Monday, September 22, 2008

Foz do Iguaçu - The Whole Story

Um, could someone please tell me where last week went? I had every intention of getting back into my regular routine, including blogging, and I really meant to, but next thing I know it is Monday all over again! I'm not sure what happened to last week, my best guess is a weird time warp of some sort . . . anybody else notice that last week just vanished? Hmmm, okay, maybe it is just me. But hey, whatever. It's a new week, and I have lots of catching up to do before Friday rolls around.

So, the long awaited visit from my parents and grandparents arrived on August 30. I was pretty excited to play tour guide for two full weeks. And despite the oh-you-poor-guy looks and comments from everyone down here (apparently in-laws have a reputation all over the world!), Eric was happy to be hosting my family too. (We're especially blessed to get along great with each other's family!)

There was a big international convention for agricultural engineers being held in Foz do Iguaçu this year, and since both my dad and my husband (along with my grandad, aunt, uncle . . .) are ag engineers, the visit started there so two members of our party could attend the conference.

Besides the conference, the highlights of our daily agenda while we were there included:

Saturday: Nighttime Lighting of the Itaipu Dam
Sunday: Visit to the Argentina Park
Monday: Visit to the Brasil Park
Tuesday: Technical Tour of the Itaipu Dam
Wednesday: Visit to the Bird Park

We stayed at the Bourbon Cataratas Convention Resort in Foz do Iguaçu, Brasil where the convention was being held. It was rather pricey, but a really nice place with a convenient location right along the bus route between the city, the falls, and the airport.

The whole place is built around tourism, so a lot of the prices are a bit higher than in other parts of Brasil. Mostly, the taxis, restaurants, hotels, entrance fees into parks, etc. We were able to find some decent prices by going to the more 'local' restaurants. One of my favorites was a buffet of soups/stews and sides for just R$10 (US$6) per person. And of course, if you cross over to the Argentina side, you can find some really affordable places to eat too! The six of us ate steak dinners complete with wine and some of us (I won't mention any names here) even had dessert too all for a grand total of US$80, including tip. I've really, really loved the time we've spent in Argentina! I told my family that after our time here in Brasil is up, if Eric was offered a job in Argentina . . . well, we might not make the move back to the USA for a really long time! My husband was quick to add that his company has no factories or anything in Argentina, to which I'm not sure if my family was relieved or disappointed - I don't think they would mind spending some more time visiting Argentina! ;)

This is a panoramic shot of the falls that Eric took with his camera phone. It's a small file, so a small picture, but you get an idea of the "waterfalls everywhere you look" experience.

But food aside (how is it that I always end up talking about food?), the waterfalls are really the only reason anyone needs to make the journey down to the Brasil/Argentina/Paraguay border. It is absolutely the most amazing thing I've ever seen: a totally moving experience! Pictures, videos, and written descriptions do the place absolutely no justice. I was so impressed by the naturalness of the parks on both the Argentina and Brasil side. Each side (with completely different "feels" and views - you really have to visit both) has lots of trails and walkways built in the middle of the forest, across the water, and right up to the 275 waterfalls. There are few man made things interfering with the natural beauty and people even seemed to litter less there - something we noticed immediately since we are so annoyed by all the littering in Brasil! The sheer volume and force of the water crashing down all around you makes you seem so small and insignificant. It was a lot like the feeling that Eric and I had while standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon - except a lot wetter and not so dadgum hot. ;) (We took a July trip to Arizona and Nevada in 2006. We learned that 112 degrees of "dry heat" is still 112 degrees. And that is HOT!)

