Sunday, August 10, 2014

Brazil 2014 - Day 6 (6/18/2014) - Itaipu

Before breakfast, Raj went down to the tourism desk at the hotel and bought two tickets for the 1:30 Special Tour at Itaipu Binacional dam.  This tour was recommended over the Panoramic Tour on Trip Advisor, as it takes you inside the dam instead of just outside and on it.  We didn't really have anything to do before the tour, so we took our time with breakfast, checking out, stowing our bags, and then slowly making our way to Itaipu.  We took the bus to the main bus terminal and then switched to the 102, which took us to the visitors center of the complex.  We were an hour early, so after exchanging our voucher for tickets (and stowing my daypack in a locker) we explored the gift shop for a while.  After that, we found that they were showing the 1:00 match between Netherlands and Australia on a big TV outside the auditorium, which we needed to be inside at 1:30.  We caught a couple of fantastic goals before starting the tour.

The tour began with a half hour informational video about the whole Itaipu project (which is apparently more than just the dam), and then we gathered for a security check (which they take pretty seriously) before boarding our small bus.  The tour was facilitated by a couple of helpful bilingual guides who initially took us by a couple of panoramic spots.  The first "stop" (we actually didn't get a chance to disembark) was in front of the dam, and provided a view of the spillway (which sadly was not open).  We next drove on top of the dam, where we were able to get off the bus and take pictures of both the downstream side and the reservoir side.  We then crossed into the Paraguay half of Itaipu and drove down and around to the back side of the power house.  We split into two groups (by language) and went into the dam, where our guide took us on a couple of different levels, including showing us one of the turbine shafts in action.  We also crossed over to the power house and saw the main control room.  It was pretty fascinating, and the sheer size of the project was very impressive.  After the tour was done, they took us back to the visitors center, where Raj and I bought a couple of small souvenirs.  We also stopped for a snack of pao de queijo (cheese bread/loaf, which we had been consuming quite frequently on the trip), while watching some of the next soccer match, in the cafe/bistro.

We were lucky to catch the 104 express bus back to the terminal, though we wasted some of that gained time by trying to take a bus back to the hotel - we could probably have walked the 8 blocks back to the hotel before the bus arrived, as it wound through downtown, and then dropped us off 2 blocks from the hotel.  In any case, we picked up our bags at the hotel and then took the same bus the other (quicker) way back to the terminal, and then the bus to the airport (which is also the same to the falls).  We were a bit on the late side for our 7:42 flight, and the plane was apparently boarding when we got through the slow security line.  We didn't actually realize this, and stopped to buy some more pao de quiejo at a cafe.  By then Raj heard the final boarding call, and hurried over to the gate to check in and let them know I was on my way.  When we eventually got to the plane, after boarding by stairway, Raj realized that he was missing his wallet, and reasoned that he must have left it at the cafe counter.  Fortunately, one of the attendants was able to go back and retrieve it for him.

We made it to São Paulo without any more issues.  After landing and disembarking, we bought tickets on the 10:40 shuttle to Praça Republica.  We had about 30 minutes to kill, so we got some gelato at a shop in the airport before heading to the platform to catch our bus.  From Republica we walked the fairly short distance to Hotel Calstar and checked in.

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