A May 2003 trip
to Asuncion by louisejohnsson1
Quote: A decription of the challenges of entering Paraguay and the rewards seeing old Jesuit ruins.
I was traveling with a French woman I had just met and I did not by any means want to be the cause of any such confusion among the stern looking immigration inspectors. The problem is that one gets on one bus and buys the ticket but very soon after one has to get off to get the exit stamp.
Those more hardened border-crossers run - while us novices stand around and look baffled at the commotion of people sprinting around with bags and passports trying to make it first to the inspector.
We were at the end of the line and kept missing our buses. My French friend finally had had enough of all this looking at stamps and comparing numbers in the passport and so she told the inspector in no uncertain terms - and without pardoning her French - that maybe we didn’t have to stand there all day if he only hurried up a bit! The inspector got so scared he wrote in my passport that I am from Switzerland even though I am from Sweden. I can’t wait to cross a border again and explain to them that I changed nationality while visiting their country.
Finally, we did however make it into Paraguay. The Argentines on the bus got much insulted when we inquire if they were from Paraguay or Argentina. How could anyone possibly be from Paraguay just look out the window, they stated indignantly. There was no lack of them bad-mouthing their somewhat disorganized and worn-out neighbor. They pointed out the windows and mocked the downtown area of Encarnacion, the little town into which we had entered Paraguay, which, admittingly, did look like the incarnation of some back street yard in the slums of Detroit. Nevertheless, all we had to say was "Argentine economy" and they pretty quickly got a bit more quiet.
The Paraguayans turned out to be very friendly and humble people. However, they need to shape up on their deal making on bus purchases.
This is my theory: When the U.S no longer want their old school buses from 1963 they sell them to the Argentines. The Argentines then drive them until they can no longer fraud the inspection cards. This is when they sell them to the Ecuadorians. When the Ecuadorian can no longer drive them up and down their Andean autopistas they probably fool them onto the Bolivians who in turn leave them in some junk yard where the Paraguayans pick them up and smuggle them over Ciudad Este, to then use them on mostly unpaved dirt roads in the Paraguayan rural countryside - where I - of all people - ended up.
It was well worth it, though. In hindsight.
We went because we wanted to see the ruins of some Jesuit constructions, which had a great impact in the area 200 years ago. Having informed the bus driver of our mission he kindly dropped us on a dusty dirt road in the middle of absolutely rural nowhere. Helpfully he waved in the direction we needed to walk before he and the bus disappeared in a black cloud around the next corner.
Actually, there was a village on the other side of the hill, in which we soon became the main attraction of the day. Us Westerners have a lot to learn from these people. There we were landing like two aliens in their village and they all greet us, waved, said "buenos dias" and smiled, whether they are hanging out on their porch, horse, or in the garden.
The ruins were a fabulous surprise especially since we had the entire place to ourselves and our photo lenses. Fascinating buildings where one could see the remnants of a religious people trying to make a living through their way of interpreting God’s will and by agriculture. The Jesuits brought he Guarani Indians into their culture and co-existed peacefully until the Spaniards saw them as too much of threat and killed most of them. The ruins today are slowly crumbling and ar inhabited by rodents and birds being taken over by moss and cacti.
By the time we left we had found "Fifth Avenue" or "Baker Street", or la calle principal as they prefer to call it, of this village Trinidad. We stopped at "the Plaza" on our way out and shared a coke with some locals before it is again time to bite the dust...
Conclusion: Add Paraguay to that list of things to do. Get extra coverage life insurance for bus rides, lots of film, and water... And don't forget that exit stamp once you leave.
New York, New York