A little side trip into Paraguay, well Cuidad del Este anyway


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South America » Paraguay » Ciudad del Este
March 15th 2013
Published: March 16th 2013
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15th March ’13 A short side trip to Paraguay

Today we took the local bus across the border to Cuidad del Este in Paraguay, well it seemed a shame to be so close and not go and have a look. Amazingly we got on the bus a few yards from our hotel and an hour later we were in a different country! The journey should have only taken 30 minutes but the traffic was mad and made madder by six lanes trying to get into two! About half the passengers got off and just walked it, and it was a long way but they still beat us.

We crossed over the Parana River on the Friendship Bridge and it was hard to tell one country from the other by the scenery but once we passed immigration and customs (which our bus just sailed by) the Paraguay side was just a seething mass of markets, people and vehicles.

Feeling slightly disconcerted that we had just crossed a border and done nothing official about it we walked back up to the Paraguay immigration and had a word with the lady on the tourist information desk. It turns out that coming in by bus just for a day means you don’t need to do any paperwork it also unfortunately means you don’t get a stamp in your passport which was a shame. However she did say we could get one for a souvenir if we went into the building on the opposite side of the road, so over we went…..

But everyone looked blankly at us when we asked and as we were now standing in the departure immigration building we decided to give it a miss and just head into town before getting arrested! So clutching the town map which the tourist information lady had given us, marked with the only two things to see in the town – the museum and the river! We ventured forth. I have to say it wasn’t pleasant, there was traffic everywhere so walking on the road was a nightmare and the pavements were lined on both sides with stalls so you had to squeeze through the middle of them.

If you wanted to buy cheap blankets, copy designer bags, clothes and footwear, dubious cigarettes, all things plastic, fishing rods or guns of every description you were in the right place, we didn’t so we weren’t. The main draw of this town is the apparently cheap electrical goods and everywhere people were thrusting leaflets for their shops at you and trying to lure you in. There were huge shopping complexes cum malls full of them and rich Brazilians apparently come over in droves to stock up on the goodies.

I did find a couple of stalls selling ethnic type bags but they were asking stupid amounts for them so I don’t know where the idea things were cheap supposedly came from. Despite attempting to get away from the main shopping area we only managed to find a few roads with food stalls and still more market stalls. We were feeling hot, hassled and slightly disillusioned with the place so decided to get out of town, but at least we had given it a go and I guess we can say we have been to Paraguay. I very much doubt that Cuidad del Este is representative of Paraguay in general but it was all we could fit in on this trip unfortunately.

The bus journey back was only 30 minutes and that included stopping for a customs officer to get on the bus and check we weren’t all smuggling stuff across the border. So we were out of Paraguay and Cuidad del Este well before the recommended time of 5pm, which according to our 10 year old guide book is the time the shop keepers pack away their wares and the town takes on a sinister edge!!!

Well, apologies in advance to Mum but tonight’s tea just has to get a mention! We went to the Churrascaria do Gaucho Restaurant in Foz and just when I thought people could not possibly consume any larger quantities in Brazil than we had previously seen, I was proved wrong! This place was like the restaurant Gary took us to in Clapham only 20 times larger in every respect. A churrascaria is an all you can eat meat buffet and basically for the equivalent of £8 you get an unlimited salad/pasta/other dishes buffet bar, unlimited ice cream and puds and unlimited meat which is cooked on a barbeque and then waiters bring it around to your table on long skewers and carve chunks off for you.

Well when we got there it was reasonably busy but the meat skewers were coming at us thick and fast, so fast that we hadn’t even taken a mouthful before the next one arrived! They just put it on the spare plates that are laid out on the tables. Most of the meat we could guess at and was various cuts of beef, pork, chicken and sausages wrapped in bacon. Then came stranger things that might have been little kidneys or hearts, meat that looked like beef but tasted very strong (hmm methinks this one may have escaped the clutches of Tesco – neigh surely not?) and numerous other cuts of meat done with a variety of wrappings/coatings and other things. Believe it or not we actually turned lots of it away!

Finally we remembered the little plaque thing on the table, which if you turned it from green to red meant the waiters would pass you by, only here it seemed to just present them with a challenge to try and persuade you to try more!!

It really was a meat lover’s paradise and almost as amazing as the value for money was the quantities of grub people were putting away. Two little stick thin Korean girls were wapping it back and up at the buffet for heaps of extras. On another table I have never seen a man trench his way through so much meat, he just never stopped, no skewer was left turned away!

It’s just as well that this was our last night in Brazil I don’t think my stomach can take much more of this!! But what a great meal to finish with.

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