Eric was almost more excited about seeing the world's largest dam (in terms of energy production) than he was about anything else. We signed up for the technical tour so we could go inside the dam, see the turbines, the control rooms, wear hard hats, and do all the other stuff that you don't experience on the more common "Panoramic" tour. If you're into that kind of stuff (and my family is) the "Technical" tour is worth the extra time and money. The nighttime lighting of the dam (or Dam Lighting as it was translated many places - which made me giggle when people said it) was less than impressive. Some of the tourist information described it as a light show. It was pretty all lit up at night, but I expected more of a 'show' (ever been to Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta at night?) and instead I basically just got someone turning on the lights. The music they played was much too dramatic for what actually happened with the lights! Seeing the dam by night and then later by day was pretty cool though.

We wrapped up our time in Foz do Iguaçu with a visit to the bird park which is not far from the entrance to the waterfalls on the Brasil side. They have several acres back in the forest with huge walk-through cages where you can get within reaching (or pecking) distance from all kinds of tropical birds. It was a great place to spend a couple hours, and I am happy to report that we all made it out without getting pooped on, pecked at, or anything else which seemed quite likely at more than one point in our journey.

And now for a few photos. Since I already posted several of the falls, here are some others.

The landscape of southern Brasil is highly unlike the mountainous region that we live in!

One of the hotel's pools at night.

And us playing in it during the day.

In front of the hotel, on our way out for supper in Argentina.

The Georgia folks (myself majorly included) get a bit excited when we see a gigantic tree that by-golly-sure-as-heck-looks-like-a-huge-cotton-plant. Quick, somebody, please tell me what this is. I know they grow cotton in Brasil too, but surely theirs isn't 25 feet tall with bolls bigger than my fist!

I loved this picture of my grandparents in front of the falls.

Waiting for the dam lighting. (hehehe)

To give you a feel for the size of this dam: that is a tour bus in the far right of the picture!

I couldn't decide if Eric was more excited about the dam itself or the earthwork that went into building it. I have a feeling that when he took this picture he was imagining tons of construction equipment cutting and digging and hauling. The guy's in the right industry, I'll tell you that much! :)

Eric left a day ahead of us because he needed to get back to the office. Since he wasn't around for the big farewell dinner on the last night of the engineering convention, I used his ticket and accompanied Dad to the big event. We left Mom, Grandma, and Grandad at the hotel to fend for themselves and the two of us enjoyed a snazzy affair with a fabulous meal, cocktails, and live band. It was a fun Daddy-Daughter evening! (On another note, Dad grinned a lot in Brasil as people repeated did a double-take when I introduced him as my father. More than a couple people commented that he was too young and that they would have guessed him to be my brother. Dad went home with a little extra pep in his step; I have renewed my commitment to using my anti-wrinkle eye cream every night!)


Aline said...

Hi Emily,
The pictures are great. Did you have a chance to take a "boat" that goes really close to the falls? When i was there some people took and said that was amazing and freak.
have a good week!!!

Emily said...

Hey Aline!
We saw the groups doing the boat ride, but my family kept saying something including words like "crazy" and "death wish" while watching those boats going so close they were almost underneath the waterfalls. Eric and I figured we probably shouldn't even suggest it. :) Riding in the car around Brasil proved to be adventure enough for them. (More on that later this week.)

corinne said...

yeah!! I kept waiting for your bolg ALL WEEK!! Looks like you had a GREAT time. Can´t wait to here more about the trip, especially what your folks found interesting (it is never what you think it will be, and usually involves a question you can´t answer).

wondering ego said...

Hi Emily,
The tree is a PAINEIRA, Chorisia speciosa.

Sincerely yours, WE, now reading you from Cambridge MA

Ray Adkins said...


The tree is a "Paineira", just as "wondering ego" mentioned...
It is a typical Brazilian tree of the highlands regions of Brazil, it is native of that tri border area, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, they can be found all over Buenos Aires as well.
This tree is highly adaptated to the Brazilian dry winters, it looses all it's leaves and it has beautiful flowers that look like orquids and they later dry up and release many seeds in the air to try and start other trees nearby, and the fluffy silky "cottom" like puffs you saw are used in Brazil for some fine high quality pillows, it is not very easy to find these pillows and the are expensive because they are very confortable and made from a natural fiber.