21 – 28 November
My next stop is Curitiba, Brazil’s most modern and progressive city with about 2 Mio inhabitants. In fact, it is one of the most innovative cities in the world and is a great example for successful city planning. Curitiba is located fairly high up (900 meters above sea level) in some very lush and green mountains and thus enjoys cooler temperatures and more rain. Next to a very efficient traffic management in place (many main roads and other streets are one-ways in order to guarantee a better flow of traffic), they have exclusive lanes for buses, an invention that served as an example for other big cities (like Bogota), as well as busstops that look and work just like subway stations, as tickets have to be purchased before getting on the bus (in order to speed up the process).
However, the reason for my visit is my friend Oton in the first place. We met in Peru about five months ago, trekking the Colca Canyon as well as the Machu Picchu together and have been planning ever since to meet up in Curitiba, where he currently lives. It is great to catch up and even though he is working during the day he makes some time for me to show me his city by bike. We focus on exploring various of many wonderful parks in and around the city and thanks to his knowledge and our mode of transport I get a good and quite positive impression of Curitiba within little time.
Near Curitiba rises a river that, a 10-hour busride further west, turns into one of South-America’s highlights and most impressive sites: the world famous Iguazu Falls which is the largest waterfall system on the planet. Since it is just around the corner (What’s 10 hours on the bus?) I obviously cannot miss this opportunity and catch an overnight bus.
The first day in this very tropical climate I take fairly easy and just recharge my batteries in and around the pool of my hostel completely built of old shipping containers. When I wake up the next morning I almost regret this chill-out session the previous beautiful sunny day as it is raining cats and dogs and does not look like it would stop anytime soon. I decide to wait and to hope for better weather to come in the following days in order to visit the falls but I figure that a little excursion the Itaipu Dam might be a realistic and interesting alternative to make the most of the day. Itaipu Dam is a massive hydroelectric dam on Paraná river, the natural border between Brazil and Paraguay (and further down between Argentina and Paraguay). It is quite impressive to see such a massive construction close up and to get some facts and figures concerning this mega-project and very important source for clean energy. The entire dam is close to eight kilometers long and produces three quarter of all energy consumed by Paraguay and 17% of Brazil’s energy consumption.
My gamble works out as it is hot and sunny the next day – time to check out some waterfalls… I approach the smaller Brazilian side of the falls first as they are supposed to provide a great overview and the big picture whereas the larger Argentinean side allows to get closer to the falls. The first view of some of the falls is already fascinating enough that I don’t even notice when some weird animal (a mix between a monkey and a giant rat, called coati) gets its “hands” on my backpack and starts ripping off the plastic bags containing my lunch. What follows is a beautiful trail upstream, with countless of stunning views of the falls, one more mindblowing than the other. At first, the views are limited to the smaller falls in a distance but little by little the trail gets closer the falls until it terminates in a pier almost reaching the epicenter of the falls where half of the river’s flow dramatically plunges into deepness (this point is called Devil’s Throat).
Being here at this natural wonder that feels so familiar in a way, as I have seen it countless of times on pictures, travel magazines and documentaries, again is one of these moments that cannot be described. Just like this goosebump feeling I experienced when finally seeing Machu Picchu or the Sydney Opera House with my own eyes, being here at the Iguazu Falls is something that effects not only my eyes but all my senses and my entire body.
Next to the coati that stole my lunch I have various other encounters with animals living in this national park: colourful butterflies, a shy tucan, crazy birds literally flying through the waterfalls, many lizzards enjoying the sun, a little monkey and some very big fish playing in the current.
When exploring the Argentinean side of the falls the following day I am accompanied by thick clouds and heavy tropical showers as well as heat and the strong sun in between the showers. It is remarkable how quick the weather changes here in the tropics. The rain does not bother me though as it is a bit of a refreshment and does not make the falls appear any less amazing – in essence it is just a bit more water after all.
This second day involves more walking as there are three trails around the falls that are all worth being explored. The first, lower one provides pretty views from the bottom level wheras the second, upper one winds its way along the upper edge, passing various points where the water starts falling into deepness. Last but not least, there is a third trail leading right (in)to the Devil’s Throat. The sound can be heard from hundreds of meters away and when finally reaching the site I feel very tiny compared to this massive force and these masses of water. I just stand there for I don’t know how long (maybe one hour, maybe two…) and cannot take my eyes of this szene. Some people can’t help it and even start screaming when they look into the Throat of the Devil along with countless of other smaller waterfalls around it as this view is mindblowing, overwhelming and absolutely incredible!!! I don’t know what more to say other than that this definitely is a highlight of my amazing trip…