Paraguay
San Cristobál

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  • Day14

    Asuncion - Day 1

    July 12 in Paraguay ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Got up early and made my way to the bus station and got comfy for a 6 hour ride to the capital, Asuncion. Honestly not much scenery on the ride but these double decker coach buses are incredibly comfortable with seats that almost go vertical, a leg rest and wifi. For 5 dollars more, i could have had a bed but the beds were sold-out. Oh well, certainly not suffering.

    Checked into my super swanky hotel.. probably the nicest hotel i have ever been in. Got changed and got an uber right away to a micro brewery not far away. Had a beer there, then noticed there was another brewery across the street. I was the only person at either but an older couple walked in and i cheered them and we ended up chatting for a few hours. Klaus and Carla from Sweden. Carla used to work at the swedish embassy in ottawa as a cook! Small world.

    Switched locations for some food. Chatted with paraguayan Yanini for a while who was sitting nearby. And then at a nearby pub, met Chilean Geraldo who is a diplomat at the Chile embassy here in Asuncion. He had some really interesting stories that I'm assuming were a bit more classified than he treated them haha. And back to the hotel. One last detail.. when you order a bottle of beer in this city, you get an ice bucket to keep it on ice all the time. Nice touch.
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  • Day251

    Versuchter Autoverkauf

    July 26, 2019 in Paraguay ⋅ ☁️ 10 °C

    Schön wie er strahlt oder? Die Jungs von der Reinigung haben ihn ein Wohlfühl-Packet verabreicht. Das hatte er sich auch verdient. Nach dieser Fahrt durch den Chaco. 😧 ich denke da sprechen die Bilder für sich. Naja Auto ist nicht verkauft aber zumindest bei einem Freund verstaut, in einem Land wo es unbegrenzten Aufenthalt hat. 😆Read more

  • Day79

    Paraguay

    October 28, 2017 in Paraguay ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    The Sun Shone in Asuncion

    It was a lovely flight from La Paz to Asuncion, with great views of the snowy mountains. Chris was a bit disappointed with the size of the plane - it was too big for him, but we took a picture of a dilapidated twin prop plane and tagged the relatives to scare them, as compensation. Actually, it was two flights, with the first terminating at Santa Cruz. Our second flight left half an hour later, so we even had a built in toilet stop, and time for a quick argument (about snacks) - hangry! We stepped off the plane into an oven - a steam oven.

    The hotel was excellent. We had a traditional large suite, with parquet floors, twin Queen beds, writing desk, large wooden sideboard for that essential holiday china, and a separate dressing area leading to the barthroom. We took advantage of the hotel's laundry service, which was so efficient that we thought some items had not been returned - they had delivered it back to our room while we were out, but only half (t shirts etc) was neatly folded on the bed. The other items (trousers, dresses, long sleeved tops) had been hung in the wardrobe. On the edge of the pool, the hotel had it own trattoria style restaurant, where we ate for two out of the three nights of our stay, and particularly enjoyed the live traditional music and folk dancing. We actually recognised one of the tunes from the trolley bus minstrel in Valparaiso - we're turning into true South American officianados. Our motel, which was 3 star was attached to a larger, more modern hotel on the opposite side of the pool, where we took their 5 star breakfast (all inclusive) in their first floor sun room. This is where we saw our crew from the La Paz flight on our first morning - we only stay at the best places!

    It was so unbearably hot that day as we walked out into the city centre (only 10-15 minutes away), that after a brief stop in a dark, cool junk shop (house clearance tat which made me feel slightly anxious), and after having been moved on by the security police for looking over the parapet and seeing the people living in the shanties on the edge of the River Paraguay, we ducked desperately into the cathedral to get cool. Sweat was trickling down our temples, despite the marble floors and the large fans, but I was still shocked at having been told to leave what was an obvious place to look out over the river that runs through Paraguay's capital city. Basically, don't look at the poor people! After this, we sweated at the railway station, or what's left of it. It's a museum now, with a Stephenson's Rocket type train with a large funnel (the Sapucai) on a plinth at one end, and a 'Casey Jones and his Canonball Express Wild West train' (wood-panelled carriages, a buffet car, and front and back 'balcony' views) at the other.

    Next we decided to go to the Botanical Gardens, just a short walk away (or so we thought). It would definitely be cooler there - all those trees and large shady plants. After wandering round for a bit until my legs stopped working in protest, we decided to try a cab. Lucky we did, because the gardens were 20 minutes away by car, and were no cooler than the town. We were dropped outside the Natural History Museum at the near end of the gardens, so we ducked straight in there to get cool again - the taxi had been like a sauna, even with the windows wide open (with pollution thrown in). After we had had our fill of badly stuffed exotic animals (5 minutes), we walked to the 'palacio' at the other end of the garden, before giving in and sitting on a bench for a few minutes, then walking back to the main entrance to get another taxi. The beautiful, bright orange, flowering trees and the green parrots made me feel a bit better about the hot journey back, but not much.

