Well I have to do Paraguay as a whole instead of individual places. This country is not big enough and I really did not see enough. Nonetheless it has been one of my favorite places in my trip.
I arrived in Encarnacion which is a border town with Posadas, Argentina. I felt at home right away. On the bus ride into town you pass several markets that look similar to those in Peru. You can feel the negotiator in you get excited. It would not be like Argentina where prices are set. No no. This country is ranked as the second poorest in South America and you can see why....sort of at least. While it looks quite poor because of the streets and street vendors selling a variety of things one other thing stands out. You have never seen more Mercedes Benz in your life. I saw 5 pass me within 2 minutes of getting off of the bus. I could not understand it. Honestly, there are 10 times more here than in the parking lot of Westlake High School. The gap between rich and poor is intense. And the rich have mostly made their money illegally. Contraband....and that is why you can get electronics at an astonishingly cheap rate. More on that later when I write about Ciudad del Este. I spent my first 3 nights in Paraguay in a hotel closely resembling an ex prison the way it was set up. It was here that I again ran into an English guy named Chris. It was the 3rd time we had run into each other, so we decided to hang out for a few days.
The days here were spent eating roasted chicken (1/2 chicken for 2 dollars) amazing! Liter beers for $1 and $1 cokes for 75 cents. I am now a coke addict by the way. And no, not the coke from Colombia. Coca Cola the worlds best soft drink. It just tastes so good out of a glass bottle. During one of the days Chris and I met a big black man in an internet cafe. Big black men are rare down here. He stands out more than we do. Anyway, he turned to me and started speaking in english and I was quite surprised. Hes a semi pro basketball player from Kenya, but has lived in Texas for a few years and is now playing in south america. We hung out for two of the three nights watching American football playoffs and drinking beer. He was a fun guy and got tons of attention from EVERYONE when we walked down the streets. At 6´8¨hes hard to miss. He loves the chicken too. He actually eats it for breakfast. Ah good times Peter. He got Chris and I kinda sloshed one night when he pulled out a bottle of whiskey. It turns out he can drink a little bit more than Chris and I. Well that was basically our time in Encarnacion. Relaxed and fun while we soaked up a bit of the new culture. Next stop: San Juan Bautista. Why? When we got there we were not sure
We thought San Juan Bautista was close to the National Park Ybycui, but actually looked a map when we got there and found out we were not even close. The town we were in was desolate. Nobody in site. Chris and I were very lucky to catch a bus 10 minutes after arriving to another town an hour and half away. Again, we were heading to a town that we had no information on. The Lonely Planet provides very little help in Paraguay. Nobody travels here. I am not sure why, but thus far we had met almost no travelers. Only Peter and he was not really traveling. No worries though. We made it to the town Carapegua. It basically consisted of a Gas Station with a hotel (where we stayed for two nights). It was our jumping point to the national park. In the morning we hopped on an overcrowded bus to the town of Ybycui where we could catch another bus to the park. I was a little nervous because the Lonely Planet says that there is no return service from the park for the same day. Therefore, we would probably be stranded at the park without a place to sleep or tent. The park was a subtropical jungle with lots of bugs. Yet again, I realized that I do not prefer the jungle much anything else. It was a treacherous walk. Chris ran into a wasps/hornets nest with his head. Enough said about that experience. We were rewarded with a nice waterfall area and a place to swim, along with some eye candy. This park is a local tourist hangout. Families come here to camp. There were cuties in bathingsuits and people playing water volleyball. Right away we were asked where we were from. Chris is about as white as they come. The other question we seem to get from all the locals here is....Why did you come to Paraguay? As though their country has nothing to offer. Its quite funny and obvious tourists are not the norm. Well we did not spend much time here and then opted to walk out to the ranger station via the road and not the insect ridden path. We were hoping one of the many cars would be leaving and we could hitchike back to town. What luck did we have. A van was passing by and it turned out to be the family with the pretty girls with beautiful bods. Although the van was full, they were more than happy to pick us up and fill the van to the brim. In total we had 12 people in the van. They were all family minus 1 girl who was a girlfriend. It was not more than 1 minute into the ride when the two daughters let us know they were not married and they thought we were beautiful. Green Card going once, going twice, SOLD to the girl with the fantastic rack. We scored huge on this hitchike. Not only did we not get stranded in the park or have to pay large fees for a taxi ride back into town, but we were invited to stay at their house in Asuncion. The capital of Paraguay. We struck Paraguayan gold. Chris and I had a smile for the next day at our future possibilities. In the morning we caught a bus to Asuncion.
