A Travellerspoint blog

Paraguay

Don't jump to assumptions about Asuncion...

it's really quite nice!

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View Around We Go on LauHot10's travel map.

Our bad luck with buses seemed to continue as about 2 hours in to the journey our bus broke down and we all had to get off. We then had to squeeze onto an already packed bus, and I felt guilty as the conductor evicted a couple of girls from their seats so we could sit down. It reminded of a similar incident in India. My guilt was eased though as the girls got off about half a mile up the road.

When we disembarked in Asuncion we were just sorting out our bags and a guy approached us asking if we had a guide book which covered Paraguay. We said yes and he asked if we knew were the majority of hostels were. This question opened up the conversation and soon we were sharing a taxi into the centre with Nico and his girlfriend Amber. We exchanged core information and they told us that Nico was from Paris and Amber was actually a Londoner but had moved to Paris five years earlier.

I explained that most of the hostels were centred around Plaza de los Heroes and that the hostel we'd booked was not far from there. They decided to come to the same one and despite the place having no record of our reservation we got rooms with no problems. By now it was getting quite late; Adam and I were both starving so we went in search of food.
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Asuncion has a very small historic centre which spreads out from the Plaza, here there are some really nice buildings including Panteon Nacional de los Heroes, inside of which there are the tombs of several national heroes, including an unknown child soldier.
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We found a really lovely place to eat, and were surprised by the number of expensive cars passing by. There is definitely a stark poor/rich divide in Paraguay and also rather surprisingly, a notable German influence. This strange fact dates back to 1866 when Nueva Germania was founded (about 100 miles east of Asuncion) by Bernhard Forster and Elisabeth Nietzsche (the philosopher's sister) to establish a pure Aryan colony. The descendants of these settlers are now producers of many regional products including tobacco, cotton, sugar, yerba mate, hides, meat and wine.

After dinner we went back to the hostel and with the tiring journey on the bus we had an early night. In the morning when we spoke to Nico and Amber who had opted for a fan room and were pleased we'd paid the extra for a/c! After Foz we were not up for suffering through hot, stuffy nights. When entering Paraguay in Cuidad del Este the bus Amber and Nico were on also did not stop at immigration but unlike us when they got to the bus station they decided it wasn't a problem and continued straight on to Asuncion. However when Adam mentioned to Nico that we'd gone back to get our stamps and the possibility of a fine I think they changed their minds. So before we'd arisen they'd found their way to some Government building and said that everyone there seemed very confused, as if this never happened despite the appearance of another tourist while they were there with exactly the same problem. They had to hand over their passports and were told to return later.

We were all hoping to head to Salta from Asuncion but there was no direct bus. We had to get to Clorinda which was about an hour and a half away, just over the border in Argentina and from there we could board a bus to Salta. Finding out about bus times though was a little bit tricky and we all seemed to be getting mixed information. We decided to get a bus back to the terminal and quickly stopped in at the tourist office to find out which one we needed to catch. Unfortunately our bus woes were not over, we were given incorrect information and after sitting on the bus for over an hour we ended up on the very outskirts of town, almost in the country side. We had reached the end of the line and I tried to explain the mix up to our slightly bemused driver. Another hour or so later and we were back in the centre having decided that buses to Clorinda would be frequent and no other bus trips would be necessary that day.

After a quick bite to eat in a little restaurant we had more of a look round.
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There were some stalls set up on the square and we bought our magnets here. As both of us are always losing/breaking sunglasses we were on the hunt for some more. Adam has a habit of buying two at a time and today was no exception! Unfortunately I couldn't find any I liked so I would continue to squint for a while longer. We walked down towards the river and sat down on a bench on Plaza de la Independencia for a while, it was really hot and we went about downing a bottle of fizzy water which we grudgingly bought as there was no agua sin gas available at the shop.

Hot and tired we went back to the hostal where we saw Amber and Nico. Their passports had been returned and as they were free to travel once more we arranged to get a taxi to the bus station together in the morning. Neither of us was really that hungry in the evening so we just bought a few snacks which we took back to the room. Soon enough it was bed time once more.
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More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 15:32 Archived in Paraguay Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Dam That's Big!

and free... we like free!

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View Around We Go on LauHot10's travel map.

