23 April 2018 – I woke up this morning and quickly wrote a postcard to a former co-worker of mine, Frank. I worked with him for 7 years and considered him a good friend. I wanted to surprise him with a postcard from Brazil. Anyway, once I finished it, I was off to the post office to mail it. It didn’t take me to long because I knew where I was going, unlike the other day. Now we get to the scary part. I walk into the lobby and of course everything is in Portuguese. They have this kiosk which you have to select from 3 buttons the type of help you require. Well………..I can’t read any of it so, I just pick one and hope for the best. Your ticket tells you which window to go to but you have to wait your turn by sitting in the waiting area and watching the monitor. There are no lines in front of the window. When the individual who is being helped is finished, they push a button for the next number to come forward. If you miss seeing your number, you're passed over and the next number / person goes forward. Well, I didn’t miss my number and went to the window. The postal person looked at me and said something. I didn’t understand a word. Then I got the look like “Oh no, I don’t need this trouble / crap today.” When she found out all I needed was a stamp she became a little more friendly. She understood I wanted to send the postcard to the United States, put on the correct postage and pitched it to the correct holding bin. When I say pitched, I mean she turned about 90 degrees in her chair and just flicked it like a frisbee. Kind of like when you're dealing cards. The bin was 6 – 7 Feet / 1.5 – 2.25 Meters away. I said to myself, god I hope that doesn’t get lost and makes it way to the United States (USA).
I hiked it back the way I came and stopped at the soft ice cream vendor. I purchased a vanilla / chocolate ice cream cone again and sat outside on one of the blue tiled square concrete blocks. You kind of had to hurry to when you ate it because the heat of the day would cause it to melt and cause a mess. You were only given a single thin napkin to wipe up any mess. I was not the only person eating an ice cream cone. A young father and his 4-year-old son were sitting on the next blue concrete block over from me. These concrete blocks were 4 Feet / 1.25 Meters square and about 18 Inches / 45 Centimeters tall. They had finished their cone and were resting. The 4 year old son decided to jump off the block down to the sidewalk and was having a great time doing it. He had a few near misses where he almost bumped his knees. His father had warned him he was going to get hurt. That did not deter him. He also had an audience that was all smiles as he was performing his antics. The more they smiled the braver he got and then the big crash. He must have turned his ankle or skinned one of his knees and was crying. The father wasn’t exactly giving him the attention he wanted. A well-meaning stranger offered to console the young lad and the volume went up. She gave up as the child was not quieting down but getting louder. Another well-meaning person offered to console and the volume hit a new fever pitch. He was beet red from the screaming. The lad was near a melt down and a larger crowd was gathering. All the well-meaning people were whispering how sad, to see the young lad screaming with such intensity. The father, being annoyed with the son’s antics, called grandma who arrived on the scene in minutes. She got out of the car with a small baby blanket and wrapped it around him. In one fell swoop she grabbed and whisked him off to the car. From her arriving on scene to their departure was less than a minute. I left the area when grandma sped away.
I continued on to the hotel and started preparations to leave tomorrow. I needed to decided my route to Telemaco Borba. That will require me to search out this route on my computer. I wish I had a map that would show the different routes I could take instead of looking them up on the computer. Route planning is much easier when I can do that. Well anyway, I’ll get on Google Map and start my search. I decided to make my trip in two days and stick to the major highways. Sometimes in leaving a city where I have stopped and rested for a few days I’m slow to get motivated and usually have a late start. So, the first night I will stop in Laranjeiras do Sul and second night I will stop in Imbau. I can get my route numbers and cities written on my gas tank's masking tape. I also can get my Gps / Blanche programmed. I also need to know my route out of this city. With all of the above pretty much completed I got myself ready for the taxi ride out to the Itaipu Binacional hydro-electric power plant.
I needed money to pay to get in, cell phone, camera and my motorcycle riding boots. You can’t go on the tour into the plant with open toe or tennis shoes. I went downstairs and told the front desk I will be waiting in the lobby for the taxi cab driver which they acknowledged. They also asked if I had the correct shoes on to get into the plant. I drank a Coke while I waited and right at 3:00 p.m. the taxi cab driver walked in the front door of the hotel. The front desk called me over and we settled how I was going to pay for the taxi fare. The taxi cab driver also checked to see if I had on the correct shoes to go into the hydro-electric power plant. I checked out ok and we were off.
On the way to the power plant the driver attempted to speak with me. I couldn’t understand a word. When we arrived, he made a strong point with his watch that he was leaving and would be back to pick me up at 7:00 p.m. sharp. He then directed me to the ticket office and then reminded me again that at 7:00 p.m. he would be back. I assured him I would be waiting. I purchased a ticket for a plant tour which included an English speaking tour guide. That was helpful and nice. I was off to the waiting room where people congregated before the video was shown.
It demonstrated and showed how the hydro-electric plant was built. The room had a cutaway of how the water flowed through the turbine and various pictures taken during construction. Most of the pictures were sequential showing the start of the project, earth moving, pouring of the concrete, the 1st turbine and generator installed and an aerial photo of the completed plant. The video was also in English. We English speaking people were the last tour of the day.
