Paraguay...I don't know why?!

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Jun 23, 2012

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Flag of Paraguay  , Alto Paraná,
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ciudad del Este 18th-19th October

So, being on the boarder of Brazil and Paraguay it seemed silly not to hop over the "friendship bridge" to Paraguay, getting that all important passport stamp and gaining another country to add to our ever growing list.

Hearing a mix of reviews about Paraguay and after reading, "an air of mystery hangs over this unexplored pocket of South America, a country of farmland, nature and folklore", it wasn't high on our desired list! We checked the footprint guide on places to visit and decided with it being only an hour away that we would go to Ciudad del Este; Latin America's biggest shopping centre, hosting Itaipu -the world’s largest hydroelectric dam AND... it’s conveniently situated on the boarder of Brazil. Only planning to stay the one night and armed with our tick list of shopping mall and Itaipu, we jumped on the first bus the next morning and crossed the border with ease.

We checked into Tia Nancy, a rather seedy looking establishment and so we were later told also situated in a transvestite area! After 6 months of travelling in Spanish speaking countries both Chris and I felt that our vocabulary was coming along and generally we could find out the necessary information needed when booking things like buses...this was not to be the case in Paraguay! For some reason all of our Spanish was lost in translation and no matter how many charade performances we acted out, we left the bus station not really sure if catching a bus to Brazil was going to be as easy as we originally thought.

Anyway, with our time in Paraguay rapidly ticking away we stood at the side of the road for a bus to the town centre where we would then swap for another bus to Itaipu, or again, so we thought. Jumping on our first chicken bus since Guatemala we were soon on route, which shouldn’t have taken us long at all. Thirty minutes in and the buildings of civilisation slipping away we soon realised that we were going further and further in the wrong direction! Stopping the bus abruptly we rushed off and opted for the more expensive taxi option, at least this way we knew we would actually get to the dam. We arrived to a very modern building and were ushered into an empty auditorium to first watch a film of the making of the dam and its benefits, before being taken to the lookout points. I should probably mention both film and tour were in a Spanish/Portuguese mix and therefore lost on Chris and I, but the pictures taken were pretty! Between us we were able to gage that Itaipu is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual generating capacity, it is bi-national run by Brazil and Paraguay at the Paraná River on the border section between the two countries and supplies 90% of Paraguay and 19% of Brazil’s electricity... thanks google!!

So that was number one tick in the box, unfortunately by the time we navigated our way back on the chicken buses it was too late to get tick two, so thought we would check out the tax free shopping before we crossed to Brazil the next morning. Heading back to Tia Nancy down the litter strew streets and it dawning on us that every street corner happened to have armed security guards, we started to feel somewhat unsafe and decided our only night in Paraguay would be spent in the safety of our dingy hostel room.

Up and out at 6:00am we attempted our border crossing over to Brazil, all was going well until the border itself. Having purchased tickets all the way to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil but not having our exit stamps, posed a little time consuming stress! We hoped off the bus and were told to walk through immigration to receive our stamps, cross the Friendship Bridge on foot and then get on a similar green bus, free of charge. We were able to pass through easy enough after not having purchased any goods at the tax free shopping, problems only occurred when we were totally immersed into the Portuguese speaking Brazil.....

Paraguayan Highlights

Favourite Meal – Burger King= Both (it was the only place that felt safe!)

Favourite Drink – Burger King Sprite = Both

Favourite Place – Itaipu = Both

Paraguayan Lowlights

Trying to understand the bus routes = Both
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