During our single pre-trip planning session, we had come to the conclusion that making a trip to Iguacu Falls would be very difficult and so we had left it off our itinerary. Once we were underway though, we realized we would be foolish if we skipped one of the world's biggest waterfalls, and against Mike's protests, we decided this was something we should see. So our adventure began from Curitba, and we boarded a 10 hour night bus to head directly west, to the Brazilian town of Foz de Iguacu. We arrived early on Wednesday morning, found a hostel, and quickly made our way to the bus stop to catch a bus going to the Parque Nacional de Iguacu. At the visitor center, we boarded a double decker bus that would take us into the park. The fact that this double decker bus was a cooler ride than even the famed busses of Curitiba was not lost on us, and Mike endured another round of Curitiba bashing!
There was a paved path that led into the woods, high up above the Iguacu river. The first sight wasn't the falls, but some raccoons that were scrounging for food around the path. I'm pretty sure no one from our group fed them, but I really can't be sure. Carlos had some really mischievous looks. The path initially led through some dense fauna, affording us only quick and limited glances of the falls. There are 271 individual falls that stretch 1km across the river, and we were seeing a good portion of them, but it wasn't until we got to Garganta do Diabo that things really got impressive.
The Diabo is a horseshoe shaped part of the falls where the path leads right into the river to let you get up close and personal with the water. The bridges they have built into the river are awesome, and you can peer right over the edge to see the water thundering down a few hundred feet or look up and see more waterfalls coming right down at you. As if the view isn't good enough, you are also getting soaked from the midst and hearing the roar of all the water!
After soaking in the falls (haha, get it!) it was early enough in the day that we wanted another adventure, a dam good one too. Lucky for us, the Itaipu Dam was close by, so we jumped back on the park bus, got on a city bus back to town, switched to one heading in the Dam direction, and arrived with 10 seconds to spare before the last tour left. We dam near missed it! We opted for the extended, or engineering tour, which started with a short propaganda film about how great the dam is, even though it flooded a few dozen towns, a famous waterfall, and has hurt a lot of the wildlife in the area. But still, this is the world's biggest hydroelectric dam and powers 40% of Brazil and 90% of Paraguay. The dam is shared between the two countries.
The tour started with the panoramic lookouts, and the scale of the project is pretty insane. If you look at this picture, try to find the red bus!
Then we drove along the top of it, checking out the massive reservoir on one side, and the 180 meter drop on the other. We drove over the spillway, which only opens and creates a very dramatic setting when the water in the reservoir is too high. Unfortunately for us, it was closed. But we still continued on to the main level of the dam, walking in between the massive buttresses and seeing the old river bottom way, way below. The white pipe below is us one of the 20 penstocks where the water falls. It's 10 meters in diameter just so you know!
We got to go into the main power plant and see the dam control room and how much energy was being produced at the time. Then we went to the dam turbine floor, which was 1 km in length. Although the turbines were in the floor below us, it was still an impressive space. Our tour actually continued down another level where we actually saw the turbines spinning. Since we were only a few feet from a machine that was powering most of Paraguay, we were pretty impressed! I don't think they let you get this close to sensitive equipment in the US, so we were happy for the opportunity.That just about wrapped up the dam tour, so we headed back to town for some food and an early night to bed.
Wait, our adventure at Iguacu wasn't over yet... there was day 2! We had a slow start, but eventually caught a bus to take us to the Argentine side of the falls, but that meant us Gringos had to stop at the border, twice. The bus dropped us off, we got our passports stamped out of Brazil, and had to wait for the bus again. In the meantime, we did our calesthenics and strength training excercises much to the delight of the border guards. These included pushups with our packs, lots of pull ups on a bus station kiosk, and situps. We're getting buff on this trip, so watch out!
We arrived at the Argentine bus terminal, booked our tickets for the 18 hour ride to Buenos Aires, and then got on a local bus to the falls. Once we arrived there, we realized we were very short on time, so after a little train ride into the park, we started the hustle. The five of us were power walking / jogging along the metal decks that led to the falls in the most ridiculous fashion possible. It was slippery, and that just made it all the more hysterical. We would stop at a scenic lookout, take our pictures, then sprint to the next one. There is video documenting this and we'll upload that as soon as we can.
The falls on the Argentine side were really awesome and we got up close and personal with many of them. There was another bridge we could take that brought us right up to the falling water where we stopped for a few minutes to soak in the setting. I can't believe I have been able to use that cheezy joke twice in one post!!!
Once we had seen everything at the falls, we headed back to the tourist train which departed about 15 seconds once we got on board. Our timing was impeccable on this day. After that it was a local bus to the main bus station where we boarded our night bus to Buenos Aires.
Sorry this post has been a long time in the making, and I'm sure it doesn't do justice to how awesome Iguacu was. But it certainly was IguAWESOME!