A 2 hour flight from Rio de Janeiro (one of Brazils most populous towns) is Foz do Iguacu (One of Brazils least populated towns). The difference on landing was incredible. On leaving the plane on the tarmac of the airport we were greeted with 30 deg sunshine and blue skies! Catching a bus easily we made our way to out Pousada (hotel). Almost immediately we both fell in love with this town. Bordering Argentina and Paraguay the town pretty much exists because of two incredible attractions.
The first is natural - Iguacu falls. Taller than Niagara and wider than Victoria falls - Iguacu is infact the worlds biggest waterfall system flowing at 1000 cubic metres per second.
The second is manmade - the Itaipu hydroelectric dam. Built in 1976 and finished just in 2007 it is the worlds largest powerstation (yes average operating capacity is greater than China's 3 gorges dam) and is a binational company between Brazil and Paraguay.
So this little town in the midst of lush rainforests and great natural scenery is well used to tourists and unlike most of the other Brazilian towns we have visited really makes you feel welcome here. Menus are in Portuguese and English. Almost everyone speaks English and seems happy to. Most importantly you feel safe to walk around.
The first day we visited the Falls on which one side is Brazillian and the other Argentinian. Snuggled into the Iguacu national park it is a Unesco World Herritage sight and the management of the park is absolutely first rate. The waterfall itself is such an impactful sight and really hard to replicate with words or even pictures. I will try: as you descend the 1200 m panaramic walk on the Brazilian side you are greeted by the roar of water, light sprays and wonderful rainbows as the sunlight catches the water. Not just one fall but a cascade of many it is hard to know where to look. There is white foam everywhere. The path descends to the bottom of the first cascade and a manmade walkway called 'Devis throat' lets you get right into the middle of the falls. Ofcourse this means you get soaking wet from the spray but I can tell you it is definately worth it. After the falls we took a glass fronted elevator to the top of the falls againa and grabbed a bit to eat and enjoyed the spectacle of the park staff's never ending battle to rid the food court of Coati (Racoon like animals that have learnt Hamburgers from stupid tourists are easier to find than their natural food).
After lunch we visited the neighbouring bird sanctuary. Again really well managed and delightful zoo. We got to get up close and personal with my fav. Toucans and Vanessa got to hold Maccaw. A great Rodizio (All you can eat Brazilian BBQ) ended a perfect day.
Today we visited the Itaipu Dam that was started in 1976 and finished just 3 years ago. This is the worlds largest Powerstation in terms of annual average electricity generated currently standing at 14,000KW from 20 10m Turbines -produced by Siemens no less - (3 Gorges has a higher peak capacity but can only sustain this at peak water levels at the end of winter). This single dam (which is built by a binational company of Brazil and Paraguay) supplies Paraguy with 90% of its electricity (just 7% of the dams output) and Brazil gets 22% of its electricty from 93% (43% of which it buys back from Paraguay). The Dam is enormous and during its construction shifted 8 times as much earth at the Channel tunnel, uses more steel than that required to make 380 Eiffel towers, is the equivielent of a 65 story high building and was built at a pace equivilent to building a 22 story building A DAY!!. Astonishing facts that seem to have remained in my head (at the expense of another memory I am sure). There was much controversey over the building of the dam as the subsequent resevoir flooded the entire plain behind it - however witnessing firsthand the relocation projects for fauna and flora and hearing how the company reimbursed local Indians it really seems that this company had a great social attitude.
We took a panoramic tour to see the 8km Dam and slipway and then after a quick lunch went and visited the Biological refuge centre the company built. Got to see some lovely animals all clearly happy and well and finally got some great snaps of a Jaguar swimming.
We are just back in our Hotel now depressed that we have to leave this hidden gem tomorrow. Still we just saw the weather report for our next stop - Curritiba and its.....SUNNY! so guess its not all bad!