In search of a bargain!

Trip Start Feb 03, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Where I stayed
El Viajero Hostel
What I did
Pretty much everything the city has to offer - not a lot

Flag of Paraguay  ,
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hello peeps,

This post is brought to you live (not at all live, but it's fun to pretend) from the capital city of Paraguay!

So, we decided back in Puerto Iguazu that we were getting pissed off with the fact that we were on the 'gringo trail' and everyone was following the same route. We also had heard that the bus ticket to Buenos Aires was about 1/3 of the price IF you go from Paraguay instead of Puerto Iguazu. We decided therefore to get off the 'gringo trail' and head to Paraguay. Lets note here that no-one we had met so far had been to Paraguay. We figured that if we got there and it was cheaper then awesome, but if we got there and it was the same price then we have just seen another country that no-one else had and we've not lost anything. Paraguay is also renowned for dirt cheap electronics and I wanted a Kindle, so, off to Paraguay!!

28th Feb - We checked out of the hostel and caught the bus from the terminal in Puerto Iguazu to Paraguay. The bus goes back through Brazil and then over the border to Paraguay. We got stamped out of Argentina and then the bus goes through Brazil without stopping. As we entered Paraguay the change was incredible. It was like entering a third world country just by crossing a bridge. Ciudad del Este in Paraguay was packed full of people and cars everywhere full of Brazilians and Argentineans popping over to buy cheap stuff. We noticed that the bus had not stopped to let us get stamped into the country, which was a problem, but then all of a sudden it stopped and we were told to get off to get stamped at border control, which was now a block behind us. We got off and the bus did one leaving us. A helpful American told us we had to catch a taxi to the bus terminal as it was too far to walk so we shared a taxi with some Japanese guys. We got to the terminal just as a bus for the capital was leaving in "CINCO MINUTOS!!!" (5 minutes). The shouting and commotion was overwhelming and we paid in US$ in the panic as we had no other cash to hand. We set off on the 6 hour journey to Asuncion, but it was like no other journey we'd had before. The coach was modern and nice and a double decker, but it kept stopping every 20 mins or so to let about 7 people board to offer things to buy. These ranged from logical items for a long bus journey like freshly baked cheese bread rolls and bottles of Coke and Sprite etc to the ridiculous including a woman with pairs of socks, phone chargers, handkerchiefs. You could literally do your Christmas shopping on this bus journey!! Anyways, for fear of rambling we arrived in Asuncion bus terminal and I set about inquiring about price of a ticket to Buenos Aires in a few days time. Turns out the prices weren't quite as cheap, but still we saved a little. We caught a local bus to the centre where our hostel was and again were surprised at how third world it seemed. The bus looked like it belonged in the 50's and the market street reminded us of India. We got to the centre though, which was a bit more modern and found our hostel before it was dark. The hostel was nice and clean and had a nice swimming pool. All we did after arriving was go for a nice meal down the road and then called it a night.

1st Mar - We decided to have a walk around the centre of the city this morning and walk down to the port. We set off at about 10:30am, but it was already baking hot. We got down near the port and an English teacher warned us to divert to a few blocks over otherwise we'd hit a slum. We followed his advice and walked a few blocks over and saw the Palace with the biggest flag I have ever seen. We couldn't find the street we'd been told to walk down so gave up and turned back. We also noticed a distinct lack of modern electronics in the electronics shops that we found so I was resigned to giving up on a cheap Kindle! It was absolutely boiling at this point so we went back to the hostel and had a pool day deciding there wasn't much to see anyway. An Australian we had spoken to the night before said that he had taken a tour that day and that there really wasn't much to see anyway. We sat by the pool enjoying the cool water and the nice old guy working at the hostel told us it was about 50'C that day. I didn't quite believe it was that hot, but it was still boiling!

2nd Mar - Today we were adamant that we were going to see something in Asuncion whilst we were there so we planned out a route of the city centre that would take us past all the main landmarks on the map. We walked back down to the port and found the right road (one block further than where we had given up yesterday) and down to the water front. The police had blocked off the road along the waterfront so we turned back and walked a while to the Cathedral and then the old disused train station and nice park next door. We then took a short walk to the Pantheon building and found a small celebration outside with live guitars and dancing. After a quick loop round we had seen all we had wanted to so went back to sit by the pool for the afternoon. We had seen most of Asuncion in about 2 hours! That evening we heard that there was carnaval in Asuncion and tonight was the last night. We teamed up with a nice Argentinean guy and what we think was one of his many lovers (he was a bit of a smooth talker) and went down to the water front to see the carnaval, which explained why the road was closed earlier. It was pretty cool, but nothing on Rio. The drums were the best part and I think I have fallen in love with samba drums! We heard there was a boat that would take you to a party on a small island on the river, but it cost too much, so we parted ways with the Argentinean and walked back via the carnaval.

3rd Mar - Today we were due to catch the 19hr bus to Buenos Aires so we got up and picked up a few supplies from the supermarket before checking out and catching another shell of a bus to the main terminal for our 14:00 bus. We had picked the cheapest company and it showed. The bus was fine, just missing leg rests like the other "semi-cama" buses had. On the plus side though, at least the toilet didn't smell like on other buses we've had. After a few hours we approached the border into Argentina and everyone had to exit the bus to be stamped out of Paraguay and into Argie land. This seemed pretty simple as the exit and entrance booths were right next to each other. We saw though that the bus was unloading the luggage, no surprise, but then men who we assumed worked for the bus company came and asked us something and then took our bags off to the side. As if this wasn't enough of a distraction the man who stamped us into Argentina then kept our passports without returning them. He had done the same with other passports, but it still felt wrong to be separated from them. We found our bags and the men carried them to be scanned like at the airports for us then carried them back to the bus. It was then that they demanded a tip for their service. I took some money out and they asked for A$100 (~15) each for carrying our bags all of 30ft!! I told them it was too much and offered them 1. I made sure our bags were back on board before getting on. We still had no passports, but the bus driver came round handing them out and we were on our way again. PHEW. That evening we awaited our dinner that was included, but nothing came. We tucked into our supplies instead and endured a few police checkpoints where they boarded the bus and picked two people at "random" to search (the Indian guy and the chav kid). Just then the driver came upstairs and to our delight we saw he had food trays! The meal was cold fried chicken with rice and a cake. It doesn't sound much but it tasted pretty good and we were grateful of the free food! We settled down to dinner whilst they played 'Fast & Furious - Tokyo Drift' on the TVs in Spanish.

So, that was our short trip to Paraguay! Not much of a city, but a few experiences along the way! Next stop: Buenos Aires. A city of steak, tango and more steak! Kirsty will fill you all in of our adventures!

Take care everyone!

G xxxxx
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