Foz do Iguaçu
Foz is the town on the Brazilian side of the South American "tri-border" area (shared by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay), and the gateway to Brazil's share of the colossal Iguazu Falls. Foz was the first place I visited in Brazil (after crossing from Puerto Iguazú in Argentina), and it's a nice, laid-back introduction to this utterly crazy country.
Farofa is a simple dish consisting of raw flour from manioc (the root of the yuca plant), which is fried and sometimes flavoured. Usually served as an accompaniment to beans and meat, farofa is one of the staple foods, and the hallmark dishes, of Brazilian cuisine. Most gringos can't stand farofa — on account of it tasting like sawdust, to the uninitiated — but I'm starting to get used to it, and even to like it. Apparently it's very healthy, and it also keeps you going for quite a while.
On Tuesday, I saw the spectacular Argentinean side. Today, I completed my tour of the border-straddling marvel that is Iguazu Falls, by checking out the Brazilian side. While not quite as dramatic or as "in-your-face" as its rival vantage-point, the Brazilian side gives you a grand overview of the falls, with a panorama that lets you take in the entire set of cascades through one big, all-encompassing sweep of the eyes. In my opinion, the falls are simply too amazing to not be seen from every possible angle — so do yourself a favour, and don't shirk on the Brazilian angle! Photos follow below.
The highlight of today's visit to the Itaipu dam, was seeing one of the colossal hydroelectric turbines in action, spinning around at the bottom of the inner dam wall, generating billions of watts of energy right in front of our eyes. Check out the video.
The Itaipu dam, built on the Paraná River (which forms the border between Brazil and Paraguay), is the biggest dam and the biggest hydroelectric power plant in the world. It's also one of the "seven wonders of the modern world". With 20 turbine generators, and a dam wall almost 8km long, the plant supplies a whopping 90% of Paraguay's electricity, as well as 25% of Brazil's. Thus, most ironically, Paraguay — otherwise one of the most backward s$%#-holes in South America — has virtually the greenest energy in the entire world. This afternoon, Annemie, Hendrik and I went on a tour of the dam, and we saw this monster feat of modern engineering in action.
After almost 7 months of travelling in Latin America, my Spanish has gotten pretty good. It's been a long time since I stepped off the plane in Mexico City (seems like a lifetime ago!), and I found myself all alone in a foreign country, and unable to speak or to understand a word of what anyone said. Ever since, I've been getting more and more comfortable with Spanish, and the language barrier has become so small as to be easily stepped over. But today, for my first day in Brazil, I received a rude shock: I'm back to square one! "Eu não falo o português" (lit: "I don't speak Portuguese"), and it's a problem. Despite what people have told me, Portuguese sounds nothing like Spanish (although reading it is easy enough), and talking to Brazilians in Spanish has very limited results.
This Dutch-speaking Belgian couple are on a really cool adventure: they're touring the continent in a converted Danish ex-army truck! They're staying at Paudimar, here in Foz, where they have space to park the big boy. I was given a tour inside their (dont-f$%#-with-me) home for the year, and it's lovely on the inside. I went to the Itaipu dam with them today, and tomorrow they're crossing into Paraguay to continue their expedition.
Paudimar is the Brazilian sister to the Hostel Inn on the Argentinean side. While it's not as big or as fancy as its famous sister, it's also part of the HI network, and it's also a nice place to stay. They're a bit far out of town, but their spacious out-of-the-way location gives them room for an enormous garden, a set of hammocks, a nice swimming pool, and camping space. They also have a tour agency on-site, for all your booking needs.