“Heights don’t intimidate me.” It is not surprising that this phrase was said by Alberto Santos Dumont, father of aviation. The curious thing is that it was not given in Paris, flying aboard one of its heavier-than-air aircraft.
The story goes that his fearless warning was given on the edge of one of the cliffs of the immense waterfalls at the mouth of Iguaçu, in Paraná, in April 1916. And it was the starting point for the current national park of 1,700 square kilometers that hosts one of the seven natural wonders of the world and received, in the first half of this year alone, more than 850 thousand visitors.
On that day, more than a century ago, Santos Dumont reportedly told the owner of the farm surrounding the falls, his concerned host Frederico Engel: “These wonders around the falls cannot continue to belong to a private individual.” Today they are part of the public park managed by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio).
Strolling along the vertiginous waterfalls is the highlight of visiting the Triple Border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, although at the moment the climate imbalance requires some caution. It is a region where waterfalls, rivers and deep history speak louder than the geographical borders imposed after the arrival of Europeans on the continent — as you will quickly understand if you manage to see the film “The Mission”, directed by Roland Joffé in 1986, which I watched it a long time ago and I don’t know where to find it anymore.
Driven by Ennio Moricone’s score, the film brings delights like seeing young artists like Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson. And it was filmed there, with the falls in the background, portraying the way in which the Europeans (the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, the Jesuits), while coveting the new lands, toiled (sometimes enslaving the natives for forced labor, sometimes enslaving their minds through catechization ) to destroy the cultural and population integrity of the region. It is instructive and exciting, when visiting the region, to be aware of the similarities in cultures – derived from the Guarani peoples – that go beyond artificial borders.
But that wasn’t exactly why I traveled to Foz do Iguaçu, in Paraná: it was to discover a hotel’s new investment — the Bourbon Cataratas do Iguaçu Thermas Eco Resort — in gastronomy. In honor of the founder of the hotel group, still family and Brazilian, and which has Italian origins, the hotel opened a new restaurant, Vessozo, with Italian cuisine designed by chef Salvatore Loi, former member of the Fasano group and now a partner at Modern Mamma in São Paul.
We get to know the traditional Italian menu (including the chef’s classics, such as his veal lasagna) implemented in the gastronomic restaurant, which soon, with the same name, will also be present in the chain’s hotel in Atibaia (SP). But we were also able to discover dishes with a regional flavor, served in the hotel’s buffet restaurant, including lamb ribs roasted for six hours over a fire, served with chipa (a savory corn cake of Guarani origin typical of the border); or the barbecue prepared and served in the 2,600 square meter organic garden (and 45 years old!), neighboring an area of the hotel dominated by the Atlantic forest, a landmark of the entire region’s ecosystem.
The hotel also included in our program an overview of the region, including, of course, the indispensable visit to the falls along walkways immersed in the national park, including the Macuco tour, the journey on a boat that enters the waterfall. water to the delight of the drenched visitors.
Recent news reports that tours on part of the walkways that border the falls have been suspended due to the ferocity of the waterfalls: if the average flow (and safe for visitors) is 1.5 million liters per second , in recent weeks, with the rains that have been punishing the south of the country and causing floods in the Iguaçu River, the flow has reached peaks of 24 million liters per second.
If your trip was scheduled for the next few days, get ready to watch, on the most remote walkways, a rare spectacle of an explosion of nature. And in any case, enjoy the trip by visiting Marco das Três Fronteiras, from where, on the Brazilian side, you can see the landmarks of the other two countries, and typical dances are performed and delicacies are sold at the kiosks. (Today’s “typical” dances, that is, samba, tango, bolero — there is a need for the recovery of indigenous expressions that have survived five centuries of European occupation.)
Another attraction is the visit to Parque das Aves, a natural sanctuary full of beauty and information about the winged part of the beautiful local fauna.
The tourist tour can also include a quick trip to Argentina (the border city of Puerto Iguazu), where Portuguese is spoken everywhere and wines can be bought in reais, via pix or card (without taxes and with a favorable exchange rate, prices are irresistible).
Apart from this consumerist slip-up, the rest is an opportunity to get to know a region where the ancestral culture – that of the Guarani, that of the original Atlantic forest, that of the force of the waters – can still be felt or at least intuited, unifying three countries in an area that was born from a common history.
The journalist traveled at the invitation of the Bourbon Cataratas do Iguaçu Thermas Eco Resort hotel