In the video it said ITAIPU Binacional Hydro-Electric Plant was the largest in the world. As of 2012 the Three Gorges Dam in China took over the #1 spot of the largest hydro-electric plant replacing the ITAIPU Binacional now in 2nd place. Anyway, you look at it……..it’s an impressive place. Here’s a little more info about the ITAIPU Binacional. The ITAIPU name comes from Guarani language and means “The Sounding Stone”. It’s constructed on the Parana River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. ITAIPU Binacional is owned by Brazil and Paraguay. Each country receives 50% of the electricity produced from it's 20 generator units. The daily flow of water for two turbines / generators is roughly equivalent to the daily average flow of water over the Iguacu Falls. That’s the same falls I toured yesterday. That’s an impressive amount of water passing through those 20 turbines / generators daily. When the video was over, we were direct out to the tour bus. But before we can get on we must be checked for weapons. Guess what? I had my Swiss Army knife with me and security found it. Immediately they said I had a switch blade and it had to be confiscated. My blood just boiled. After the ruckus settled down, they said they would hold it till the tour was over and then I could reclaim it. I didn’t say anymore and got on the bus. Had they truly kept my knife I would have left the tour and asked for my knife back. There was no joy here.
We did tour the hydro-electric plant. It’s huge, and I mean huge. The concrete in the whole plant had a low-level vibration in it and you could hear a slight sound of rushing water. We toured past the control room where they monitor the rpm’s / revolutions per minutes of each generator. The rpm’s must be maintained otherwise the 50 Hz / 60 Hz (Cycles per Second) will vary affecting the operation of electric clocks, electric motors and all other sorts of other electrical devices. Clocks will slow down or speed up and electric motors will speed up or slow down. This will also affect their output power. I’m sure that it’s only one of many things that is monitored in there. In the hallway outside the control room was a yellow line and it divided the hallway. It’s the International Border between Paraguay and Brazil. On one side you’re standing in Paraguay and the other you’re in Brazil. I took a picture of my feet one on each side of the line.
From there we took the elevator down to one of the generators / turbines. We could see the spinning shaft between the turbine and generator. I would say the shaft was 1 Yard / 1 Meter in diameter. I steadied myself and looked at the spinning shaft to see if there was any visible run out in it. I didn’t see any and the finish on this shaft indicated somebody had their feeds and speeds (machining terms) correct when the shaft was turned. I asked the tour guide who did the machining work for the power plant and he said the Germans did. I would guess not all the machining was done outside the country, just the work that required large industrial lathes, milling machines and grinders. I just had a feeling Brazil didn’t have this equipment or capability. I think someone asked how often the bearings were changed in the turbines and generators. I think the reply was something like X amount of 1000’s of hours of operation. There are 8766 hours in a year. They keep two generators shut down and ready to operate when maintenance is preformed on any of the 18 other generators or turbines. I’m sure the control room keeps track of this and schedules regular maintenance. A German lady asked a real good technical question about the maintenance of the turbines, generators or something. I can’t remember what the questions was, but I said to myself I got to find out what she does for a living.
If you look at the large red circles on the floor in the pictures, underneath each of these red circles is a turbine and generator. If maintenance is required on a turbine or generator a hoist is position over the top of the opening and can lift out the generator, turbine or both. The tour continued on to the outside of the plant. I had an opportunity to talk with the German lady (Michaela). She said she was a surveyor and didn’t go into any details at the time we spoke. When we walked outside, I had my picture taken under the sign of ITAIPU Binacional. It looks pretty good. We could take more pictures of anything outside on the backside of the dam. You can see the water pipes that feed the turbines of the power plant. They're huge.
We got back on the bus again and we toured around the spillways and back waters of the dam. This whole dam operation employs over 3000+ people. I know if I was looking for a job, I would want a job working in that hydro-electric plant. It’s clean and I’m sure it provides a steady income. While touring around with the bus I had another opportunity to speak with Michaela. This time she told me, she works as a surveyor in some capacity on the Brenner Base Tunnel. This tunnel is to reduce heavy-load traffic (i.e. truck traffic) off the roads going over the mountains to rail traffic going through the mountains. It will be constructed between Innsbruck, Austria and Fortezza, Italy. It will become the second longest tunnel in the world with a planned length of 35 Miles / 56 Kilometers. We eventually returned to the tourist center and one of the tourist people came running over to give my Swiss Army Knife back. I thanked her for the return of it. I’m glad they remembered.
I asked Michaela if I could take her picture. She said yes. I took her picture by the sign which says, “Amaior Usina do Mundo” / “World’s Largest Power Plant”. She was one of the first English speaking people I talked to since I left Ushuaia, Argentina. She also had been traveling in Argentina and Brazil. We were laughing about some of the experiences we encountered in our travels. We were mostly laughing about our language problems and you really can’t understand it till it happens to you. Anyway, I saw the taxi cab arrive. We talked a few more moments, shook hands and I was off to my taxi. It was nice to speak to someone in English.
I arrived back at the hotel and set about getting myself ready to leave the hotel tomorrow. I checked over my motorcycle and loaded up anything I could put in my boxes. I then hiked over to the convenience store where I bought water, apples, and candy bars. I needed to resupply my water for my trip tomorrow. While in the store, the store keeper's son was there. When he found out I was from the United States (USA) he started speaking English to me. His English was American English not the Queen's English (England). I asked him where he learned to speak English. He said, his father and he were Lebanese and that he learned English from the American G.I.’s that had a base near his home. They immigrated to Brazil in the not too distant past. We were talking and they wanted to know where I lived in the United States. I took out my United States map and showed them. Then I showed them a picture of the house I lived in. I showed his father first and then the son. Guess what the first words out of the father’s mouth was? You have no fence around your house! People can break into it and steal your property! All through Mexico, Central and South America, if you own a nice home you have a brick wall / fence with concertina wire and broken glass on the top of it to keep the bad guys out. Some people even have live electrical wires running through the concertina wire. He assumed all houses and businesses must have security walls, but that was not the case in the United States (USA). I left there with my water and went back to the hotel to finish packing for tomorrow's departure. I also notified my friends in Telemaco Borba that I was departing Foz do Iguacu.
Here are some pictures from my hotel room.