Capital – Brazilia Currency – Real R$ Language – Portuguese
17th April – We arrive at the border post soon after 1pm so have to wait for some of the offices to open following the lunch break. Everything is completed efficiently by 4pm and we leave for Corumba to find a bank for some cash. We now have to get used to Brazilian reals and get our heads around Portuguese, just as we were beginning to grasp a bit of Spanish!
We ask permission to park for the night at a big gas station and buy hot chicken pies there with soup and crisps plus chocolate bars…..not surprising we need a comfort meal when we discover only cold showers but plenty of mosquitoes! Another night surrounded by truckers who are parked 4 deep over by the pumps. We never mind the truckers but they always leave very early and their engines warming up are like an alarm clock!
18th – 21st April – There is the most horrendous noise this morning before we leave, as if we are right next door to a zoo at feeding time. It turns out to be monkeys up in the nearby trees!
We continue towards Miranda. In the middle of a police check, everyone is distracted by the noisy arrival of some colourful macaws that land on the light posts and buildings – even the police stop everything to take pictures with their mobile phones!
We are passing through the bottom end of the Pantanal – a mass of trees, many of them palms, amongst the swamp, tangles of reeds and scrub and larger areas of bright blue water. We are planning to return to this vast, wildlife rich, natural floodplain in a few weeks time in the hope that that the rivers will have begun to recede. We spot a Marsh Deer a distance from the road – according to my book, they are rare and not often seen.
We pull up beside a caiman in the middle of the road but unfortunately discover that he has been injured trying to cross it and appears to be in a daze, unable to move. Sadly there is nothing we can do. Shortly afterwards we stop again, this time for a snake, which makes it safely to the other side.
At Miranda we turn SW for Bonito and cross a high and fast flowing river where an old type of house boat is being restored by the river bank.
From now on, much of the land and trees at each side of the road, are under water. A bird of prey sits on a fence and poses for us to take photographs.
A number of people have really recommended Bonito as being ‘Bonito the Beautiful’ but we are a little disappointed. It has a very long, main shopping street with a number of restaurants and cafes but also many tour organisers and tourist shops, all full of T-shirts, jewellery, fridge magnets, wall plates and dangly toucans and macaws etc. Nearly all the places to visit in the Parque da Serra Boquena require guided tour groups which does not appeal and they can also become quite expensive. We did however, find a very tranquil and well set up campsite at Camping Rio Formoso. Swimming in the river is possible when not flooded as it is at present. Noisy parakeets and larger green parrots flock to the trees in the late afternoon for roosting. Mosquitoes are once again a nuisance.
Land is fenced each side of the road as we travel toward Maracaju, with fields full of red termite mounds and Indian type cattle. Apart from the areas of deep red earth, everywhere is incredibly green.
Further south fields of crops, mainly maize and sugar cane, stretch to the horizon. A big farming area.
We pass alongside the border with Paraguay at Guaira and cross the huge Parana River.
We have two more night stops at garages – one with hot showers!
22nd April – We arrive at Foz do Iguacu located in the west of Parana State, in the region of the triple frontier between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. We find Hostel Paudimar recommended to us for camping. Very helpful staff who speak English. 40 real a night which includes an excellent breakfast with lots of fresh fruit. Ablution blocks are immaculate with hot showers, they really have tried to think of everything to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Situated in a quiet back road, there is a free 10min. bus ride to the main road, where regular buses will take you in either direction. We are next to Helge and Ulla originally from Germany but living in South Africa. Many thanks for all your useful tips about buses, supermarkets, the Falls, Duty Free Shopping and visiting the Itaipu Dam, which we did not realise could also be done from Brazil as well as Paraguay. It was also quite nostalgic to talk with you about places that we had visited in South Africa, some of them close to where you live.
23rd April – The Iguacu Falls are about 20km south of Foz. ‘Iguacu’ or ‘Iguazu’ means ‘big waters’ in Guarani language. They were discovered in 1542 by the Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. He named them ‘Holy Mary Waterfalls’. These Falls are formed by the Rio Iguacu which has its source in a place called Serra do Mar near Curitiban, some 1300km away. This river increases in size and power during this long journey, before finally plunging over an 80m high cliff and then joining the Rio Parana. The number of waterfalls will vary depending on the season but during the wet months, there can be up to 275 separate falls that will extend nearly 3km across the river. These spectacular Falls are on the border between Brazil and Argentina and can be visited from both sides. They are protected by the Parque Nacional Iguazu in Argentina and the Parque Nacional do Iguacu in Brazil. Both Parks have been declared UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites and they protect and preserve an immense and rich biodiversity in which some species are threatened. We are visiting the Brazilian side by local bus, where the park is considered to be an important reserve of Atlantic Rainforest, with 185 thousand hectares of protected area.
