Foz do Iguacu
We caught the mid-afternoon bus to Foz, due in to Campo Grande at 5am. Sleep was fitful as we tried to keep half an eye open for the town where we needed to change buses. Crossing the vast open plains of southern Brazil as darkness descended, our way was lit by a lightning storm trapped in a single cloud on the horizon.
We arrived in Foz at 7am, planning to visit the Itaipu Dam before getting on a bus across the Argentinian border to Puerto Iguazu which, we were told, gives a better view of the Falls. Struggling out of the mental smog of an overnight bus journey, we managed to mangle enough Portuguese to get our luggage stored and ourselves to the dam on the outskirts of town. The dam is HUGE - it was, until the recent completion of the Three Gorges Dam in China, the largest dam in the world and is still the largest by electrical output. Built on the Rio Parana on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, it was conceived and constructed as a joint project between the two neighbours in 1973. It cost $12bn to build, much of it funded through international finance, and took decades to complete. It will take until 2025 to repay the loan. The dam now generates a staggering 90% of Paraguay's electricity and 10% of Brazil's. Its design is also clearly based on the Black Mesa research facility.
Understandably, there was a lot of opposition to the dam from environmental groups. The dam flooded waterfalls even larger than the neighbouring Iguassu Falls and displaced countless people and wildlife. However, the organisation which runs the dam does have a strong corporate social responsibility ethos, establishing social, educational and wildlife programmes which go beyond addressing the problems created by the dam.
Across the border in Argentina, the Iguassu Falls national park is constructed beneath a canopy of Atlantic rainforest giving viewing across to the Falls from above and below. A glorious sunshiney day flung rainbows through the gushing spray as meandering brooks leapt over sheer precipices in horseshoes and bridle veils. The daddy of them all is the Garganta del Diablo - the Devil's Throat - a tight ring of torrents, turning to droplets in the air, tumbling in infinity.
In the park, rogue coatis tried to steal our ice cream in the cafe as toucans advertised pints of the black stuff in the branches above.