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After several months of lodging in hostels throughout Brazil, we (my wife and I) decided to let our cash cascade into the Hotel das Cataratas Iguassu — a beautiful, if somewhat corporate, upscale resort with an off-pink exterior and a more opulent Tommy Bahama interior.

I don’t think budget-oriented, poor-but-happy traveling counts out splurging, but one must convince himself there is ample reason. Here were mine:

  • • It was my wife’s 30th birthday
  • • It was a full moon, offering the promise of “moonbows”
  • • It was the first day of the Brazilian summer
  • • It was the first lunar eclipse in 449 years

The hotel also offered less mystical promises:

  • • Instead of bedslippers, we received original white-and-blue Havaianas.
  • • HDC is located 100 meters from a major viewpoint
  • • Staying at the only hotel in Brazil's Iguaçu National Park, a guest can save 45-80 minutes of bus travel from the city (and extra R$37 in entrance fees)
  • • Since the park is open 9am-5pm, hotel guests are the only visitors that can see the stirring dusk and dawn views of the falls

The morning after her birthday, we received a notecard announcing that the “Mighty Water” was falling at 1.920 million liters per second. This is 420,000 liters above average.

While walking through the park I was struck (A) by the stunning beauty of all angles of the falls, and (B) how the kinetic energy drenching the lower river makes fast friends of multinationals that gather on either side each day. It's like a windy, watery rock concert.

Iguaçu represents a great geographical and political mashup. During our lunch the following day, we could see clusters of viewers on catwalks on the Argentine side. The Argentine flag was waving proudly beside El Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s throat) — the first and most powerful cataract in the three-kilometer system. We could wave at the tourists on the catwalks across the river, as we all peered into the misty, white abyss.

It is said that Pelé's athletic poetry stopped a civil war in Nigeria in 1970. The falls are the geographical likeness: something so beautiful, so pure, so powerful, it cannot be fought over.

During the crowded season it's like Christmas morning, or the parking lot after a religious service — there’s no need to be grumpy when the esprit of the universe is, if only for a moment, concordant, harmonic. And because we were staying at the lone hotel in the park, we could relish it without fretting backpacks, buses and concave hostel beds.

While no one can put a price tag on the falls, the experience is more savory when a smiling, well-dressed concierge deals with one’s travel-tattered low-budget luggage. And after a long day of hiking and gawking, a clean, expansive pool is refreshing — the free strawberry and cachaça poolside aperitifs are also welcome.

As dusk fell beside the haunting, ancient river, I had no thoughts of the checkout bill (a value I choose not to disclose, nor do I remember).

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