    We had genuinely thought that we'd be skipping around like altitude acclimatised athletes when we came down to sea-level from the high mountains in Bolivia, but hadn't factored in the 38 degree heat on the edge of the rainforest. We arrived back into the Plaza de Los Heroes, from where we traipsed to a large restaurant we had spotted earlier. Amazing air conditioning, and absolutely packed, mainly with lunching office workers, it turned out to be one of the oldest and most prestigious cafe-restaurants in the city. Established in the 60s, but in a late 19th Century building, it had good food, beer, and mix and match freshly squeezed/pulped juices! Perfect! After lunch we went back to the hotel for a long swim in the pool. Even more perfect!

    The next day, we walked to the Presidential Palace which was a little like the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires...pink, and then walked to the sanitised, landscaped edge of the river, with Ascuncion writ large in concrete. We were allowed to look at this bit. We strolled along the prom a bit further, to find a small boat which appeared to be running trips out onto the river from a tiny jetty. We didn't resist the opportunity, along with three over-excited Argentinians. The chug chug of the exhaust turned Chris into Humphrey Bogart. There were in fact a few reeds where the heron sat, but this was condor country, with harbour cranes. We then explored a derelict part of the port with a particularly interesting war memorial, featuring a broken earthenware nativity scene (with no baby Jesus) nestling amongst its graphite coloured obelisks. This day was much cooler because it had rained the previous evening, so we explored a few more squares and revisited places too hot to stop on the previous day. In the evening we tried Bolsi, (our lunchtime cool retreat), for dinner. Not as quirky as the hotel restaurant, but good food, and a change of scene. We enjoyed our bit of r & r in the sun.

    Gangsters' Paradise

    The best bus journey of the trip was the one that took us from Asuncion to Cuidad del Este, the romantically named City of the East. It was one straight road all the way, and what was supposed to take eight hours took just six. The coach was clean, the seats were wide and comfortable, and we had the best spot up front - double the leg room, a great view in fine weather, and Wifi. On arrival, a taxi from the station took us to our hotel, via a checkpoint (with armed guards) where we were required to show our passports. We were a little confused because we hadn't crossed any borders yet. As far as we knew, we were still in Paraguay. We then entered what can only be described as a 'compound', a controlled area that looked like a wealthy Californian estate, with large detached houses - many were mansions, with colonnaded porches, stepped paths up to large front doors, metal lions on plinths at the bottom - that kind of shit. Some earlier research had revealed the town (not in fact a city) to be a tax haven, where goods and drugs are traded with impunity. People mainly seem to visit for the shopping, for obvious reasons. All the more surprising then, that our little corner of town was so heavily guarded and 'policed'. When we went out for dinner 'over the border' that evening, we had to pass through the checkpoint again, and were stopped by a security guard on a moped whilst we walked the last part of the journey (all 50m of it) to the restaurant. We had apparently been less of a worry to the administration whilst driving, when we were just waved through with a Mona Lisa smile from the man at the barrier. Our means of transport may have been a factor here though...On arrival at the hotel we had been told at reception that they did not provide dinner, and that we could either send out for it, or be taken in a golf cart to a nearby restaurant. We decided to eat out and requested the lift. The receptionist disappeared, and returned a few minutes later, driving the buggy. He invited Chris to sit beside him, so I sat on the back. He then gesticulated that I was sitting in the wrong place, and began to demonstrate the controls. Chris realised before I did that we were expected to drive ourselves - no lights - no indicators - across a maze like estate - in the dark. We found our way there, but got lost on the way back. Two gringos in a golf cart are definitely non-threatening, but a massive embarrassment when asking for directions from people who drive mercedes.

    The bizarre Wonderland that we had stumbled into was 'The Parana Country Club' - protected on one side by the checkpoints, and on the other by the impenetrable, Brazilian rainforest, which lay on the far bank of the fast flowing Parana River (initially misheard as 'Piranha' - it sounds more 007). We had chosen the hotel at random, simply because it looked a good place to relax - it had a pool, and, from the pictures, it appeared to have spectacular views from the balconies. It definitely wasn't because of the guns and the gates, of which we had been totally unaware. Our personal theory was that the policing was to protect the bad, rather than the good. Think Lord Lucan, and imagine war criminals and drugs barons, living in splendid isolation on the edge of the jungle - true identities fading along with the grandeur, the golf courses a cover (and location) for dodgy dealing on the greens.

    We appeared to be the only guests at first - floating alone in the bougainvillea and mosquito scattered pool, and wandering silently on the jasmine scented balconies, photographing the single launch which drifted engineless with the flow of the river, all to an insomniac's soundtrack of soft rain and birdcalls. Later we saw a handful of people on the terrace beyond the breakfast room, and spoke with a Brazilian couple who could point (across the river) to where they had travelled from. I did ask the man if he had swum, but he didn't get the joke. Lost in translation, despite my accompanying mime.

    The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast in front of the sort of huge fireplace you see in the homes of the villains in Columbo, the mantelpiece filled with golfing trophies (probably the murder weapon), we called for our taxi. This took us to a small border ferry point, just south of the city where we could go directly into Argentina across the river, avoiding Brazil, heading for the Falls.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

San Cristobál, San Cristobal

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