A pretty waterfall

A pretty big dam

Flag of Paraguay  , Alto Paraná,
Friday, June 3, 2016

The bus trip here was only a couple of hours. Just as well as it wasn’t a very nice bus. We did pass through some pretty scenery though and at times we had to wonder if we had fallen asleep and woken up in England some how. The scenery looked very English, then you would get a group of palm trees and you realised no – we were still in Paraguay.

We arrived in Ciudad Del Este late afternoon and thinking that bus stations were a good location in Paraguay, we had used the same tactic looking for somewhere to stay here.

UH OH XX – as the computer on Family Fortunes would say.

It was a bit dark and a bit lonely at this one. But not to be put off, we headed across and down the road a bit to find Miraflores hotel; somewhere we had spied on Booking.com. We found it and it looked lovely. We were also greeted by a very friendly chap (everyone in Paraguay is friendly) and he spoke a little bit of English. So between his little bit of English and our little bit of Spanish, we got ourselves a room and for a bargain price too.
Miraflores hotel
The inside of the hotel was nowhere near as pretty as the outside but this was only to be a one night stopover for us as we had planned to head to Brasil tomorrow.

A walk near the bus station again found us some pretty tasty empanadas (loved the ones with corn inside) and we were sorted out for food too.

But there is a reason we came here – it wasn’t just a random choice or stop off on the way to somewhere else this time.

Oh no.

To get us in the mood for our next destination, one of the reasons we have come here is to visit their very pretty waterfalls; Salto Monday.

In the morning our lovely host ordered a taxi for us and the lovely Ronaldo (see we told you everyone in Paraguay is lovely) turned up to pick us up.
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Ronaldo spoke no English and very fast Spanish so it was difficult to understand him sometimes but we managed to slow him down enough for us to understand these few factoids:

a) he is 48 years old (same as us)
b) his birth day is 6th January 1968 (very near to Bryan’s)
c) he has 3 children (same as Bryan)
d) his daughter shares the same birthday as Jody; 21st December

The more we told him about us the more excited he got when he realised how much he had in common with us. At one point we thought he was going to crash!

Well he jabbered on and on and a lot of it went over our heads but we could talk about a few things. Except when he got onto the subject of football – He loved football and especially the footballer – Ronaldo!

We had a good morning with our football loving taxi driver for sure. What was also nice is that when we got to the falls he didn’t just wait outside, he came in with us – it was as if he quite fancied a day out himself.
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The falls were beautiful actually. They weren’t going to be anywhere near as impressive as the ones at our next destination city but ignoring the fact that the world’s largest waterfalls were just up the road – these ones were great. We especially liked it that you could take a glass walled lift to the bottom where they really roared.

Ronaldo told us he lived just 2 km away and had been here several times already but that he loved it.

Then we hopped back in the car and headed off for stop number 2.

A pretty big dam!

If we were to ask you “where is the world’s the largest dam?” would you say – the Hoover Dam?Maybe. Would you say Paraguay? Definitely not. (Well up until a couple of years ago you would have been correct if you had said Paraguay but now the biggest is in China).

And for all the smart Alecs out there, don’t bother checking the lists with wikipedia – they don’t even acknowledge this one exists!
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The Itaipu (say it-eye-poo) Dam is the largest hydro power plant in the world. In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers elected the Itaipu Dam as one of the seven modern Wonders of the World. And now we have been there we can see why.

Here is some info we have found from various sources.

“Not sufficient”, “unreliable”, “not feasable”, are common biases when describing clean energy production. ITAIPU shows they are wrong! 

Having more power than 10 nuclear power stations it has been supplying the second largest city on the planet (Sao Paulo) with zero-emission electricity since 1984. Until 1991. 26% of the electrical power consumption of Brazil and 78% of Paraguay were supplied by ITAIPU.

When construction of the dam began, approximately 10,000 families living beside the Paraná River were displaced, because of construction.
Itaipu Dam
The world’s largest waterfall by volume, the Guaíra Falls, was drowned by the newly formed Itaipu reservoir. The Brazilian government liquidated the Guaíra Falls National Park, and dynamited the submerged rock face where the falls had been, facilitating safer navigation, thus eliminating the possibility of restoring the falls in the future. 

A few months before the reservoir was filled, 80 people died when an overcrowded bridge overlooking the falls collapsed, as tourists sought a last glimpse of the falls.

The American composer Philip Glass has also written a symphonic cantata named Itaipu, in honour of the structure.

Some more little factoids:

  • The reservoir took just 14 days to fill up from 13th October to the 27th 1982  
  • The course of the seventh biggest river in the world was shifted, as were 50 million tons of earth and rock.
  • The amount of concrete used to build the Itaipu Power Plant would be enough to build 210 football stadiums the size of the Estádio do Maracanã.
  • The iron and steel used would allow for the construction of 380 Eiffel Towers.
  • The volume of excavation of earth and rock in Itaipu is 8.5 times greater than that of the Channel Tunnel and the volume of concrete is 15 times greater.
  • Around forty thousand people worked in the construction.
  • Itaipu is one of the most expensive objects ever built.

Wow that’s some history already. Not all of it good and the Government at the time was heavily criticised for the ensuing environmental disaster as the valleys were flooded when the dam was finished. So what now? was it all worth it to produce so much electricity. Knowing what we know now about energy production it probably was although it was very difficult to reconcile that at the time.

Ronaldo dropped us at the visitor centre where we all caught the free bus that drove us 7km or so to the site of the dam. There was a photo opportunity at the beginning to view the overflow in action and it was pretty impressive in itself!
Itaipu Dam
Back on the bus we drove first underneath the huge turbines of which there are 20. For our friends that have all been to Iguazu, another little fact we have picked up is that all the water passing over Iguazu would only be enough to drive 2 of these turbines. Incredible!

We drove up onto the Brasilian side (no stopping here though as there is no immigration) then back over across the top. It is huge! About 10 times longer than the Hoover Dam for sure.

Well our morning had been all about water. Lots and lots of water and we had really enjoyed it. Ronaldo was good company too and after we picked up our bags from the hotel, he drove us to the Brasilian border which was just a couple of miles up the road. There he helped us with our bags, pointed us in the direction of the immigration office and hugged us like we were long lost friends.

Meeting people like Ronaldo really makes a place feel special and regardless of the city and it’s visitor attractions, our best memories are of where we have met the best people. This will definitely be one of them.






Bryan

  •    Wiltshire, England

  •    Tel: +44 117 2 302030

  •    Mail: b_avery@yahoo.com

         

Jody

  •    Wiltshire, England

  •    Tel: +44 117 2 302030

    

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