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Published: March 22nd 2015
So here I sit in Ciudad del Este, the most eastern town in Paraguay, on the border to Argentina and Brazil, and gateway to the Iguacu Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders in the world. And before I can tell you about them I better update my blog to what has happened the last few weeks…….
My last blog entry was about my adventures in the north of Argentina and how I escaped the floods in Miramar. And while it was pretty tense for a while for me, and I had a cool ride in an army truck as well, it was one of these trips that I will remember for a long time.
After I arrived back in Cordoba I had a long trip to Asuncion. They told me it would be 18 hours but it turned out to be 22 hours. The good thing was I had the upper front seat and I was able to see the whole trip like on a giant TV; just better because it was in real life. It is pretty amazing to cruise through the north of Argentina and see the beautiful landscape. Most of the area is gaucho land
and agriculture is the main bread winner. So you drive through these corn fields, followed by grazing land and then other wheat fields. The land is flat, and I mean flat, and from time to time you pass a small town on the way. Real good fun….
We arrived at the Argentinean / Paraguayan border around 2 in the afternoon and what a hectic place that was. It was stinking hot and dusty and the trucks lined up for kilometres on each side to cross. As we didn’t had many people on the bus at that stage we passed all the formalities rather quickly and so I entered Paraguay – country #77……….
Arriving in Asuncion I quickly checked into a backpacker and straight away started exploring the city. Well, to be honest I was hungry as and before I was interested in any of the places I just wanted to eat. Not so far from the hostel was this amazing steakhouse and I had a great feast. You know how good steak tastes when you haven’t eaten anything but cookies for nearly 24 hours? I tell you it was pretty good.
Now Paraguay is, beside Bolivia, the
only land locked country in South America and it is also one of the poorest. While it had one of the fastest growing economies in the world in the last few years, which is not very hard if you had no economy at all before, it is still a pretty poor country. Paraguay won its independence in 1811 from the Spanish and during all its existence it fought bloody wars. The most damaging war was from 1864 to 1870 when the country fought Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay whereby they were utterly defeated. It also lost 70% of its male population in that war, including children. I personally think it never really recovered from that war. Paraguay is also the home of the country with the longest serving dictator, Alfredo Stroessner, in South America. Only in 1989 he was ousted and “democratic” elections were held for the first time.
Now Asuncion is, compared to other cities in South America, not a big city and the historical part is easily explored by walking. And walking I did, a lot, in the stinking heat and the dusty dry weather. I explored the museums and plazas, walked the banks of the Paraguay River
and enjoyed the coolness of the churches. I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with the museums; for a country with such a history they were pretty poor. And I found nothing about the dictatorship of Stroessner beside a squashed monument.
One of the exciting happenings, if you can call it exciting to be nearly mugged, I encountered was when I was walking around and I heard a lot of screaming and shouting. Curious as I am I had to check it out and in no time I was in the middle of a football hooligan battle. Now I was myself a hooligan in my younger years, but what I saw was nothing what I have ever experiences. Not only was the police there but the military as well, all equipped with automatic rifles. I didn’t dare to pull my camera out as it was pretty full on and I just didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Well, that what I thought, but how can a 1.93m tall blond German not draw attention?
So here I was in the middle of the chaos when I suddenly felt a huge tug on my backpack. Luckily I
had all the straps on and I didn’t lose it. All what happened was that I fell on my back and saw some faces over me. Then I just hit automatic defence mode and started hitting and kicking like a mad man. I managed to get up and was in a fist fight with three guys which seemed to be for ages but in reality only lasted less than a minute. These three guys thought that they could steal my stuff but they thought wrong. Out of nowhere the military police appeared and arrested the three guys. When they heard that I was a foreigner they just waved me away and laid into the three with their buttons. Man did they hit the guys hard. So I left pretty quickly and I can tell you that after this event I broke my 6pm beer rule……….
After 4 days in Asuncion I decided that it was time to get back to Carla in Brasilia. You know it is a funny thing when you like somebody and that somebody is not around you to enjoy the things you do. So I got a cheap flight to Brasilia and was reunited with
her. What a nice view it was when I saw her at the airport when she picked me up. And I didn’t think she was too disappointed to see me as well…..
So for 12 days I was hanging around Brasilia with Carla overseeing legal matters and just trying to settle in. I attended the Hash House Harrier runs as I do since I started running with them in 1986 in China. They are a really good group, exist all over the world and are a good way to meet expats which is never a bad thing if you want to meet people and see places tourists will not go. They also like a beer or two as well.
Well, just being content and settling in I was a happy chap until Carla’s brother, a lawyer, asked me the question- if I knew that I can only stay 90 days in Brazil within a 180 day circle. I told him that I had no idea as the normal thing is that when you enter a country you get a 90 day visa and when they are about to expire you just leave the country for a couple of
days and then come back. Well, as it turned out that is not the case in Brazil. So after some calculations on my coming and going it turned out that I was at……..the 89th
day. On a Saturday. F$%!^(MISSING)&……… What to do now? I had one day left and then I was an illegal alien. Now that is all what I needed.
Carla and I discussed what to do and the poor girl wasn’t happy at all about the situation. But we decided to ask the Federal Police what can be done and if it would be possible to extend the visa. However we had to wait for Monday to do so.
On Sunday we attended a huge anti-government rally in the heart of Brasilia as we had planned that before. I was curious on how this rally would turn out as in the past they were quite violent. I have met a couple of journalists on a pro government rally on Friday night and they all told me that it could end up in violence and to bring a helmet. Now where the heck do I get a helmet from? But the rally turned out peaceful and over
50.000 people marched on the parliament. It was a nice atmosphere and not once did I feel threatened.
So on Monday morning we lined up with others at the Federal Police Department at the airport and after an agonising waiting we spoke to a cool but professional lady which told us that there is no chance that I would get an extension and that I had to leave the next day. Now that wasn’t what we wanted but the law is the law. Additionally, I really didn’t want to risk being in detention with some Peruvians and Bolivians here in Brazil. I heard that the detention centres are not a very nice place.
So I booked my flight back into Asuncion for the next day and spent the rest of Monday getting my shit together. Both Carla and I were not very happy about this situation but what can one do?
We didn’t want to risk future entries in the country so we just had to do what we had to do.
So on Tuesday morning I took my flight and to my surprise I had no problem at the Brazilian customs. After a short stopover
in Sao Paulo I arrived safe and well back in Asuncion where I have left a week earlier. I stayed for one day in Asuncion and on Thursday I took the bus to where I am now, Ciudad del Este, a hectic, dirty and quiet dangerous border town. But more to that in my next update…
So there you have it. I am up to date again and very soon I will fill you in what happens in the next few days. Today was an amazing day and there are many things planned for the coming days. All in all a couple of interesting weeks behind me and more exciting things to come. Life never plays out how we want it and it is just how we deal with the roadblocks that appear all of the sudden. Staying positive is the key to all challenges; we only life once and we have to make the best out of it. Surrendering to challenges is not an option!
Stay safe wherever you are and I hope you enjoyed this blog. Please also remember to like some of the pictures and leave some comments.
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