A brief dip unto Paraguay and an unexpected final farewell gift from Bolivia!


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South America » Paraguay » Asunciòn
February 8th 2012
Published: April 14th 2012
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So, with one horrendous bus ride down in order to get to Argentina as cheap as possible, we were quickly onto the next one. The destination of this bus…..Paraguay. Now, Paraguay was never really on the must do list when we planned out possible routes in South America, and therefore we never really looked much into it. This wasn’t because of any particular reason other than not many people had travelled there, and therefore we didn’t really know much about it. What we did know was that it would be cheaper to get a bus to Asuncion (Paraguay’s capital), and then another from there to BA than it would to fly from Bolivia to BA, and therefore we thought ‘What the heck, Paraguay here we come’

The bus that we got from Bolivia pretty much summed up Bolivian buses throughout the country. It had all the same quirks, in that it was cramped, it smelt and was so old that it was probably around from when Bolivia got their independence. This bus however chucked in a new quirk when it had to pull over twice within the 22 hour ride to change the same wheel that had simply ‘broke’ whilst we were driving along the motorway. Fortunately the bus slowed down and stopped in time on both occasions, however it certainly wasn’t an ideal scenario!

The other strange thing about this journey was the immigration out of Bolivia and into Paraguay. After receiving our exit stamps in Bolivia at 4am, we assumed the entry stamps for Paraguay were imminent as this process always happens at the border of two countries. So, after standing in a short queue, getting our exit stamps and changing our remaining cash into Paraguayan money, we were back on the bus and off to what we assumed was the Paraguayan side…….

…..6 hours later, we finally got to the entry side of Paraguay!! That is one large piece of no-man’s land!! Sometimes you have to wonder what is going on over here!

So, after what ended up being an awful 26 hour bus journey, we were finally here in Paraguay. We jumped in a taxi and directed the driver to our hotel that was by all accounts a bit of a treat for us. The reason for the treat was that for the next 2 months or so we knew that we would have to save a few pennies on accommodation as Argentina and Chile were not going to be cheap and that meant only one thing….dorm beds. So far we had managed to avoid these like the plague for reasons I’m sure I will mention after having stayed in a few, and so for now we decided to treat ourselves one more time before the dorm onslaught and booked ourselves into this nice room with a pool.

Once the taxi dropped us off, we paid him with the only note we had managed to change up from the Bolivian border. Unfortunately, this note was either fake or old (we couldn’t work out which from what he was saying) so we had to change up our remaining USD at reception in order to pay him. The hotel receptionist told us that we could just go to the bank and change it tomorrow though. Therefore, no worries, we would sort something out in the morning as it was late and after that terrible bus, all we wanted to do was eat and get to sleep.

When we woke up the next morning, we knew we had made the right decision. It was baking hot in the Paraguayan sun, and all we had planned was to walk around the town and see some sights before getting back poolside and topping up our neglected tans. So, we walked downtown from the hotel which was a walk of around 10 blocks or so, and the heat was just incredible. It felt like every time the wind picked up we were being blasted by jet engines, and after a quick look at the temperature in town, we realised why…. It was 38 degrees here….. Something us Brits are not too familiar with!

Due to the heat, we decided to step up the pace of the wander in order to get back to the sun loungers at the hotel as quick as possible. So, we walked around for a while, took in some of the sights as well as a few pictures and started to head back. On our return, we saw a guy selling ‘Genuine Paraguayan Ray Bans’ and therefore, since I had lost yet another pair of shades, I decided to invest in some. They cost me 40,000 Guiana’s, and so I decided to see if this guy would accept the 50,000 note that the cabbie turned away the previous night. To my surprise he did, and therefore I was happy. I had a new pair of shades and we didn’t have to faff around changing money at the bank…. Two birds with one stone…awesome!

The rest of that day was spent chilling round the pool soaking up the crazy hot rays and sipping a few cold ones. Paradise!

After a polar opposite second day (cloud and rain) where we simply caught up on emails etc. and watched the cable TV we had in the room, it was time to move on from Asuncion the next morning and head to BA. Here, we were going to meet up with Donna’s younger brother Matt for a 2 week whistle stop tour of Argentina, we would get to see him after being away for 6 months, and he would get to see us, and have a holiday, plus we could use this opportunity to corrupt his young mind and get him hooked on travelling..!

So, that morning, all we wanted to do was to go back down to the town centre, buy a wrist band (we are collecting these from each country in South America) before heading back to the hotel to get a cab back to the bus station. Once we had strolled down the town and having bought said bands, we were on our way back when we were hassled by a sunglasses salesman. ‘No Gracias’ I said ‘Yo Tengo Gafas’ – No Thanks, I have sunglasses. This did little to distract this obviously desperate salesman, and he carried on pestering us. Finally, after getting a little tired of this, I turned to him and in my most stern voice again told him ‘I DON’T NEED ANY’ It was then I realised who this guy was…..it was the salesman who had sold me my glasses 2 days previous. Turns out, he wasn’t trying to sell me another pair of shades, but instead was pretty damn pissed off about getting arrested for the fake 50,000 note that I had given him for the glasses, after he tried to bank it in the Bank of Paraguay! He insisted that we followed him right away, and he didn’t seem in the jolliest of moods, so we decided as we were told this note was OK, we should follow him in order to protest our innocence as not following him would have surely shown some form of guilt / intent to supply a forged note. Where we were going, we didn’t quite know….police station, Bank, round the back of the shops for a kicking? No idea. But we went all the same, prepared for any eventuality. After a 2 minute frog march, we arrived at the bank. Phew…it looked like being arrested wasn’t on the cards today. After a long conversation with a bank clerk, we were finally beckoned over. Neither of these guys spoke English, and again, our Spanish only really gets us by when ordering meals or buying bus tickets, so the conversation was pretty useless. It appeared that all we had to do though was to pay this guy a proper 50,000 note and it would all go away as the one we had given the guy had been destroyed. We did this in the bank, and as soon as the fabric touched his hands all was forgotten and suddenly, the salesman was our best mate. The bank teller couldn’t care less, the shades seller had cleared his name at the bank, we had escaped a kick-in and jail and the bitch at the Bolivian border made 50,000 worth of Bolivianos by ripping off a couple of tired gringos…it seemed everyone was a winner here…. Sort of!

As we only went to town in order to buy wristbands, these two bits of cotton are by far the most expensive items that we own costing 2,000 each for the bands and an extra 50,000 for seeing this angry salesman on the way back to the hotel!! We will treasure these keepsakes for as long as physically possible!

So, that was our brief encounter with Paraguay and what would be our last brush with indulgence for a while. Next stop, Buenos Aires, Argentina!

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14th April 2012

So Paraguay is not worth visiting?
You will note on my Countires Visited map that Paraguay is the only blank country otherwise surrounded by countries I plan to visit. I would reconsider if you thought it worthwhile, but as you say, not many travelers pass that way.

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