Asuncion, Dengue capital. A nice spread out city with 1 -2 million people. Make sure to wear bug spray. Dengue is famous here. If you get bit by a carrier mosquito get ready for terrible flu like symptoms and maybe a hospital trip. The first night we stayed in a hostel so we could check out the place before meeting up with our new friends. Not much to see if you ask me. A few plazas, 100s of policemen, the usual. This country is supposed to be dangerous. I dunno. Its all the same to me at this point in the trip. We met up with our friends the next day and headed to their home just outside of the city center. Nothing fantastic, but for a country like this its great. It is where all 3 or 4 or 5 of the kids live. I am still not sure. It depends the day. The parents live in another house an hour outside of town. We did not stay too long before heading to their parents house. We did though get to enjoy our first real cultural experiences here. 1st. A session of TeReRe which is their ice cold herbal tea which is a multiple occurance every day. One person with a canteen of iced water with herbs in it, fill up another glass with different herbs in it and gives it to one person. That person then finishes the cup and hands it back to be refilled for another person to drink using a strange metal straw. This goes on until the water runs out or everyone has had enough. 2nd. I played Piggy. Soccer volleyball which is more popular than soccer. Every guy plays it, some girls and you are never too old to play. Damn they are good. I got to play another 4 or 5 times during my stay.
Next stop, Caacupe. If these names dont sound like Spanish names its because they are Guarani. An indigenous language which is still widely used (mostly mixed with spanish) This is a much smaller town 50km outside of Asuncion where the parents have a farm house. The mother Graciela runs a self financed school for children of poor and broken down families. What a sweetheart huh? No public funding at all. Its amazing. It was upon arrival that we knew this family really was special. They could not say enough that their house was our Paraguayan home. Its also not possible to overstay a welcome here. When I tried to leave 5 days later, they tried to not let me leave. It was great. While staying here we relaxed and truly soaked up Paraguayan life. IT includes, not working, sleeping, drinking TeReRe, playing Piggy and eating food. Really, nobody works it seems. Maybe thats why its one of the poorest countries in South America. We also got to meet the extended family, enjoy a birthday party, and go out dancing. We went to a popular town with night life two times. One time to a club where I found myself a cute Paraguayan to dance with named Nora. We ended up hanging out again in Asuncion a few days later. We danced until the sun came up and then some. It was a fun night. (oh by the way....the two daughters arent married, but are not single either- they both have boyfriends) No big deal. I dont just hang out with them, but with the whole family because they all rock. After 4 or 5 nights in Caacupe, we went back to Asuncion for another 2 nights before I headed off solo to Filadelfia.
A town in the Chaco region which was formed by Mennonite Germans. Canadian Germans and others later were allowed to live there to escape religious persecution (and war crimes from WW2) because the land was inhabitable. Now it produces most of the country´s dairy. Its mostly German speaking and strange to see the bright white people among the dark indigenous. Its known to be very dry, with cookie cutter streets, and germans. It was the second two, but the first one was wrong. At least for me. I went during the 1-2 month period that it rains. It was as muddy as muddy comes. You could not cross certain streets because of the lakes that formed. Strange town. A bit of racism. Little beer because of the religion. Nothing to do. I read and slept before gettin out of there back to Asuncion to my Paraguayan family.
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