Sunday, February 28, 2010

Iguazu Falls

There are no high mountains around Iguazu Falls if you look for the source of water. There is an expansive forest plateau at the modest elevation of 1300 meters. Waters surge, however, on Rio Iguazu Superior, just before the gorges stage an inhuman performance of plunging down. This is where Argentina and Brazil meet across the River, and it is from the Brazilian side that people mostly observe the spectacular scene of cataracts (falls). Argentinians have to cross the border to share the incredible view. However, the first fall (90 meters down), exquisitely named "garganta de diable” (devil's throat) is hidden from Brazilian viewers and those that are curious have to cross the border, pay the park fee , ride on the mini-trains, the bus or boats, and finally trek on the catwalk to see this spectacle.

The trip was worth the sweat and money. Both ways you enjoy throngs of butterflies dancing. Coatis haunt the forest. The tropical birds sing. The mist and white foam boiling all around, the green of the jungle, and a 180 degree rainbow playing peekaboo. It is overpowering and sensational! One more treasure is the flower symbol of Brazil called "Ipe" hugging the bank along on the falls lookout. Returnee Okinawans transplanted it renaming "Ippei" that sounds more like the original word. What a paradise! UNESCO designated Iguacu as the top Natural Asset of Mankind. Varig Air exclaimed, "God must be a Brazilian!" The 2016 Olympics should bring world visitors en masse to Iguazu.

Early next morning I strolled inside the forest park. Strangely, it did not feel much different from walking in the the Palisade Park near New York. The air was fresh and there was the fragrance of recently mown grass. I met no one and there were no cars because this is a National Park and no passenger cars are allowed to drive in. I came to the square where the Falls hide Deep Throat Falls. I smiled and said to myself, "Only those who made the journey to the other shore could recognize what is hidden here."

Iguazu connects with Rio Parana where Brazil and Argentina encounter Paraguay. They have a landmark at the tri-country border. The Giant Itaipu Dam is located 20 kilometers upstream on Parana River, as a binational project between Brazil and Paraguay. Argentina is not involved.

I was lucky to join the first bus tour in the morning operated by the Itaipu Hydro Power Complex, after watching the introductory video. Half a dozen buses proceeded in a row, through gates manually operated by guards, and onto the spillway and the dam. The dam is 196 meters high and 8 kilometers (inclusive of rockfill ) wide. The man-made Itaipu lake, twice as big as Biwa Lake in Japan, spreads out on our left. I crossed to Paraguay where the border runs inside the Itaipu ground. The lake and the surrounding forests are monitored constantly with ecological surveys and maintenance. The Itaipu spillway can handle a flow 40 times greater than the average of the Iguazu Falls. WOW! The guide told us that Itaipu means "the rock that sings." The Itaipu generating capacity is 12.6 M kw/hr (40 times bigger than that of Kurobe, Japan) and is second only to the Three Gorges Dam in the world. I rediscovered that the Parana River is as long as the Missouri or the Mississippi Rivers in the U.S.

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