Hito de las tres fronteras

At Campinas airport we discover at the very last moment that our backpacks are not checked to Foz do Iguacu, although the luggage tag and the guy at the check-in counter suggested otherwise when checking in at Orly. Eventually, we stumbled into our hostel just outside the center of Foz by 10:30 am with our luggage. The city serves as one of the entry points for the Iguazu waterfalls, but in the city itself sights are a somewhat limited. To get a feel for the surroundings we decide to walk to the Brazilian side of the tripple frontier point, an hours walk outside of the city. The green-yellow column and the view of his Argentine and Paraguayan brothers across the Rio Iguacu and the Rio Panará confirm our travel plans. In the next couple of days we will head out for a three country trip: Hito de las tres fronteras.

When we get to the Brazilian side of the Iguacu Falls the next day we are greeted by a number of curious and hungry coatis and a toucan who manage to catch our attention. Just for a brief moment, because the first look at a small part of the waterfalls is amazing. A very small part, as we fond out when we follow the route on foot with the incessant roar and thunder of countless large and small waterfalls to our right. One hour later we reach the mighty Devils Throat, the most powerful and impressive part of the Iguacu waterfalls. Raincoats on, camera wrapped in a plastic bag and together with dozens of visitors we head out to get an Iguacu shower. A few days later we also visit the Argentinian side of the falls from Puerto Iguazu. Several walkways through the jungle lead to thentop and bottom, up close to almost all waterfalls. At the Argentinian side we get a lot closer to the Devils Throat, at the top of the fall this time, so we don’t get as wet. All in all a powerful spectacle and an unforgettable start to our journey.

Before we decide to cross the border with Argentina, we visit the Itaipu Ecomuseum at the Itaipu Dam north of Foz do Iguacu. We will visit the actual dam later from Paraguay. Time to pack our bags and take the bus to Argentina. We get off at the Brazilian immigration office and get our stamps. Although we have a ticket to continue our journey by bus, we cross the Trancredo Neves bridge on foot and shoot some pictures in the middle of the bridge. When we get our Argentinian stamps as well, we walk on to Puerto Iguazu where we stay two nights for our visit to the waterfalls and the Argentine side of the three country point. Two down, one more to go.

Our original plan to travel back to Brazil and cross the Friendship Bridge to Paraguay is quickly rejected when discover that for 70 Argentine Pesos we can cross the Rio Paraná to Paraguay with a small ferry. More convenient, cheaper, but especially more fun. After all, we already crossed a border by walking over a bridge. Both on the Argentinian and Paraguayan side, the customs office is a small airconditioned cabin. At the counter we get our stamps on both sides and we arrive in Paraguay. A perfect moment to visit the last border marker!

Ciudad del Este takes a little while to get used to. Paraguay turns out to be a bit more chaotic and Ciudad del Este as a vibrant trading city – read: illegal trade and smuggling to Brazil and Argentina through substantial tax advantages – takes its chaos to the max. Yet, after a few strolls in the city, we get to feel quite comfortable. Although the center seems to be dying out after sunset because all shops, stalls and department stores close at five, it is fine to head out into the streets at night to grab a bite or to buy some fruit at a market. Before heading away from the three frontiers cities we want to visit the giant Itaipu Dam. We already visited a small museum in Brazil, but we declared the visit to the dam itself to Paraguay, since they only want to see our passports and no Reals, Pesos or Guarani’s. The Itaipu Dam is the second largest dam in the world and is truly gigantic. Even after we have seen the spillways from above, got inside the enormous space above the turbines and stood at the foot of the dam, we can barely process the outrageous size of the structure.

On the Paraguayan side of the dam, a museum also pays attention to the archaeological research on the construction of the dam and the reservoir, and the conservation of the special flora and fauna in the area. In the meantime, we are quietly heading towards Paraguay’s capital Asunción and for the first time this trip we install our misquito net: las cucarachas and la habitación!

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