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Published: January 2nd 2013
It is a long way down to Asunion, capital of Paraguay. Our first impression of the city was one of disappointment. It is very dirty with graffiti decorating many buildings and walls. Some of the skyscrapers are stained and discolored from pollution. Sections of sidewalk are often missing or cracked. Putting that aside, Paraguay was beautiful from the air. We could see fields of green and plots of forests. As we approached the city, we could see that it was located on the E. banks of the Paraguay River.
Paraguay has had a sad life. It has been ruled by dictators and other corrupt officials. People seem to accept this as a fact of life. Paraguay is the second poorest country in South America. We have seen many destitute people and have been surprised that they didn´t ask us for money. Sometimes, we offered some to them anyway. When we were in one plaza, we saw a homeless man going through every garbage can drinking whatever was left in bottles and cans. We were warned of tourists being mugged--especially near the river. We waited until New Year´s Day to walk down there. The area was deserted except
for us, 3 Paraguayan men, and 10 policemen. No one in Asuncion has bothered us or been rude in any way. As we walk down streets, we notice that many do not make eye contact. If they do look at us, we smile and say, ¨Hola.¨ They quickly smile back and make a pleasant reply. We have been impressed with the ones who have jobs. They work hard and for long hours. Parguayans appear to be of Spanish or Indian descent. The women have beautiful, long dark brown or black hair.
I have had more trouble understanding the currency here than on previous trips. All of the Paraguayan money has at least 3 zeroes and the letters MIL in the corner of each bill. I mistakenly thought the MIL stood for million but have recently found that it means thousand in Spanish. When asking a price, the seller might respond with 3 fingers. That could mean 3000, 30,000, or 300,000. I tried to pay for a 50,000 shirt with a 100,000 bill and the lady would not accept it. I finally decided that I needed Walt with me when making purchases.
Everywhere people are seen carrying gallon thermos
Changing of the Guard
This happens every 8 days by the Plaza of the Heroes in downtown Asuncion.
jugs with a small cup and metal straw attached. The country´s favorite drink is yerba mate, an herbal tea. The cup is filled with chopped herbs and hot or cold water is poured over it. They just continue to add water throughout the day. I frequently saw them sharing their drink with others. One lady offered me some of hers, but I declined. I did like the fresh minty aroma that came from it.
We decided to take a side trip to Iguazu Falls which is in both Brazil (20%) and Argentina (80%.) To do so, we had to start out on a 5 hour bus ride to Ciudad de Este, Paraguay. The trip involved several more buses and taxis. I must say that it was the worst day in all of our traveling experiences. We ended up wanting to kill each other. It is a good thing that we didn´t run into a divorce lawyer. One taxi driver changed his price from what we had agreed on to a price 10 times higher. I exchanged some interesting words with him which I am sure that he did not understand. There is a good chance that he got the
This plaza was by the river in a rough neighborhood.
idea of what I meant. Walt managed to shut me up. We sought help from a policeman forgetting briefly that Ciudad de Este is the MOST CORRUPT CITY in South America. When he got out his handcuffs, Walt settled with the taxi driver. I am sure the cop got a cut of the taxi fare .
Iguazu Falls deserves to be one of the wonders of the world! South Americans say that Niagara Falls is just a ¨Trickle in God´s mind,¨compared to Iguazu. They are taller than Niagara and twice as wide. Iguazu has 275 cascades plunging over 250 foot cliffs on nearly two miles of the Iguazu River. The horseshoe shaped falls formed as a result of a volcanic eruption. The flow of water going over the falls can reach 450,000 cubic feet per second. When Eleanor Roosevelt saw the falls, she commented, ¨Poor Niagara.¨ We rode an open air train from the park entrance to the top elevation of the falls. From there, we walked on metal footbridges over the Iguazu River through the rain forests of small islands, back over the river, through more islands, etc. until we reached the falls. The spray from the falls
Yerba Mate Tea
This is an herbal tea. We have seen South Americans drinking this tea in many countries.
was so strong that it was like being in a rain shower and the roar was deafening. We were lucky to be there early in the morning before the crowds arrived. By the time we left, thousands of tourists were in the parks. We saw signs warning of different animals --jaguars, snakes, etc. A few years ago, a park ranger´s young son wassnatched killed by a jaguar. As we passed through the jungle, we saw beautiful butterflies and birds.
On our ride back to Asuncion, we saw families sitting outside in the early evening with friends and neighbors watching tv. Their children were busy in the yard playing soccer. Most still had Christmas decorations on their homes. The same is true in the city. Most stores, hotels, and restaurants are decorated. Some have large nativity scenes in their lobbies.
We have a television in our hotel room but don´t have an English news channel. We are trying to get a little news off of the computer.
The climate is subtropical with pleasant mornings and hot afternoons. We haven´t been bothered by mosquitoes. We met a nice couple from France and the girl was covered with bites. She
Thermos, Cup, & Straw
The thermos jugs are sometimes covered with leather and elaborate decorations.
looked like she had the measles. I wondered if they were camping and sleeping outside. Walt met one couple from Oregon yesterday. I have not seen an American since I left Atlanta.
I have included 26 photos in the blog. You may have to scroll down to see most of them.
There are not many places in the world that to me are less appealing than Asuncion. Our next stop will be Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Everette & Walt
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