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Iguassu Falls, Brazil and Argentina and the Itaipu Dam

What a dam good river!

sunny 30 °C

Tuesday 24th September - let the border hopping commence: Paraguay - Brazil

We left for the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay first thing in morning. The journey is only about 20-30km, yet took us the best part of 2 hours. The first bus for some reason left empty and would not take us. The second bus took us to within a kilometre of the border before we were kicked off and made to walk to the bus at the front of the queue, which was about 15 buses up. We explained to the driver we needed to stop at the border to show our passports as the locals do not need to go through immigration.

We then sat at the side of the road for 15 minutes for some unknown reason before changing bus driver. Maybe the new bus driver was late? We forgot we would need to tell the new bus driver we needed to stop and so went soaring past immigration. We got off the bus and walked the hundred metres or so back to immigration to be stamped out of Paraguay. Before alighting, we had been given a transfer ticket for the bus so that in theory we could board the next bus on the same ticket.

The next bus pulled up from the same company, yet would not accept our tickets, saying we had to pay. We decided that seeing as we still had to get off the bus at the Brazilian immigration after we had crossed the river, we would walk the 500m bridge of no man's land to cross the border and catch a bus in Brazil. We cleared the Brazilian immigration and flagged down a bus. It turned out this bus was a Brazilian company as opposed to the Paraguayan company we had started with; however they were more than happy to accept the tickets.

We were not looking forward to having to do it all again the following day when we crossed into Argentina.

Itaipu Dam

In the afternoon we visited the Itaipu dam, which is situated on the Paraná river and forms the border between Paraguay and Brazil. This dam generates 75% of all Paraguay's electricity and still leaves 90% of the supply for Brazil. Itaipu is a binational company and you could tell our guide loved this with endless binational jokes. The tour begins with a 30 minute brainwashing video about how amazing the Itaipu dam is, forgetting to mention any negative consequences which have come from its construction. Afterwards you're driven around the site and it is explained how they use the water to generate electricity. The dam is 200m high. It is unbelievably big. All the equipment they use to generate the hydroelectric power is completely oversized. The turbine hall is a kilometer long and each turbine has a diameter of about 25m. It was really fascinating to see something so different. For this tour, you have to wear a hard hat. For part of it, you are within the working dam; part of the tour takes you through the offices, where you still have to wear the hard hat, to the amusement of the workers.

After the dam tour, we found an all-you-can-eat churrascaria for £8. These are found all over Brazil and for your £8 you get a pretty decent self serve buffet of rices, pastas, salads and a couple of mains. This is not why you go though; the staff continually come round with various different meats on skewers and cut you a piece off. We must have had about 10 pieces of meat. And it was decent meat as well. I think we could be visiting a few over these over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday 25th September - Iguassu Falls, Brazil and border hop number two: Brazil - Argentina

We got up early to go to Iguassu Falls in the hope that we would beat the crowds. Although it was busy at the entry gate and on the bus which takes you around the national park, the bus nearly emptied as people decided to do the visitor centre first. This meant that at the Falls, there were only about 15 of us. The waterfalls were magnificent and well deserved of their title of one of the 7 wonders of the world. That are high, loud and powerful along some distance. They were beautiful. The speed at which the water travels was unbelievable. I am so glad we have seen the Falls as these are definitely something anyone who gets the chance should go to see.

Next door to the national park is a bird park which we decided to visit, not really expecting much. We ended up spending over 2 hours there and have never seen such a vast range of birds. There were a few walk through aviaries, including one with some very impressive toucans. Their beaks look so fake and stuck on the front. They posed very nicely for photos.

Afterwards, we collected our rucksacks from the hostel and crossed the border into Argentina, which was fortunately a lot more civilised than attempting to cross over from Paraguay with only one easy bus change. And back to understanding when you're being spoken to and what is written down. For Chris though, it's all in 'foreign' but at least he's 'got his translator back', which coincidentally was the first reason he listed for not wanting to travel alone. Nice to be valued by your husband.

