We’ve made it to Paraguay! This week has been spent either here in our 51st country together, or en-route.
Last Sunday turned out to be more exciting than we expected; we headed out the door at around 3pm, planning to meet Felipe and Clarice at the Museum of the Portuguese Language at four. We spent 20-minute walk to the metro talking about the impending overnight bus trip; on arrival Craig realised he didn’t know where the tickets for this trip were. He’d taken them out of his wallet when we set off to explore “very dangerous” São Paulo, and hadn’t put them back in again. After sifting through almost all our stuff looking for them, we decided they must be back at Norma and Marcondes’s place. He turned around to find them and I continued on to meet Felipe and Clarice.
Luckily the tickets were found and Craig met up with us when we came out of the museum. We had a nice dinner of stuffed potatoes then Felipe and Clarice dropped us off at the bus station to catch our overnight bus back to Foz do Iguaçu.
Monday 26/9 Strangely, I managed to sleep quite well on the bus, and woke up in time for the last rest stop before arriving in Foz, which meant I could have a coffee, wash my face, and arrive in a relatively human state. We caught a local bus to the urban bus terminal and checked into a hotel nearby before walking into town to organise my visa for Paraguay. I thought we’d just have to drop off the paperwork and pick it up the next morning, but no, they did it while we waited. Waited for quite some time, though; we were starving when we finally had lunch, but the two enormous “com tudo” hamburgers and chips made up for it.
We worked and rested for the rest of the afternoon, then had a light dinner from the supermarket before bed.
Tuesday 27/9 Checkout was at 11:30, so we had a long lazy morning and caught a local bus across the border at around 12. I asked the driver to stop for us at the Brazilian customs office, and he gave us tickets that would let us on the next bus that came along. Score! This meant we didn’t have to walk across the bridge in the searing heat. On the Paraguayan side, we didn’t have any trouble getting into the country, and a helpful woman at the tourist office told us everything we needed to know about Ciudad del Este and about travelling in Paraguay.
It was a long walk to the hotel she recommended, but worth it: the same price as the hostel we’d found online, but with a private bathroom and a good location close to the bus station. After settling in, we walked back into town to find an ATM and have lunch, then caught another local bus to the Itaipu Dam. The woman at the tourist information office had failed to mention that there are only four tours a day, but by sheer good luck we showed up in time for the last one. The trip was about half an hour on a coach, and was well worth doing, though it would have been nice to have had more stops in different parts of the dam. When we got back to the visitor centre, we realised that we had missed the movie that precedes the tour, but a nice receptionist put it on for us when we asked about it.
We had to wait quite some time for a bus back to the city, but one eventually arrived and we walked back to our hotel for a rest before heading out for arabes for dinner, which are a local take on kebabs.
Wednesday 28/9 We’d been planning to spend just a day or so in Ciudad del Este, but our accommodation was comfortable and the wifi worked, so we decided to slow down and spend a couple more days there working. Meals, as always, were highlights: for lunch I had al monida (a kind of dumpling stew) which the server assured me was more Paraguayan than Paraguayans, and for dinner we had arabes again. Yum.
Friday 30/9 We checked out at ten and walked across the road to buy tickets for the 11am bus to Encarnación, which left on time and dropped us at the Encarnación bus station at about 4:20. There was no tourist office to be seen, but we got a hotel recommendation from a ticket seller and checked in at a hotel across the road. The hotel manager gave us a map and information about how to get to the Unesco-registered sites nearby: basically, it’s going to be a mission.
We dropped our bags then headed out to explore the city. It’s small, but is developing rapidly: a nice riverside walkway is being constructed and the town square is green and shady. We had dinner at a comedor at the SuperSeis supermarket; the food was cheap and tasty. In the evening we watched an episode of Life and drank Chilean wine.
Saturday 1/10 Our plans to visit the Unesco sites were scuppered when we woke up to the sound of thunderstorms. We decided to extend our stay, and since the weather forecast for Sunday wasn’t much better than that for Saturday, we arranged to stay until Tuesday morning.
Instead, we spent the day mostly indoors, first sleeping then working and studying. Lunch was a hilarious experience at the comedor behind the bus station, where we ate meat barbecued on an outdoor grill while listening to several different bad Spanish pop songs at the same time; every restaurant wanted to play their own music, loudly, on stereos with bad speakers. It was awesome. The food was good, though, even if the temperature had dropped 20 degrees and we were shivering in the wind.
In the evening we had dinner at the SuperSeis again and watched Catfish.
Sunday 2/10 The weather turned out to be a lot better than predicted, but we’d slept in so late by the time we realised this that it wasn’t worth heading out sightseeing. Anyway, it was Sunday and almost everything was closed anyway, there would probably be fewer buses and it would just be too hard… We decided to stick to our plan of going on Monday. Instead, we recorded the podcast then went out for a walk to find coffee. In the afternoon we got some more work done and headed back to the SuperSeis for dinner.