The Day We Went to Paraguay for Empanadas

Trip Start Dec 24, 2009
Trip End Jan 04, 2010

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Stop hostel - Puerto Iguazu

Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

So, we finally arrived in Puerto Iguazu (known hereafter as Iguazu), home of the world famous Iguazu Falls.  We hopped off of the bus and what's the first thing we did?  We got right back on a bus!  This time our destination was the town of Ciudad del Este, just across the border into Paraguay.  We weren't sure how the border crossing at Paraguay was going to go, because although all of our research indicated that day-visitors may enter and leave the country with no hassle, technically long-term US visitors must pay for a visa.  We don't really like paying silly visa fees, so we were going to keep this to an afternoon. And while we were hopeful that the "day-visitor" situation would fix that, Paraguay is sort of a sketchy place, and so we wanted to take our time to get it right, and it became our primary objective for the afternoon. 

It's interesting to get to Paraguay from here.  This area is known as Tres Fronteres (Three Frontiers) because it's where the corners of three countries - Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay - come together in the subtropical jungle.  In order to get to the Paraguay border, you have to go from Argentina into Brazil -- there is no direct Argentina-Paraguay border crossing (at least around here).  However there is a "direct" Argentina-Paraguay bus that departs from the Pt Iguazu bus terminal, stops at the Argentina exit to exit-stamp passports, then blows through Brazil immigration, does not stop in Brazil and continues immediately into Paraguay, all without stopping.  Not even for any kind of Paraguay immigration.  This was the bus on which we found ourselves with about 40 of our closest Argentine and Paraguayan friends. 

Upon arrival in Paraguay, there is a sort of shanty-town right next to the bus terminal.  And there I witnessed the most shockingly extreme poverty that I've ever witnessed in person.  And I've been a few different sketchy places now, so I feel like that's saying something.  There were children running barefoot in filth and squalor, whole families with only makeshift tents pitched in the middle of a field that was probably also their cesspool.  The reason this was so shocking to me, was that the rest of Ciudad del Este (at least the mile or so we walked of it) was really *not* all that sketchy.  There were parks with playgrounds, tree-lined streets, and varying levels of brick-and-mortar and street stall stores.  We even stopped at a small grill for a couple of empanadas, having not had lunch yet.  A crazy, strange experience, and now i can say that i've been there.  We hailed a bus back to Argentina (again the "direct" straight through Brazil) from the street where we were walking, and it turned out to be the same bus and the same driver who brought us over.  Getting out was just as easy as getting in - the bus blew through the Paraguay exit (if you can call it that), the Brazil entrance and exit, and we got our passports stamped back into Argentina, safe and sound.

In celebration, we began looking for food.  I got a little excited that we weren't going to be able to find any until 8pm, which is the hour at which no respectable Argentinian will dream of eating before, and so I suggested we get ice cream to tide us over.  Or maybe i just wanted ice cream.  T had dulce du leche and Chocolate Blanca (White Chocolate) and I had dulce du leche graniza (which had little crispy caramel bits in it) and a banana sorbet (which was surprisingly awesome, and probably much lower fat).  After eating ice cream to hold our appetites for another two hours, we realized that because we are in such a touristy area, they start dinner way early for us crazy Americans that eat at 6 or 7.  So we decided to eat right then.  Oh well -- you should eat dessert first, right?

After some trekking about town (don't worry, it's a small town), we were talked into dining at a charmingly classy little parilla up on the main road called A Piacere by what we presume was the owner.  He offered to buy us drinks made of cognac, lemon juice, and lime juice (T doesn't drink = more for me. :o).  We ordered the parillada for 2, which was a pile of different meats you would find at the parilla (like the ones we had back in Bs As the other night) all brought sizzling to our table on a charcoal grill.  In addition to the tasty meats we love, there were also some more, um, exotic pieces like liver, intestine, and blood sausage.  We tried what we assumed to be intestine (tough and tubular), and it was quite gross.  So we stuck to more familiar, more tasty things.  We also ordered fries seasoned with garlic and parmesan, and a salad caprese (one of my favorites!), so we were well fed.

It's hot here.  Really ridiculously hot.  We're up around 25 degrees South now (in latitude. not centigrade), but we might as well be in Singapore for as hot and muggy it is.  I've informed T that I'd like my next vacation to be to Sweden, Antarctica, or the Yukon Territories.  Although i have to admit that after it rained for about a half hour this afternoon, the evening cooled off nicely and we had a nice walk around town.

On a completely unrelated note, our hostel room contains an iPod docking station, but not an alarm clock.  Shades of the future?

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thbstmom on

I am reading and enjoying your reports as I receive them..

Stay safe.

Kent on

with a title like that, sounds like something I would do!

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