The Brazilian side has great panoramic views of the Falls amongst subtropical rainforest……….
……. providing many different photographic opportunities along the walkways and balconies.
The Devil’s Throat Balcony gives amazing views (and a soaking) of the biggest waterfall in the park complete with rainbows and butterflies!
The Naipi Balconies are positioned right next to the curtain of water crashing over the cliff edge……a real jaw-dropping experience!
Across the road from the Falls, is the Parque das Aves – a Bird Park and centre for nature conservation.
They give shelter and medical care not only to sick and injured birds but also those rescued from trafficking and illegal captivity. They are given permanent homes if unable to survive being introduced back into the wild. Many of the birds in the park have been born here, many of them endangered and they hopefully will be introduced back into the wild. The park has an enthusiastic team of biologists and veterinarians who have become world leaders in reproducing species native to the Atlantic Rainforest.
The highlight of this park however, is to be able to walk through some of the aviaries amongst the birds.
The large and colourful macaws are very entertaining and noisy, flying just inches above our heads!
One of the largest macaw flight aviaries in the world is in the process of being built for these beautiful birds.
The Harpy Eagle is perhaps the most majestic bird in the park, with a massive wing span and an enormous nest amongst some trees.
The various pathways take us through tropical plants and trees that would be similar to the birds native Atlantic Rainforest.
Many hours of walking but a very enjoyable and interesting day!
24th April – Today we visit Itaipu Binacional – said to be the world’s largest hydro-electric power plant, shared between Paraguay and Brazil and situated on the Parana River. Security is strict and a guided tour necessary.
We begin by watching a film to learn about the history of the power plant’s construction and the environmental and social projects that Itaipu carries out. Once on the bus, we pass the Spawning Channels built to help fish overcome the difference in levels between the Parana River and the dam to reach their reproduction areas, located upstream from the power plant’s reservoir. We pass by the dam….
………and continue to the Spillway Observation Deck. At the present time it is closed, so we are unable to see a whirlpool of water rushing down the concrete slopes towards the Parana River (as shown in the second picture taken from a photograph inside the building). The gigantic spillways are still impressive however without the water!
On the road along the top of the 8km long dam, 225m above the level of the Parana River, is a yellow line where the exact location of the border between Brazil and Paraguay would be. On one side is the reservoir making up Itaipu’s lake and on the other, the Parana River, with Foz do Iguacu (Brazil) and Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) in the background.
Our tour will now include a visit to the inside of the power plant but before entering into the dam’s majestic wedge-shaped conctrete ‘cathedrals’, we pass the line of enormous ducts that take the water into the turbines.
Looking up! Looking down!
In the Central Command Room, Brazilian and Paraguayan technicians monitor the plant’s production together, separated only by a line on the floor to represent the border.
The line representing the border.
We visit the 1km long Gallery Station and then go down to the level where the turbines are in full gear, generating enough electricity to power a city with 2.5 million households.
26th April – We visit the Obelisk at Marco das Tres Fronteiras which represents the border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, as well as the junction of the Rivers Iguacu and Parana.
Later in the day we drive to the Duty Free Shopping at Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, approx. 30mins. away. We do not have to get our passports stamped if we are only going to the shopping mall and then returning to Brazil. Quite a small place selling mainly alcohol, cigarettes, chocolates, clothing, cosmetics and perfume but obviously very popular! We return to find that Ulla has very kindly baked us a wonderful loaf of bread in her bread maker. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle…….it certainly made our evening meal!
27th – 30th April – We are woken around 2am by two massive vehicles arriving at the campsite and many loud voices. The biggest vehicle appears to be a coach and is being guided into a parking space between the trees by two guys, its rear ending only a couple of metres from the side of our Land Rover. In the daylight, we discover these are two coaches that have been converted into camper vans, the largest, a very new and shiny looking Mercedes which probably has everything you could want in the interior, if the outside is anything to go by! Canopies have been pulled out and a table and 12 chairs set between the two vehicles, a bowl of fruit on the table completes the finishing touch and yes, these local guys really are frequently tucking into oranges!
Looks as if it could be a noisy night however, so we move to a quieter corner. These Brazilians certainly know how to travel!
We make a visit to the Buddhist Temple on the road out toward the dam.
The enormous statue of Buddha in the gardens, is positioned to overlook the frontier between Brazil and Paraguay and the towns of both Foz do Iguacu (Brazil) and Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) can be seen in the distance.
The main building and many more statues in the well tended gardens, make for interesting viewing.
From Brazil we are now going into Paraguay. We will then return to Brazil to visit the Pantanal and hopefully the Amazon.