The last week we spent hiding out from thunderstorms and getting our visas for Paraguay. The visa process at the consulate in Posadas is no big deal – take 3 copies of your passport front page, the Argentina stamp page, and your credit card. And, 3 color passport-style photos. And, $65 US dollars per person (1 time entry, multiple entry is $100 USD). And, a birth certificate for your kid. I’ve heard it is difficult to get dollars in town, so bring them with you. The whole process takes an hour or two if you’ve got everything.
The temperature had been dropping all week and it was snowing in Buenos Aires – very big news. In Posadas it was still pleasant and sunny.
The traffic at the frontera was crazy, a drive-through border for most people, but it took us over an hour to get to the customs booth. This was probably the most crowded border we’ve crossed yet. Of course, we had to pull over and park and get our vehicle paperwork as everyone else just drove through. Other than the wait, it was a painless process.
When we were in the south, we were pretty anonymous despite the California plates. But for the past few weeks, lots of people have been checking out the bus and eager to talk. Maybe the people are just friendlier. The aduana guy followed us to the bus and we opened it up expecting some sort of inspection, but he was just was impressed with Red Beard and wanted to check out the engine. He had already told his buddies about it. Que lindo!
So, into Paraguay. Encarnacion is the 3rd largest city in Paraguay (at 70,000 people), and from what we could tell had a nice new waterfront (thanks to a dam that displaced a lot of the poorest fishing families) and a lot of duty free shopping. We were a little overwhelmed by the shopping, so we drove right through town and found camping about 10 km north. The dueña was worried we would freeze to death camping in the ‘cold’. Maybe, it was 10 C. We survived.
So far, there are a couple of things that have really impressed us about Paraguay, especially since most people would say things like “You are going to Paraguay? Why? There is nothing there.” One, is that once again things are affordable, cheap even. There are supermarkets everywhere (again, the food is inexpensive) and the people are extremely friendly. Restaurants – good ones – even sushi! And, the nation is proud of its Guarani heritage. Guarani is the official language of Paraguay, along with Spanish (Castillano). The country has very little tourist infrastructure, and the only guide we have is the 20 or so pages devoted to the entire country in our Rough Guide South America.
We were headed north to Asuncion, but stopped in Santa Maria de Fe for a visit. The town plaza has monkeys that you can feed, and as Jason said, “I know a couple of folks who like monkeys.” We found them, but unfortunately, we didn’t have bananas. Bode tried his best monkey calls (he’s pretty good) but they were too busy preening. They were happy to watch us from a tree above the playground. I did not have monkeys at my childhood playground.
We stopped at a roadside carniceria – they advertise by hanging the goods outside. 3 steaks (bife de lomo) for about $3 USD. Cut with a hacksaw by hand.
Afterward, we headed out of town and found camping at Hotel Rural San Ignacio. The big ‘CAMPING” sign out front helped. The owner, a Peruvian by way of Bolivia and now Paraguay has built a nice set of cabanas and camping complete with wifi, foozball, sheep, chickens and most importantly 6 puppies. It was a nice place for Bode to run around and there was a lot of covered space for us to lounge while it rained. Gustav, the owner, invited us to an asada. We thought we’d be eating sheep because the day before he told a sheep that we would be eating him, but the next day he insisted we were having pork.
And, we’ve made our arrangements for our “big break”. We’ll fly out of Buenos Aires in a few weeks, and our friend Rody will watch Red Beard until we return (thanks, Rody!) Then, we’ll get a do-over on Uruguay and then Brazil, and well, why try to plan ahead?
We’ve gotten some funny emails since our last post. No, it’s not over. We’ll continue to provide your workday distraction.
I don’t where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.