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Trip 4 -- Middle South America

Part 4: Asuncion to Rio de Janeiro
26 November 2000

Before heading to the Iguassu Falls, I took a tour of the Itaipu Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric power station - it took 17 years from when they started building it until it was operational. It's a project of both Paraguay and Brazil.

The Iguassu Falls are an awesome sight: two-tier falls that stretch for almost three kilometers along the border of Brazil and Argentina. You get different views from each country: the broad overview from Brazil and the close-up view from Argentina, where there's a series of walks that take you up close and under the falls. At the town on the Brazilian side, Foz do Iguacu, I stayed at a guest house called the Pousada da Laura. Laura is a woman in her fifties, I'd guess, and she speaks Portuguese, some Spanish, and some English, usually all in the same sentence. She's extremely friendly and was always tending to all the travelers' needs, offering us water and showing us how to get from place to place.

The bus from Foz to Sao Paulo broke down at about 1:45 in the morning, so we all had to wait for 2.5 hours while they sent another bus to come get us. We arrived about three hours late - but in the end I didn't mind, as Sao Paulo is a very difficult city to get around, it's not a particularly attractive city, and it doesn't have many attractions. Its population does contain an interesting collection of immigrants, largely from Japan and Italy, so I had decent Japanese and Italian food, visited the Museum of Japanese Immigration, and stayed at a Japanese-run hotel. (The Italian district was further from the center of town.)

And now I'm in Rio, where today I saw a soccer game between Fluminense (one of the local teams) and Sao Caetano. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, but despite all the wonderful chanting and cheering that went on (some chants go on for stanzas at a time, one to the Battle Hymn of the Republic), Fluminense lost, 1 to 0.

And that's about it. Tomorrow night I'm scheduled to fly home, and if I've set my watch correctly, I'll make the plane on time and be back in New York Tuesday morning.