Thursday 26th September - Iguassu Falls - Argentina and third and final border hop: Argentina - Brazil Enjoying the fact we got our passports back and can therefore re-enter a country.

Once again we got up early to beat the crowds; however this time that was not possible. The Argentinian side of the Falls is reportedly the better side from which to view them and is a lot more accessible with the majority of the route being completely flat. We personally preferred the Brazilian side as you can see the Falls as a whole and get an idea of the magnitude. With the Argentinian side, you are right on top of them and so you can only really see that section of the waterfall. The wildlife is probably better on the Argentinian side with more colourful and exotic birds, as well as a few different smaller breeds of toucan.

We also went on a speed boat ride up to the waterfalls and under 3 of them. It was worth seeing the Falls from water level and looking up at them.

That evening, we made our final trip over the border back to Brazil and went out for dinner. Over dinner, we began to notice the number of very attractive and natural women, to which Chris commented that we were going to need to tie his mouth shut. I didn't get this at first so questioned him. His response was so they can't tell I'm gawping at them and demonstrated his open-mouthed, transfixed expression. Hmm....

Itaipu Dam brainwash part two

Included in the price of our dam tour, were 'free' tickets to their eco-museum which showed more reasons why the Itaipu dam was so brilliant. It was a strange museum with a few unrelated themes, and only English or Spanish translations in the first couple of sections meaning we were really not too sure what was going on in most of the museum or what relevance it had to the construction of the dam. I mean one section was a dirty cartoon comic strip competition.

After a late lunch/early dinner, we caught the 16 hour night bus to Sao Paulo, where the temperature is in the 30s. I can't wait!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 08:23 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls river puerto dam border passport iguassu foz itaipu Comments (0)

A quick trip to Santiago

The quickest way out of Calama, Chile

rain 5 °C

Following our 2 bag snatches in Calama, we were unsure as to where to go next, having missed the bus to Santiago in order to report the second theft to the police. That and the bus tickets were in the bag and Chile is the first country to which we have been where you didn't need to supply your name and passport number to catch a bus anywhere. (Therefore meaning the bus company had no record of our purchase our to whom they had sold the tickets.)

Once we had managed to persuade the police to do a report, (goodness only knows why they are always so reluctant,) we had to work out where to go next. We tried to get to Salta, Argentina, as was our original plan, but there were no buses until Friday at the earliest and staying another 5 days in Calama was not an option. The best we could do was Santiago on the Tuesday and then fly across South America to Iguassu Falls.

Monday was spent buying a replacement tablet so we didn't have to visit internet cafés, and researching cameras. We also discovered that £250 had been stolen from Chris' account and so Tuesday morning was filled with once again desperately trying to get the police to file a report. Finally, report in hand, passports around my waist, we caught the 22 hour bus to Santiago, arriving Wednesday at about 11am.

Wednesday and Thursday were bank holidays and so everything was shut. On Wednesday, once we dropped off our bags and showered at the apartment, we headed out to wander the empty streets. I have never seen such a quiet and dead capital city. On Thursday, we visited the zoo, containing a variety of animals, all in cages far too small for your average pet dog let alone a big cat.

After the zoo, we took the funicular railway up to the top of the hill overlooking Santiago, which offered you a better view of the tower blocks.

On Friday, more shops were open and so we decided to go camera shopping. We researched a few options, tried to buy several models, but it appears Chile has no stock. Eventually we managed to get a new compact camera and will try to get a proper camera in Brazil.

Saturday it was incredibly wet and still not much was open. It seems we will have to leave Santiago knowing it as an almost ghost town.

We caught our flight to Asunción at 7.30pm, with a lovely 9 connection in Sao Paulo. At least we save on accommodation right? We were very pleased to get our exit stamps as it had been suggested by the embassy that someone may have misused our passports rendering them useless.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 20:06 Archived in Chile Tagged flight police chile santiago plane passport calama thieves connection report bank_holiday Comments (0)

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