That’s right, we have arrived in Paraguay!
We left Foz de Iguazu yesterday, it was a hot morning and it was only going to get hotter from thereon.
The border crossing to Paraguay was an alternative immigration experience. We arrive at the Brazilian checkpoint, which is just over the bridge from Ciudad del Este which is a mad place where you can buy anything from cheap electronics to guns and ammo. Our driver parked the minibus and our group trudged the long way over a busy road into the immigration terminal, because for some unknown reason we werent allowed to take the stairs that led directly to the officials’ hut. Having submitted or passports we then trudged back to the bus in the searing heat, and our driver drove us over the “Friendship Bridge” to the Paraguayan immigration point. At this point we were officially illegally in Paraguay! We then collected our official passport stamps from another pokey little immigration point, and drove onto the bus station as legal visitors to Paraguay.
We had a hour to kill at the bus depot, so we bought some more of what would be several litres of water that day (Muy Caliente!), and had a pretty good hamburger in the restaurant. It felt strange paying for items in our new currency, as 2 bottles of water came to 10,000 Guaranis (that is 1GBP). We were all carrying alot of zeros with us today.
Finally at noon we borded a bus which, especially compared to the rather luxurious coaches we were used to in Brazil, looked rather shabby. It would turn out to be a deathly heat trap for the next 5 and a half hours as there was no aircon and outside the temperatures hovered around 40 celsius. Sanni and I drank gallons of water and undressed as much as was decent in public, but still it was hard going. The bus was also not an express bus as it was constantly stopping to pick up more passengers at seemingly random locations, or to allow the driver to pick 15 deck chairs in a roadside shop he rather fancied the look of – but it never stopped to let us off for lunch and a chance to cool off.
However, when all seemed lost and I was really going crazy with the heat and the woman to my right blasting out dodgy latin music from her mobile, we finally entered Asuncion and made our way to the “Palace Hotel”. We had already decided that with a name like that it was bound to be on a par with our Hotel in Sao Paolo, and although the outside promised palatial splendour, the rooms turned out to be very old and worn. However I must say that the hotel has a certain charm, the staff are very nice and it is well placed in the heart of Asuncion.
After an early night we awoke refreshed and ready to go out and explore what the city had to offer. We had breakfast and headed out of the front door with a spring in our step, as it was a lovely sunny day. It also turned out to be hotter than yesterday, and within 15 minutes or hearts were thumping and we were gasping for some cold water. I can now see why Terere is so popular here – in the hot months all the locals carry around a big thermos full of cold Yerba Mate, which must enable them to get from A to B in this weather.
So we reverted to what is swiftly becoming or favourite past time – hanging out in the Mall! Aircon, food, and we got to see “I am Legend” for 1 pound each. Great! It was a really good movie in my opinion, but really scary, and afterwards Sanni and I both got the fear wandering the streets of Asuncion as it was still blisteringly hot and there was a really noisy political rally going on in the center. We headed back to the hotel for a cool beer, and all was well again -although the little hotel dog with the jutting teeth was still slightly unsettling to us!
Time for dinner now, hopefully another buffet offering where you can pay by the kilo – yummm!! 🙂