We arrived in Foz do Iguaçu around 9 in the evening and checked into the Hotel Del Rey, a pleasant place with lovely gardens and a swimming pool. We freshened up after the long bus journey from Curitiba and then went out for pizza in a nearby restaurant. For a small fee we could eat as much as we liked which, in fairness, was quite a lot. After sampling just about every type of pizza you could possibly imagine, they came out with a dessert pizza, topped with chocolate and banana. What kind of messed up pizza topping was this? I had to sample a slice. The verdict – very messed up. I’d eaten far too much again.
The next day we would finally get to see the world-famous Iguazu Falls. But first we went on a tour of the largest dam in the world, Iatipu Dam. Taking 15 years to build, its hydro-electrical power produces 25% of the electricity in Brazil and 95% in neighbouring Paraguay. We learnt that it was built with enough steel to build 385 Eiffel Towers so you can imagine how huge it was. Not surprisingly it is one of the seven modern wonders of the world. I was blown away by its epic proportions.
After being amazed by the dam we went to Iguazu Falls to be amazed some more. Before getting close to it from ground level, a few of us checked it out from the air in a helicopter. I was a bit dubious at first. I had never been in a helicopter before and was a little nervous. However, once in the air I soon realised I had nothing to worry about. There was no turbulence and the aerial views of the Falls below us were astonishing. It helped to put how vast an area they covered into spectacular perspective.
After the helicopter ride we took a walk around the waterfalls. The surroundings were so pretty and came alive with living things and colour. We spotted a load of beautiful butterflies flying around in the air like a sea of rainbows. There were also some racoon-like furry creatures called coatis which we were told were native to the region. This could be true as I’d certainly never spotted any in Newcastle before. After witnessing the immensity of the waterfalls from a viewing platform built into the water below, we took a lift to the top of the Falls. We were equally enthralled by the view afforded to us from higher ground. It was unreal watching the white water crashing down below us, together with the deafening thunderous noise it made.
Later in the day we took a break from the Falls to voyage across the border into Paraguay. We stopped at the place where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina all meet. This coming together is signalled by a display of the flag of each country standing side by side. We crossed the Friendship Bridge into a border town in Paraguay. There was no form of border patrol and it was absolute mayhem. People were just passing freely from one country to another without being checked. There were officials there but I think they knew they were fighting a losing battle. As Paraguay is so much cheaper than Brazil, Brazilians pop over to Paraguay for the day and load up their bikes and cars with all manner of stuff, particularly electrical goods. The amount of things some people had tied to their bikes was sheer madness. When we arrived, we visited a shopping mall that specialised in these electrical goods. It was very cheap and, although I love a good little bargain, I decided against purchasing a new TV. It would have never fitted in my backpack.
The mall itself was clean and modern and no different to any other you might expect to see. But outside in the surrounding streets it was a different story. It was dirty and dishevelled. There was rubbish lying around and some of the buildings were crumbling. Also there were security guards with guns which made it feel a bit like bandit country. Paraguay is a very poor country and it was sad to witness the people on the streets, obviously finding life difficult. Some had set up small stalls selling basic items such as chewing gum or packs of paper tissues. I was quite disturbed to see the poverty and wondered how they could earn enough to survive. It made me appreciate my comfortable way of life back home and I wished that some of the whingers and moaners in the UK could be sent over here for a few months. It might help them to be more conscious of just how good their country really is in comparison to one with little or no social security.
In the evening, back in Brazil, our group went to a show where we also had dinner. We witnessed a fantastic fusion of some of the most typical dances and music from South America. There was exhilarating samba from Brazil, sultry tango from Argentina, and the somewhat sexual pan pipes from Peru. It was full of colour and razzamatazz and, although very touristy, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The show began a little bizarrely as the pyrotechnics somehow managed to set fire to the artificial plants above the stage and began melting down near the compere below. We started pointing and shouting “Fire! Fire!” but, unfortunately, he didn’t seem to understand us and probably thought we were heckling him. Eventually someone rushed on stage and put it out with a fire extinguisher. It was hilarious. I was of the opinion they should build this routine into every show, although it might prove tricky to clear with health and safety first. At the end we all got up for a dance. I didn’t last long as the obscene quantities of delicious food I had put away soon got the better of me.
The following morning I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I had been bitten 17 times on the legs and ankles by mosquitoes whilst waiting for yesterday’s helicopter ride. I remember feeling a few bites at the time and not thinking too much of it as I was more worried about getting into a helicopter. But now they were incredibly itchy and it was impossible not to give them a good scratch from time to time. However, visiting Iguazu Falls again would soon help to take my mind off them. Today we were to see them from the Argentinian side. In Brazil I had sampled the Falls from the air. In Argentina, I would sample them from the water in a large speedboat. After putting on life vests, the speedboat made its way up the powerful rapids right up to the area where the water comes crashing down from its very high drop-off point. Being so close meant that we all got a good soaking from the splashback. It was very invigorating and, bearing in mind the tropical heat, it was also particularly refreshing.
When we got off the boat we went for a walk around the Falls. Again, the views were breath-taking. This was especially the case when we arrived at La Garganta Del Diablo, or as it is known in English, the Devil’s Throat. Here, an impossible amount of water converges and goes over the side, crashing down in an almighty demonstration of unstoppable power. We stood on a platform right next to it, transfixed, just marvelling at it. It was what I can only describe as one of those ‘wow’ moments that you get every so often in your life. Mind, I had been ‘wowing’ non-stop for all the time we had been here at Iguazu. It was such a spellbinding place.
That evening we caught a night bus to Bonito for the next leg of our adventures. There was plenty of time to record my thoughts in my diary:
‘There aren’t really the words to describe Iguazu Falls. It is, quite simply, a big fat ‘wow’. The sheer scale of it all just takes your breath away. It is like nothing I have ever seen before. The power and intensity of it are phenomenal and the volume of water passing through it is mind blowing. The natural beauty of the whole area including the lush green vegetation surrounding it is immense. The odd concoction of small animals and colourful insects that live here are mesmerising. It has been an absolutely incredible few days and an experience that will likely never be forgotten.’