One worth reading
Trip Start Apr 07, 2008
31Trip End Jun 2008
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I have put together a slide show of the adventure so far. But I will try to put into words the trip across the border from Argentina to Paraguay.
I arrived at the bus station just after nine and had a forty minute wait for the bus.
When it showed up the cost was 3 pesos, $1.00AU. I thought it only going twenty kilometres across the border it should be right. When the bus pulled out the bus was nearly full. It stopped several times before getting to the border picking up passengers with an extraordinary amount of luggage. When we got to the border, everyone gets off and walks thru a checkpoint building where they check you out of Argentine. There was no entry stamp for paraguay which was kinda disappointing, anyhow everyone gets checked and its back on the bus. There was a kid in the aisles selling the local newspaper so I thought I`ll test out my spanish reading. On the front page there was a story about the government either quellinng a disturbance or shifting a shanty town somewhere in Paraguay.
The soldiers pictured looked like they were there for business complete with shotguns and sickles, Yes sickles.
Anyway once across the border most of the passengers with the extraordinary amounts of luggage get of at various stops and then as one guy with five crates of wines was getting off, it dawned on me what was happening. They go over to Argentina, buy goods to sell and then back to parguay on the bus. Its no mean feat carting five crates of wine on a packed bus. At the border, everyone leaves their luggage on the bus, no import duties, nice and clean everyone knows whats going on but nobody cares. what officially happens I don`t know but the old paraguayans have it worked out and good on them. They are the residue of the land cut-ups between Brazil, Argentina Bolivia and peru last century. The funny thing is that Paraguay as the loosers of the land claims seemed to have been left with some of the best farming land on earth, its red, its rich and the amount of farming companies you see on the way to Asuncion is staggering, theres money in the local farming but the local farmers dont seem to be sharing in it.
Anyhows we get to Cuidad el Este, just across the border and the bus stops on a deserted side street and the driver says in broken spannish-english Terminal.
I think to myself Terminal Fucking oath things are bad here. I grab my bags and ask the driver quizzically Terminal??? He just points to an area some 100 metres around the corner and says Terminal. Why he doesnt go to the terminal I don`t know but in any case I get off the bus and the first sight I see standing on Paraguayan soil is a shanty town made up of about half a dozen tent/leanto/plastic hovels scattered amongst the bamboo and six feet high grasses. It was confronting to say the least. I stopped for a couple of minutes to tke a coupla photos and noticed that the locals were innterested in my baggage and why not where all their worldly possessions would probably only fill a wheelie bin and be worth as much.
I made my way down the cobbled road and I mean cobbled, the rod looked like it had been constructed a very long time ago maybe 100 years I don`t know. As I`m walking along, a horse draw cart with a 12 year old driver comes alongside me. I thought to myself, Is this the local taxi service? I took a picture of this young lad and his transport and it sorta captured what South America is about in the year 2008.
On the whole, I have found the Southern Americans to be a proud yet friendly people. Their economies range from just to staggering. They seem to possess the knowledge to pursue economic wealth and they certainly have the resources both in people and materials, yet there is something holding back their greater independance. I won`t say that its linked to a Western Economy but I do feel that their Northern American neighbours could do a little more to assist their situation. Enough of the politics.
I arrive at the bus station amidst a crazy whirl of shouts, whistles, horns and airbrakes. A bloke inside a ticket office leans out and shouts at me Asuncuion? I say Si, He mustave picked up on my lack of local tongue because he says in broken english, It leaves in five minutes. I say cambio cajar meaning exchange cash I think and he shouts out to a short stocky guy in the middle of the bus station carrying a money bag "Cambio" he shouts and the cambio comes over, I ask the ticket man how much for a ticket to Asuncion he says 40,000 gaurani`s. I hadnt done a great deal of research into the exchange rate but I remembered that around 4000 guarani`s make for $1.00. Yes folks it dawned on me right there in the town of Cuidad El Este I was destined to become a millionaire. I cashed some argentinian pesos and with about 2mins to spare was sitting in my seat on the bus.
Now the Travel guide says that the trip from Cuidad El Este to Asuncion is four hours and as I sat down on the bus thought, Gee this bus would have been pretty flash back in the seventies when it was made. But the seats were fairly comfortable if not clean and away we went. The bus pulled out of the station and it was almost full which surprised me. By stop number two about 1 km from the station, the bus was full with about 15 people standing in the aisle. I thought to myself, they`re not going to stand up all the way, 4 hours? But the best was yet to come. And yes some of them stood for 3 or four hours.. It appears that at the station you pay full price of 40,000 guarani`s but your gaurenteed a seat. At each stop the fare is 25,000 guarani`s but its a first come first seated situation.
Bus stop number 5 and now there are about 25 people standing in the aisle I was thinking you can`t fit another person on this bus but I was wrong as just then refreshments began being served. You get a choice of buying pastries from a young lady who gets onto the bus and somehow manages to get down to the back of the bus and back again carrying a large basket (about 2feet diametre) full of pastries. Or you can lean out of the nearest window and buy whatever you like. People were buying all sorts of stuff from the street vendors at bus stop No.5. We were stopped at Bus Stop No.5 for around 10 minutes I don`t know why but I think its just to let people do their buying and selling. I was tempted to lean over and buy a fat cransky in a roll from a guy but decided against it not knowing the customs, the exchange rate etc. etc. They sell watches, hamburgers, handbags, sombreos, sunglasses, steaks, drinks, clothing you nmae it...
Anyway I take my hat of to the girl selling the pasties. How she managed to move let alone make her way down the overstuffed aisle and back again without dropping a single item and without missing a single gaurani, I will never know.
Away we go again and the old bus kept a pretty quick pace along the highway, the four hour trip in the guidebook turned into a six hour jolt in reality. By the time I got to Asuncion I was tired, hungry and cold, Yeh I picked the coldest day of the year for Paraguay. At the Terminal and Yes this time the bus actually took me into the terminal, there were hundreds of people sitting and standing watching snowfilled televison screens of a soccer match between Paraguay and france in France. I could have stripped off naked and done a rain dance and most of the people would`nt have taken their eyes off the screen. (Its their religion I tell you)
South Americans are addicted to three things, Soccer, Cigarettes and Catholocism, in that order.
So I grabbed a coupla empnada`s (Yes sarah I now know how to say it) and a coffee with leche (Milk) and that was the sweetest meal I have had since arriving. Boy was I hungry. Having weighed up the exchange options I decided to stay in a five star resort as a treat, 30 bucks a night aint too bad for all the trimmings. I had forgotten what a hot strong shower was like after the hostels in the past 6 weeks or so.
Anyway enough for now,
Love to all