A Few Terrible Hours in Ciudad Del Este

Trip Start Dec 07, 2005
Trip End Apr 10, 2007

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Flag of Paraguay  ,
Friday, March 31, 2006

After crossing the bridge from Brazil to Cudad del Este, we saw the Paraguayan half of the free enterprise zone. Ciudad Del Este is (in)famous for being a bootlegging town. We spent the better half of the evening at the bus station waiting for an overnight bus to Asuncion so we wouldnīt have to shell out for a hotel. There were a couple of flaws in this plan, though:

1.we gained an hour crossing the border, so we had to wait for an extra hour for a late bus.
2. the bus trip was only going to be 5 hours=not much sleep. After asking different bus lines their prices, (and watching the workers try so persuade people to buy tickets with their company through a lot of whistling, calling, and even trying to carry the same piece of lugage), we realized all the lines were the same.

To make complications even more delicious, we did not have enough cash on us and none of the bus companies could take a credit card. so we had to go hunt for money, but first needed to leave our packs somewhere. luckily the station had a place to leave them for a small fee (as do most bus stations in south america).

Bob had seen moneychangers outside of the station when we entered--they were the slightly suspicious looking fellows often sporting leather Members Only jackets, a sizeable paunch, and wads of bills that they flash at travellers. I went to one of the wad holders and asked him if he would change 12 Argentinian pesos for Guarani, and I walked back with 22,000 Guarani (US$4). We left our bags and set off to find an ATM.

We found the ATM at the entrance to the hospital a few blocks away, but this was no ordinary ATM. It had options we had thus far not encountered in any other machine and we had a real hard time getting anything out of it cash-wise. getting cash is not supposed to be as hard as breaking the purple code. we were able to get a printout of the address of every bank branch in ciudad del este, though. we were intimidated out of the machine by the long line behind us and went inside the hospital to ask someone about this cryptic machine. the nurses in the hospital (who i imagine use the machine frequently--we had seen a couple of them use it successfully before us) said they had no idea how it worked. we approached a couple kids who were junior missionaries or some such thing after they had taken out cash, but they werenīt any help, either. finally, we jumped in again and systematically tried each option until the machine spit out cash. who knows whose account that money came out of...

We went back to the bus station and after 6 hours of waiting we decided on a midnight bus, checked our packs and got on. As i sat down and reclined my seat, the back fell all the way back and the seat seemed to pop up and i couldīt get it back up. luckily no one was behind me. After some laughs by the people around us, me jumping behind the seat to push and bob pulling from the front, we got it back up. We decided to switch seats, and then we fell asleep.

of all the things we did in Ciudad del Este, we didnīt get entrance stamps. we thought this was a little strange. the bus stopped at argentinian immigrations, but we saw neither hide nor hair of anything resembling a paraguayan immigrations official or office. we hoped we were ok with our U$S45 visas, but werenīt sure. Of course, our lack of stamps would come back to bite us in a little outpost called Mariscal.

Five hours later we arrived in Asuncion, Paraguay and stepped into a buzzing
terminal. All the stands selling breakfast and souveniers were open and travellers and locals were everywhere. We decided to find a hotel close to the bus terminal and go to bed for awhile before confronting the city.
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