Next morning our hypothesis had been proved, sleeping in a sauna is near enough impossible. We both felt drained, dehydrated and sticky. We got up, enjoyed a good breakfast while we chatted to a nice Australian couple and then left to catch a bus to Paraguay. Or so we thought. The town of Cuidad del Este, the place we had intended to go to before our Rio diversion, is about ten or fifteen minutes away from Foz. Well that's if you get the right bus. We entered the bus station though the designated and only entrance, any deviation from this and you get shouted at, and told a kind of guard working there where we wanted to go. It was probably a combination of my dodgy accent and him making presumptions that led him to direct us on to a bus that went first to the small local airport and then on to the Brazilian entrance to the falls. Thankfully with my limited Spanish I managed to explain the situation to the ticket lady on the bus and she didn't charge us to take us back to the bus station, if she had we wouldn't have had enough Real to get us to Paraguay. I glared at the man when we got off the bus and told him again where we wanted to go and he pointed us to a little bus stop on the other side of the main road. At least we hadn't lost too much time.

Crossing the Friendship Bridge into Paraguay was a slow process. Cuidad del Este is a shopping mecca for Argentinian's and Brazilian's as the prices are significantly lower and it is all duty free. For this reason the traffic is incredibly heavy, so to ease this and make the process more convenient so more people come to shop you don't need to stop at immigration if you are just visiting for the day. We knew this although for some reason we still expected the bus to stop, for those that wanted to stay for more than a day that is, but it didn't. It just kept on going and soon enough we were in Paraguay without being stamped in or stamped out of Brazil. The bus came to a halt at the terminal on the other side of the town and we wondered what to do. Our reason for visiting the place was not to shop but to see the Itaipu Hydroelectricity Dam which was a few miles away, it's one of the biggest in the world. First things first though we needed to get our stamps.

We got a taxi to take us to a hotel and after the first one was full we found ourselves at the very nice Hotel Munich. A little more than we intended to spend but the room was good and it had a/c! We then walked back to Brazil where at the entry point they begrudgingly gave us a departure stamp but told us next time we had to go over the other side of the complex. We both nodded and smiled but seriously doubted there would be a next time. We then walked back to Paraguay and got our entry stamp, done and dusted.

We spent most of the rest of the day enjoying the a/c, as I mentioned in the last entry Adam wasn't feeling too great and was blaming last night's Strogonof although I'd had it too and felt ok. Whatever the cause we basically stayed indoors for that reason and the fact that Paraguay was so far a little shotgun heavy. Most of the shops and certainly all of the banks had at least one armed guard which Adam experienced when trying to use an ATM, he was stopped by three men packing some serious heat who insisted on checking his card. We had also been warned in Argentina that Paraguay was unsafe. This said we weren't actually scared and the next day we wandered about quite happily. I think generally people overreact and with all these guns about we mused that it probably wasn't the best place to attempt a career as a thief.

The next afternoon we caught the bus to the Itaipu Dam facility. The bus driver explained that he would take us to the junction and then we would have to walk the rest of the way, how long 'the rest of the way' was was unclear. Thankfully not too far because the sun was really beating down and we would have got fried. Once inside the small tourist complex we waited outside with a few coach loads of other people for things to get started. Soon enough we were ferried into the main building and after signing in because we were not part of a tour, we were shown in to an auditorium where we were meant to watch a film about the construction of the dam. The projector however was broken which probably saved us from half and hour of not having a clue what was being said.

We were then shown on to one of four buses and driven out towards the dam. I should probably mention that all of this was free, which considering the service and the quality of the buses was quite amazing. The guide chatted away in Spanish and we picked up the odd word as we stared out the window. The first stop allowed us to see the dam from a distance as a torrent of water shot through the open gates, down a oversized slide and then blasted off the end into the river below creating a big cloud of vapour. The force, not unlike that of the Iguazu falls, was very impressive.
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After people had taken lots of photos, and Adam had a good movie or two we boarded the bus once more. We then drove through the facility, along the bottom of the dam and then finally over the top.
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Although we couldn't understand most of the information that was being relayed it was still very interesting and we were pleased we'd made the effort to come have a look.

Once back at the main building we disembarked and walked back down to the junction to find a bus to Cuidad del Este. Here we stopped in at the supermarket and then went back to the hotel. The following morning we had a quick look around the shops, contemplated buying a few things before deciding against it and then made our way to the terminal. Here we boarded a slightly battered bus bound for Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

p.s. Ten months in I would just like to say hi to Joan & Brian - we have been told you read the blog, hopefully you read this bit.
Love Adam & Laura

Posted by LauHot10 14:43 Archived in Paraguay Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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