We decided to use some of our time in Iguaçu Falls to drive to Paraguay from Brazil so that we could knock another country off of our list. Traffic was too intense so instead of driving us over the bridge to Paraguay from Brazil, the guide parked and we walked it instead (it turned out to be a very long walk and Tarek and I both had on sandals). Halfway through the bridge there was a marking that showed we had entered into Paraguay from Brazil (or vice versa).
The guide then signaled for us to stop talking as we went passed the immigration area (we did not have visas). Nobody paid us any attention and we continued across unmolested. At the end of the bridge in Paraguay, the big attraction was a Duty Free shopping area which the guide tried to entice us with. He really wanted us to stay there and shop. We explained in Spanish that this was very uninteresting for us, and that we wanted to continue in to the city, see history, culture, and eat lunch. He gave us a look like we were loco, and then explained to go ahead, that he wasn’t come with us, and pointed in the direction to go and then said in Spanish: “Go straight, and when you get to the road, stay right. The left is dangerous.” He looked serious. We agreed to meet him back at a café inside the Duty Free mall at 1730.
We had to weave through heavy traffic to cross the street, move past the border area, and get to the zone on the right that he alluded to. That alone was tricky. Once there, we found a never-ending low-end shopping area of small stalls and cheap clothing, electronics, hardware, fishing poles, and guns (I think fake?). Because, you know, when I go to Paraguay, those are the things I want to buy. Apparently there were great deals to be had for Brazilians as the Paraguayan currency was worth considerably less. There were no apparent lunch places (although some of the street fruit looked good, we didn’t try any), no apparent history or culture, and really nothing at all of interest. Just endless stalls, buildings, and semi-squalor.
Several hundred meters in we decided to make for a park on the left side that we noticed on Google maps. I was not thrilled at the prospect of going to the “dangerous” left side, but it didn’t seem any worse. We got to the park, which was also pretty horrible (see below), and decided to leave when a youth walked by us and made the “scram” gesture with his right hand. We were not sure what that meant but we didn’t want to stick around and find out.
We retraced our steps back to the Duty Free area without incident. Ciudad del Este was decidedly horrible, but hey, we made it in to Paraguay. The coolest part of our venture in to Paraguay were these neato motorcycle taxis we found near the Duty Free shopping area.
We waited for the guide to show up at the café, and he was just a little surprised to see us (there was always the possibility that we wouldn’t return, that we didn’t pick up on until we got inside). We told him that there was absolutely nothing in that city to do or see, and he said “I know”. It felt less like an “I told you so” and more like a “but I know you needed to see it for yourselves to cross the country off your list.” He dealt with people like us all the time, I’m sure.
We crossed back in to the Brazilian side with ease and were happy to be “home.” Here’s a picture of the Paraguay side, right by the riverfront. Tarek and I agreed the city could invest in a riverside dining/shopping area to help develop Ciudad del Este.
I chatted with the guide in my limited Spanish on the walk back and he mentioned that Asuncion (the capital of Paraguay) was actually a very nice, pretty (bonita) city. I will therefore save my opinions of Paraguay for Asuncion, if I ever get there. Tarek likened what he saw to the worse parts of Cairo. We had the privilege of going to Paraguay from Brazil for R250 ($80) and our afternoon.
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