Having finally made it out of Bolivia after bad experiences on buses, we were finally on the 4th and final night bus to Asuncion. But we weren’t there yet. The Bolivian emigration went swimmingly as it was just some lad in a shed with a dog stamping passports…sorted! But once we made it across the border things changed. Supposedly this route through the Chaco, desert land in Paraguay, is synonymous with drug smuggling. We must have been stopped every 10 km for a half arsed police check of a hand through a few bags and the odd check of the gringos passports. Once we made it to the official immigration, we were promptly unloaded from the bus and had all clothes and bags searched by sniffer dogs and inspectors. We were almost ready for the plastic glove treatment but thankfully, the dog wasn’t barking. What in Jesus were the Peru two thinking!?
The next 6 hours were spent driving through relative waste land where we didn’t see one soul outside. Added to the fact we had absolute loons on the bus, it’s safe to say you had 3 unhappy Irishmen. They spent 4 hours passing around a drink and taking a sup. Being Irish we assumed it was a nagan, so asked for a sup only to realise it was some local tea. Gutted.
Towards the end of the 26 hour trip, I had the pleasure of chatting to a man who delved straight into Catholicism and urged me to confess as soon as I can as at the end of the day we are all sinners….If only he knew. After his sixth quote of John 2:11, I realised that all I could think about was Father Ted and the episode when Dougal converts the Bishop to a hippie. When he asked me if I had any doubts, I thought better of it and pretended I was a big Jesus man and faked a snooze until we arrived at 11pm.
We arrived at our lovely hostel El Nomada a bit late due to the buses late arrival, but checked in no bother and hit the leaba straight after a few burgers. First bed in 5 nights! Living the dream! The next day we arose early and went on a bit of a walking tour of Asuncion. It has to be said that there is not a whole lot to see touristic wise in the city so we resorted to a food tour instead which was very successfully and equally rewarding. That evening we headed out with some locals to sample the Paraguayan nightlife. 2 hours later we ended up at a hipster roof top terrace overlooking the city. Not your average Friday night. And not one of us had a pair of glasses between us. Afterwards we checked out some local bars and made it home latish... I think.
That evening we also signed up to play football with some local Paraguayans. Bearing in mind we have not had a whole lot of exercise in almost 4 months and we were still feeling the effects of the previous night, we blew them out of the water and put in solid performances, absolutely smashing the opposition. We decided against the typical Irish long ball tactic and instead went for the hoofing the ball angle. At half time, we got asked if we played semi-professionally to which we replied…”Just League of Ireland”. Severely dehydrated we returned to the fort and collapsed in the bed and not one celebratory beer was had!
We arrived in Ciudad Del Este around 8pm and were promptly dumped by the side of road. With the hostel address in hand we assumed it should be easy enough to find the place. After the third taxi man asked us do we have more directions and we replied” well that’s your job really”, we felt like we were running out of luck. Eventually some lad finally found the place which admittedly was in the middle of nowhere and we settled in for the night. We took her ham and cheesy and ordered pizza as we were aiming to cross into Brazil the next day. The pizza although tasty was like soup and mostly ended up on the bed/ trousers. By 10pm the 3 of us were in bed like a bunch of widowed grandfathers snoring our heads off ourselves.
We got up early enough the next morning to make use of the free brekkie. Should have stayed in bed. It consisted of stale bread, butter that tasted like gone off cheese, jam that tasted like ketchup and biscuits that resembled doggie treats. Straight in the busca bruscar they went! After a couple of hours bumming around the town in the lashing rain we headed for the Bridge of Friendship (aww) and made the trek across to Brazil!
Although we only stopped through Paraguay for a number of days, we were struck by the warmth of the people all across the country. A country often forgotten about by South America backpackers, it without doubt has some unique attributes that separate it from the rest. You are definitely guaranteed a warm welcome. Also a big thanks to everyone for showing us around!
See you all in Brazil,