Written By: Jorian Heal, Craig Henry-Johnson, John Kazarian, Justin Kubal, Joshua Matthews, and Samuel Roche
After a long week in Sao Paulo state, we woke up in Parana state rejuvenated and ready to continue our exploration of the southeast states of Brazil. To start off the day, we had a breakfast buffet supplied by the hotel at 7:30am. It was “Muy Tu Bom” J. After a full, healthy meal to we made our way to the Toucan Bus (a double decker bus) that departed at 8:00am. We had a mellow two-hour bus ride and arrived at our first destination: LAR Cooperative Soybean Facility. We met with the plant manager and chemical engineer of the factory. They played a short video and gave a brief presentation describing the history of the company that was established in 1964 and the steps within the soybean production process that produce about 400,000 tons of soy per day. After the presentation, they provided us with a small brunch which consisted of Brazilian cheese biscuits, cakes of different sorts, water, and coffee. Thanks for the hospitality LAR!
After we indulged in these refreshments, we were able to see the soybean production process first hand as they took us on a tour of the mill. Don’t worry; they supplied us with hard hats! We were able to witness the process from cleaning to drying to extracting the soy out of the bean. It was interesting to see all the different steps within soybean production and how the machinery operated. Our trip to LAR wrapped up with a short presentation from another manager within the company who worked in the new corporate office, built in the area, where over 250 employees were located.
We hopped back on the Toucan Bus and started our journey to Barracao for lunch. On the way, we broke into the card/casino room of the double decker bus with a thrilling game of Egyptian Ratslap. Andre, one of the tour guides, and many others participated in three nail-biting games, which were all won by Craig. Once we arrived at Barracao, we were welcomed by sight of yet another beautiful, Brazilian, buffet that had an endless amount of food.
Next stop: the Itaipu Binacional Hydroelectric Dam. The Itaipu Dam produces renewable energy to both Paraguay and Brazil as it is located along the the Parana River that forms the border of the two countries. Since a specialized tour was planned for the group that went deep down inside the dam, we had to split into two groups. The first part of the tour was a display room which had detailed pictures of the dam as well as a list of countries and the number of visitors that represented them. The United States’ number would now increase by 22. After the display room, we watched an introduction video that gave us a preview of the sights to come. Once the video was complete, we made our way to the tour buses that took us to the sights of the dam. We even witnessed the unique wildlife of Brazil as capybaras (the world’s largest rodents) were spotted along the road near the dam. The first couple of stops of the tour bus were observatory stations that allowed us to get panorama views of the 4.8 mile wide, series of dams.
After taking many selfies with the dam from a distance we boarded the bus and drove along the top of the dam where we made a 5-minute pit-stop to get a look at the water reservoir on one side and the valley of the dam on the other. We boarded the bus again and crossed into the country of Paraguay so that we could enter the interior portion of the dam. Here our tour guide Diego informed us of the intricate design of the dam and how the amount of iron used could build 380 copies of the Eiffel Tower. We got to see the control room that operated the 20 turbines (10 for Brazil and 10 for Paraguay) that generated 14,400 megawatts of electricity that supplies 15% of Brazil’s total electricity and 80% of Paraguay’s total electricity. After that, we boarded the elevator that lowered us to an even deeper depth of the dam (92m above sea level). Here we got an inside look of the spinning turbines that produced electricity through the flow of water that was pumped beneath the structure. The turbines were spinning with so much force that right when we got off the elevator you could feel the heat from the friction. This was the last stop within the dam before we returned our hard hats and were transported to the gift shop to purchase gifts for our loved ones back home.
We left the dam around 6pm and headed back to the hotel to prepare for our Brazilian steakhouse dinner courtesy of Dr. Paulson and the University of Illinois, which we really appreciated so, thanks! Just like every other steakhouse, it failed to disappoint as our stomachs were stuffed. All in all, today was another fun and insightful day as we witnessed yet another wonderful attribute that Brazil has to offer.