We arrived in Ciudad del Este around dinner time. Our hostel wasn't in walking distance from the terminal with luggage so we took a taxi. We knew it was a bit out of town, but we didn't realise there would be no where nearby to grab some food. Our only option was to order pizza, which was actually pretty good.
In the morning, we thought we should get some washing done. The hostel had a machine we could use which was great, though the load took forever, at least 2 hours. We had to hang around all morning waiting for it to finish.
Once it had, we ordered a taxi to take us over the border to Brazil. We had heard it wasn't safe to walk across the bridge, and buses can be difficult as they don't necessarily stop at immigration. Our taxi stopped for us at each end of the bridge for our exit and entry stamps, and dropped us in the centre of Foz do Iguaçu.
Being a Sunday, everything was closed except for one or two places to eat. We grabbed lunch, and since the weather wasn't great we decided to head back to Ciudad del Este instead of checking out the Brazilian side of the falls, since we are to return to the falls soon.
We were able to get a taxi back to the border, which we shared with a British girl who we found, that needed to return to the border for her entry stamp as her bus didn't let her off at the border. The bridge seemed completely safe to cross so we decided to walk across on the return (only the rancid smell of pee to contest with), which gave us some nice views over the river.
Passports stamped and back in Paraguay, we hoped some shops would be open so we could check out the famous Ciudad del Este shopping, but of course it was all closed. We wandered through town regardless, and other than the stench of urine about every 100m, Ciudad del Este doesn't have much going on when the shops are shut. As night was falling, we grabbed some groceries and retired to the hostel.
The next morning we set off to visit Itaipu Dam, the second largest dam in the world, and a massive hydroelectric initiative that supplies around 80% of Paraguay's electricity and about 25% of Brazil's. We boarded the busy local bus and jumped off on the roadside out the front of the dam.
They run free tours of the dam about every hour and we were just in time for the next tour. First is a 30 minute video in Spanish, which we understood some of. Next you are taken on a bus that stops at a viewing platform overlooking the spillways, then drives in front of the dam wall to another viewing platform on the other side with a view of the entire dam wall. Finally the bus drives on a section of the road over the top of the dam wall (most of it was shut), then returns you back to the start.
We were really lucky that day, as 2 of the 3 spillways were open, and apparently its not often that any of them are open. Enormous volumes of water ran down the spillways created a huge cascade of water over the lip at the bottom before crashing into the river below. Despite being a man-made cascade, it really was an inspiring sight.
During the video in particular, quite a big deal was made about the nature reserves that are maintained by Itaipu Binacional in the surrounding areas. What they fail to mention is that in creating the dam, they flooded the Guaíra Falls (previously the worlds largest falls, by volume) that are said to have been as impressive as Iguazu, displaced 10,000 families living by the Paraná river, as well as destroying vast amounts of Atlantic Forest, a fast deteriorating ecosystem and habitat with only small pockets remaining.
We took the local bus back to town and returned to the hostel to collect our bags before heading to the bus terminal to reach our new destination. On arrival we had numerous people shouting destinations and trying to drag us to their ticket window. We found two companies with buses to Encarnación leaving soon.
In all the fuss, Lindsay didn't hear Fergus say he thought one of them might have crappy buses. We purchased tickets with the cheapest company, finding ourselves on a tiny bus, with tiny little seats, no toilet and lots of people for 5 hours. We shall put that down as another lesson learned! Though still better than beer cans in a truck.