors in 40 years (1977-2017). Brazil had 10M of them. Then Argentina (4M), Paraguay (3.8M), Germany, Chile, USA, France, Spain, China, Italy Etc. India has 7570. The Visitor Center has English-speaking and very helpful staff. I bought ticket for the Panoramic Tour. There is also one with the Interiors of the Hydro-Electric Dam. I am not too much into Electrical/Mechanical mumbo-jumbo 🙂 Built by Brazil and Paraguay. One of the 7 Engineering Wonders of the World. Built on River Parana. 8 huge 196m tall concrete towers. There were many controlled explosions (58 Tons of Dynamite) during its construction, mainly to divert Parana River foe the Dam’s construction. There was 8 times more tunneling than EuroTunnel, so it is claimed. Workers did a good job of saving the Flora and Fauna, from the resultant flooding. Itaipu Dam has 18 Generator Units. Each capable of supporting 2.5M people! The Dam sustains the entire region, by revenue sharing with local communities. The largest Hydro-Electric Plant in the World (Three Gorges Dam, China, is close competition).
I was the ONLY English-speaking Tourist during my Itaipu visit. In a way, I am proud of such occurrences during my trips, for it is proof that I am staying away from the typical overcrowded “everyone has done that” kind of Itineraries 🙂 In fact, I enjoy being the Odd-One-Out. E.g. The 2-3 Indians I saw in this trip were all in Rio (With valid reason. Rio kicks Sao Paulo’s and Brasilia’s ass when it comes to Tourist Attractions. If you can visit only one city in Brazil, then it has to be Rio de Janeiro, IMHO).
There was a 20min Video in an Auditorium, to introduce the Itaipu Dam and explain what it means to Brazil, Paraguay and the World. Then comes a Bus Tour. At 15:35 firecrackers could be heard outside, and I knew Brasil had scored a goal against Serbia 🙂
The Dam has a 10Km long Fish-Spawning Channel, supposedly the longest in the World. Enough concrete to build 250 stadiums was used for the construction. The huge water pipes have 11m diameter. We briefly cross into Paraguay (Note this is a Bi-National area). This Dam takes care of 70% of Paraguay’s energy needs. We pass through a tunnel which is below the Overflow Outlets (It was cold inside). The Reservoir has 8 artificial beaches. There are Boat Tours in the Reservoir. The town of Foz do Iguacu was formed as a result of Itaipu workers’ migration, from various parts of Brazil and Paraguay. Itaipu produces as much energy in a day as 500K barrels of Oil, that too Clean Energy.
I committed a Cardinal Sin!!! Like …
# Accidently tearing the Mona Lisa painting at Louvre
# Red-spray-painting Taj Mahal
# Insulting Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang
# Showing Donald Trump the middle finger in Tennessee
# Putting pink lipstick on a Neymar poster in Sao Paulo
When i approached the Foz do Iguacu Bus Terminal, there were signs indicating “No Pedestrians”. I thought those signs were meant to have people lookout for buses 🙂 Apparently not.
Suddenly, several security guys came running (They must have seen me on CCTV) and surrounded me, similar to how Tom Cruise was surrounded in “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” …
They have a system where you enter the Terminal through a main entrance, pay for the ride (No tickets!) and then enter the correct bus within the complex, using the bus’ rear door (Such that you are already in the “Purchased Tickets” zone within the bus) Remember that the Conductor who collects the fare, sits next to the front door. Later on, once outside the Terminal, when people get onto the bus, they use the front door.
As I have done in several other cities before, I took a “leap of faith” bus ride on Bus #101, deep into local villages. As I got on, the driver said something in Portuguese. As there was no time for Google Translate etc., I just ignored it and got on the bus. After a really enjoyable 30min ride through villages, we reached a stop where only the Driver, Conductor and myself were in the bus. Hokay! The Conductor looked at me and I Google-Translated “I want to go to Terminal de Transporte Urbano”. A discussion happened between the Driver and the Conductor. I guess the Driver was telling the Conductor, “I told this moron that the bus does not go to the Foz do Iguacu town” 🙂 Anyway, the guys decided to drop me off at the Bus Terminal (20Km away), where they anyway need to hand over the bus to the next crew. So, I got a luxurious solo ride back into the town …