The following day we should have walked to the bus terminal from the hotel, as it would have been far quicker than taking the taxi we took. To be fair to the driver, he had to drive super slowmo as the roads are in such a horrendous condition that the taxis try to take the paved roads…of which there are only 2! But we made it just in time, grabbed some disappointing chipas from a hawker (they had sounded like the Paraguayan equivalent of Lisa’s much loved pan de yucca in Ecuador – they didn’t even come close) and got chatting to some friendly sellers asking us where we were from and why we were there – a tourist hub Concepcion ain’t. The bus was ok and we were sat next to a couple of nuns which seemed like a good omen.
For the first leg of the journey the scenery was similar to that of the route into town, but after a while it transformed into something pretty spectacular – giant Ayers Rock type formations covered in green, green trees and even the locals seemed in awe of this mountainous landscape. Once again, the bus (which we soon realised
Views of the Paraguayan countryside
was a local one) took us all round the houses (which incidentally all had huge satellite dishes outside them, huge, the size of a shed!), stopping here and there and everywhere resulting in the journey seemingly taking forever. After we had stopped in the only proper town en route, the bus aisles filled up and everyone appeared to choose Ian as the one they wanted to stand next to, which he loved, embracing the lack of physical space with ease and calmness.
We arrived at midday in Pedro Juan Caballero, chucked our bags in storage and asked the bus boy what we needed to do for the border crossing. Having been told we needed to go to Migraciones on the Paraguayan side first, we hopped in a taxi, only to be told by the driver that Migraciones is shut from 12 until 2. Great timing for the bus to arrive! We decided we should head there anyway just in case he was talking nonsense…which he was not. We made the right decision though as during our hour wait the queue just got longer and longer behind us. Stamps done, we then couldn’t find a taxi for love nor money
so ended up walking, lugging heavy bags (we had thought it would be a wise idea to take all our valuable stuff with us – bad move in hindsight), down a busy but taxi-less road in the mid-afternoon heat. Ergh! We then asked a policeman where we could find the Brazilian Migraciones who told us it was opposite the Aduana, where we had just come from! We chose to ignore this advice though and eventually found a taxi stand after a kind guy pointed, or rather shouted, us in the right direction from his car as he was passing. And of course, the place was literally round the corner from the taxi stand but at least we could get the cabbie to wait for us while we got our Brazil stamps. This wasn’t easy though either, as you had to pass your passports through a gate to a guy who wandered off, after a confusing conversation in Spanish/Portuguese/English, and we were left wondering if we would ever see our precious documents again. He did return though, with passports stamped. We then got driven 3 blocks back to the terminal where we felt thoroughly ripped off by both of our taxi
rides. We should have just kept on walking.
It was an odd place, Pedro Juan Caballero – just one lone street separates Paraguay from Brazil and you can walk/drive freely from one side to the other (now I’m in Paraguay, now I’m in Brazil, now I’m in Paraguay again!), meaning you also hear people flitting between 2 different languages and see signs written in both Spanish and Portuguese. The Brazilian side seemed instantly more carefree with groups of men singing away at the side of the road and music blaring from shops and cars. Listening to Brazilian Portuguese for the first time showed the differences between it and its neighbour Spanish. We might have a tough time communicating in Brazil we decided…
Even after all this palaver though, we were able to get the next and last bus to Campo Grande as it was 2 hours late. Phew! First time we had wanted a bus to be late on the whole trip. So we got chatting to a family we had seen at Migraciones, a Paraguayan guy married to a Brazilian woman and their 3 cute kids. Unfortunately there was nowhere we could email from so just had
Our pit stop town, Yba Yba
to hope that everything was as planned in Campo Grande….
On the bus, we got seats 1 and 2 so had some sufficient leg room for Ian and settled in to listening to more Portuguese – it was difficult to work out what people were talking about and it sounded almost Dutch we decided. Then to our surprise we stopped at the same Brazilian Migraciones office before crossing officially into Ponta Pora and Brazil! It was a cold and noisy welcome though as the bus was full of whinging babies and as soon as the sun set in a pink haze, it turned super chilly. It was also strange not to understand some of what you were reading for the first time in a long time. But the reclining seats were comfy so we settled in for the long haul. This of course involved a stop off for the drivers to eat (the bus had started out in Asuncion so it was fair enough - people gotta stretch their legs on a journey that long) resulting in us arriving in Campo Grande at 11pm, 16hours after having left Concepcion, feeling knackered, grubby and hungry.
The terminal was surprisingly
nice and we found tourist information to ask about our hotel – but no English or Spanish was spoken there, meaning it was going to be a tough few weeks we thought. We also tried to get tickets for after our tour to take us to Foz and the waterfall but hardly any of the ticket booths were open so we grabbed yet another rip-off taxi to the hotel….where they didn’t have a booking in our name, causing us to think we were in the wrong place, but being so pooched after the journey we booked a room anyway thinking we’d find Ninda at some point. The hotel did try to screw us by charging 5 reals more than we had already agreed, which we disputed unsuccessfully. Not in the mood for arguing, they showed us to our room, which had no light. Lisa pointed this out and so we were shown to room number 2, which stank of mould. Again, Lisa made them aware of the problem and it was 3rd
time lucky. Having dumped the bags we went upstairs in search of some beer, only for Ian to be shouted at by some guy in a car outside the hotel…Ninda had arrived with Gil, who sorted everything out for us regarding money and bookings. It was so great to see the girls and although we were all shattered after long journeys we drank a few beers on the steps of the hotel (apparently it was a dodgy area and we were advised to stay inside) and then went off to bed ready for some Pantanal fun the next day, but not before some much needed shut-eye.
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