Due to Jason’s problems with visa, more specifically the lack of one, we had to change our plans with Paraguay and speed it up. First we took a bus going to Encarnacion – a city in the southern tip of the country. The next day we spent another 6 hours on the bus, this time heading to the capital city – Asuncion.
After our adventure on the Paraguayan border in Ciudad del Este, about which you can read here, we decided to not stay in this city and skip close by waterfalls and a big dam attraction. We walked out of the border building and since we didn’t have any money besides american dollars, we took a taxi instead of a bus. Taught by experience and with high level of adrenaline in our blood and the thinking that we cannot trust anyone, we asked for the price before we got into the car. The taxi driver said 5 dollars, which seemed to be quite a lot, but we didn’t have to much time and wanted to get out of that crazy area as soon as possible. When we got to the bus terminal, our taxi driver asked for 10 dollars, it happened that he meant 5 dollars but for a person. So much for our wisdom and foresight.
When we walked into the bus terminal, a bunch of bus employees jumped on us yelling: Asuncion, Asunsion, ahora, ahora!!!! When we said that we are not going to Asuncion, but Encarnacion, some of them left us and others surrounded us shouting: Encarnacion, Encarnacion!!! Everyone had same prices, so we decided to take a bus waiting already on a platform.
Driving through Ciudad del Este we saw a lot of street vendors, standing on the median, trying to sell stuff to cars stopped at the red lights. When the bus stopped at a bus terminal on the other side of the city, we got a little shock. The street vendors jumped to our windows, showing us their goods. Some of them got on the bus, offering cold drinks, snacks, sandwiches, watches, sunglasses, bingo tickets and even electronics. When some vendors were leaving the bus, others were coming with hands full of the goods and skilfully passed by each other in the narrow corridor between seats. During our bus trip we noticed that a lot of people were using guarani language.
During the next 6 hour bus ride, the landscape behind the window was dominated by red earth, green fields, meadows and a dwindling jungle. From time to time we were passing little communities. When the sun started to go down and the lights showed up in the houses on the side of the road, we noticed that the majority of the family life happened on the front patio. A room which partly belonged to the house, partly to the outside. It would have a roof and two or three walls, usually there was a barbecue, table, chairs and sometimes additional furniture.
We got to Encarnacion after dusk. We found a hostel across the street from the bus terminal and tired after day full of adventures we went straight to bed. Next day we went to the little village Trinidad, where there are ruins of a Jesuit mission. It was very hot that day and the ruins didn’t give any shade, so most of the time we spent walking in the full sun. Considering that the Jesuits spent only 60 years in this place, we were impressed by the size of the mission its main church, the quantity of ornaments and stonework, and the fact that everything was built in the middle of the jungle. After an hour of walking along the ruins we decided to go back to Encarnacion. We walked a little bit around the city, which on that Sunday afternoon were empty and very quite. We walked down to the modern promenade next to the sandy beach on the shore of the river. After a short time sightseeing we were back in a bus, this time heading north to Asuncion. Again we got to the destination, when was dark. This time we didn’t have that much luck with the accommodation and we had to sleep in a seedy room. At least we were close to the bus terminal.
Next day we took a public transport to see the center of Paraguayan capital. Asuncion used to be a main city of South America east of the Andes, before Buenos Aires was established, more or less until beginning of XVII century. Unfortunately not much was left after this times of glory. In the center you can see beautiful, old colonial building here and there. Our attention was drawn to the pink president palace, surrounded by many guards. A few blocks further are the parliament buildings. When we walked around them we saw children in white shirts and navy uniforms, studying on the patio of an old colonial building, surrounded by bars. A little bit further in the middle of the square stood tents built out of garbage bags and bare foot kids in raggedy clothes were running in a dry, empty fountain.
Unfortunately in Paraguay we didn’t have a time to try too many things to eat, only chipas and terrere. Chipas is a kind of bread made of manioc flour and cheese, and very delicious. Terrere is a yerba mate which in the local heat is drunk with cold ice water and it can have a flavor of lemon and mint.