April 20, 2011 – Up around 7 a.m., a quick bite of pathetic breakfast, and caught the local bus to a terminal in Porto Iguazu, the border town on the Argentinian side of the Falls. It’s a very clean, quiet, attractive town. Caught another bus for the Brazilian border, only to have it leave us at the border as we stood in line to have our Passports checked. After 30 minutes, another bus came and picked us up and took us the rest of the way into the Brazilian town of Foz du Iguazu.
I walked to one hostel – they were full. But the women who owned it were so kind to me – they called another nearby hostel to learn if they had vacancy, and sent me there. It was only about 4 blocks away. I walked to them – Katharina House (hostel) – and there was one dorm bed left! What a relief!
The owner, Luis, was quite a flirt, and I teased him about it. He’s from Chile originally, and was in love with a woman in Germany named Katharina during a 3 month period when he was living in Germany. She fell in love with another man, and he moved to Brazil. When he opened the hostel, he named it after her – his lost love.
There were 10 bunks in the room I got the last bed in, and the room is co-ed. There were two families taking up the whole room – 5 in one family, 4 in the other, and myself. The family of five were from Sao Paolo, and they invited me to join them for lunch, which I did. They were absolutely lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed their company and conversation. Such friendly people! They were on their way to Paraguay to do some shopping – apparently that is very common for folks in Brazil, which is very expensive. They can buy electronics, clothes and other goods in Paraguay for much, much less.
While dining with them at lunch, I noticed a high number of women walking on the sidewalks dressed in full Muslim attire. There must be a large population of Muslims in this part of Brazil, which is something I’d not seen in Florianopolis.
After lunch, I was looking at a map of the area and noticed the incredibly large hydro-electric dam. I asked Luis about it, and it turned out that it is the world’s longest hydro-electric dam!!! I had to see it! It was 3:30 p.m., and Luis said the last tour was at 4 p.m. – there was no time to spare! He called me a cab and it got me there just in time to join the last tour of the day!
The dam is incredible! It is one of the 7 wonders of the engineering world. Brazil and Paraguay built it together and each share equally the electricity produced. For Paraguay, their share powers most of their country – about 90%. For Brazil, it contributes a sizable percentage – I think it was 30%.
The dam site is so massive that you travel by bus to a number of locations, most on the Brazilian side, but at one point the bus crosses over the top of the dam and presto! you’re in Paraguay for a short few minutes, where you actually get to de-board the bus and step foot onto the neighboring country! The whole operation is well protected and policed, with security forces watching all the people and all the buses all the time.
But it all felt very friendly and I didn’t ever see any huge machine guns or anything that would have been intimidating. It was an incredible sightseeing trip, and one I would highly recommend to anyone going to Brazil.
Back at the Katharina House, Luis was barbecuing meats of all kinds and was serving up gorgeous dinners. His 23 year old girlfriend was dressed up as a playboy bunny, which Luis ended up wearing later in the evening after more drinks had been consumed.
The 10-person dorm room was wickedly noisy all night til at least 2 a.m. – I may have gotten all of two hours of solid sleep that night! And the next morning I had to rise early to catch a flight all the way to Salvador, the capital city of Bahia. I was in for a long day’s journey on extremely little sleep! Thank goodness I hadn’t indulged during the evening’s revelry like the others.