Wonders of the world – both modern and natural

So the champagne has been drunk, the fireworks have finally died down and 2011 begins properly…well not just yet for me…

I managed to delay the return to reality by an extra week which is a good thing since it took me three days to make my way back from Brazil to Chile. Budget travel has it´s downside when it involves endless bus journeys which save you hundreds of dollars, but are not great for the body…

Sadly I said goodbye to Gabee and Angelo on Monday 3 Jan as they headed back to Brasilia and work and I took a 10 hour bus to Foz do Iguaçu on the border with Argentina. The guidebooks, websites and basically anything tourist-related focusing on Argentina or Brazil says that the Iguaçu Falls are a must-see. They are also a finalist for the seven wonders of the natural world! The name in Guarani means ´Big Water´ which is definitely no understatement considering there are actually 275 waterfalls along 2.7km of the Iguaçu River.

Part of the Iguazu Falls showing the Garganta del Diablo

I first saw the falls from the Brazilian side which whilst being further away from the actual falls, gives you a great overview of the whole system. And you still get soaked by the spray as you get close to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil´s Throat) which is the largest and most powerful part of the falls. The falls were great, but in reality since I love the Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe so much, these are second best for me…But I think which ever mighty waterfall you first experience in the world, whether it be Iguazu, Victoria or Niagra, that will probably always be the most special. Simply because the first time you see, feel, hear and experience the mighty power of so much water is something you will never forget. I think for me, the other problem with Iguazu was the amount of people. Hundreds and hundreds of tourists queueing and jostling for that one photo infront of the Garganta del Diablo. Not my idea of fun and whilst amongst the crowds I fondly reminisced about the times I saw Victoria Falls with family and friends where for the most part we had the entire falls to ourselves. One of the advantages of an unstable political system in Zimbabwe I suppose…

Soaked whilst viewing the Garganta del Diablo

From the Argentinian side the Falls are just as spectacular and you get an incredible up close and personal look at the Garganta del Diablo. There is a 1.2km walkway stretching across the river right to the Falls where you get totally soaked from the spray as you stand there watching in awe at the power and magnitude of the river. It was a welcome relief to get soaked by the Falls as the heat and humidty was intense and there was very little shade protection on this side of the river.

So having experienced one of the finalists for the ´seven wonders of the natural world´ I turned my attention to another wonder – the Itaipu Dam which is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Itaipu is the world´s largest hydro-electric project (until the Three Gorges Dam is completed in China) and spans the Parana River between Paraguay and Brazil. I decided to do the more technical tour of the project instead of the most popular excursion which simply takes in views of the wall and the incredibly huge dam. The technical tour involved us learning more about how the dam was built, going inside the dam wall and seeing the turbines, feeling the vibrations and getting an understanding of how the two countries cooperate in the project. Everything is totally equal with each country owning 50% of the project, although Paraguay then sells nearly 40% of its share of the energy generated to Brazil since the difference in population is 6 million people to nearly 200 million and Brazil obviously has far greater energy needs. It was an incredibly interesting tour and the project is definitely worth the status of a modern wonder of the world.

At the Itaipu Dam Hydro Electric Project

Sadly then it was time to think about heading back to Chile. This proved to be quite a challenge considering Puerto Iguazu in Argentina kept having power cuts when I was on the internet trying to find buses and despite an amazing bus network in Argentina, the websites for the buses are woefully inadequate when you need to find information etc. The next challenge was on the morning when I was leaving for my mammoth bus ride because Puerto Iguazu had a water cut and my hostel had no water. I had no desire to get on a bus for three days without a shower and I hoped and prayed that the water would come back on before I had to catch my bus. This town was definitely feeling more like I was in Africa than South America because in reality most of the places I have visited in South America thus far have actually felt fairly well developed. Naturally the attitude of the people in the hostel was fairly relaxed and it seems like water and power cuts are pretty normal. Luckily though the water came back on just in time…

And so began my journey home…Thankfully in the middle I had a day in Cordoba to stretch my aching body and restore a little sanity. I was rather tired though since the first leg of the journey was 23 hours, so I wasn´t very keen on walking around a big city like Cordoba. Instead I headed to a smalled town nearby called Alta Gracia which is famous because it was the town where Ernesto ´Che´Guevara spent alot of his childhood. He suffered badly from

Museo de ´Che´ - the house in Alta Gracia where Ernesto Guevara spent much of his childhood

asthma and the dry, higher altitude climate in Alta Gracia helped him alot. There is now a museum in one of the houses where his family lived and the main focus of this museum is his childhood. It was really interesting to catch a glimpse of the boy who was to become one of the most famous revolutionaries in the world. Right from a young age he was a rather intense child and was always concerned with injustice. In a letter he wrote to his children in 1966 he said:

“…sean siempre capaces de sentir en lo más hondo cualquier injusticia cometida contra cualquiera en cualquier parte del mundo…”

“…always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world…”

41 hours, three buses, countless numb muscles, two hours of boredom at the border between Argentina and Chile and I was finally home! I must say despite having incredible experiences in Brazil and Argentina, I was happy to be back in Santiago. At least for the time being…as usual I am already thinking about the next adventure…hmmm…

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One Response to Wonders of the world – both modern and natural

  1. linda says:

    I can feel the exhaustion just from reading this episode of your travels. You would have loved a massage and a reiki I think!!. This part of your trip sounds as awesome as the rest – and am looking forward to reading more. Sacide read the Brazilian episode in English class today and also loved it.
    Hugs Mum.

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