Second Time Is The Harm In Paraguay

The presidential palace in Paraguay

The presidential palace in Paraguay

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Read Part 1 here.

That’s right, I said second time is the harm in Paraguay, not charm. My quick return trip there was anything but charming.

After enjoying the Jesuit ruins, I should not have gone back. Let’s start in Iguazu Falls.

It is there that I crossed back into Paraguay, this time to Ciudad del Este, one of the ugliest cities I have ever seen.

There are no hostels there, just cheap, dirty hotels for people on a budget, as I was. I could not keep the mosquitos out of my room and in Paraguay these blood-sucking bastards are known for carrying Dengue fever.

After a terrible night’s sleep, I decided it was time to move on, to head off to Asunción, the capital, where I figured there would be a lot to do, being that it’s the biggest city in the country.

I was wrong.

Compared to other parts of the country, sure, it was lively. But after experiencing other South American capitals, it was quite the disappointment.

Asunción is a poor man’s Montevideo, a place with some nice architecture, a few museums and maybe a bit of nightlife, but that’s it. Paraguayan food is nothing special either.

I was there during the winter and it was still disgustingly hot and humid, and overcast the whole time with occasional showers that did nothing to cool the place off, not really. Like Ciudad del Este, the mosquitos were everywhere and it was hard to sleep at night.

I still cannot believe, to this day, that I did not get Dengue fever from the trip. I was easily bitten more than 50 times between the two cities, probably closer to a hundred, even though I brought bug repellent with me.

Catedral in Asunción

Catedral in Asunción

We spent one day walking around the city, taking in the historic district, including the partially pink presidential palace, and one night on the town.

The locals were not particularly friendly to us. They kept staring at us, but unlike in Colombia, when saying hi starts a conversation or a friendship, it led to more blank looks from the locals. But we had a good group, other than one girl who complained about every place she had ever visited, and we had a good time.

Then the morning came, when I found out my camera was stolen. I think it was one of the guests, probably the one who left that day. Oh well. S*#t happens.

But the most frustrating part was trying to leave the country.

Because on this trip, I acquired a Visa before entering, I didn’t pay much attention at customs. Turns out they pulled a trick I’m sure they’ve done on others: they didn’t stamp my passport.

As I left, the customs officials at the Asunción border said they were going to detain me for entering illegally. I pleaded with them to let me go, that I would never do that, that I paid for a Visa and I didn’t realize the customs officials didn’t stamp my passport, and then it became clear this was all part of the plan.

One official asked me how much money I had on me. Thankfully, it was only 104 Argentine pesos and a few Guaraní, the Paraguayan currency, altogether $26 or so.

They told me I could leave if I gave it to them, so I did.

Every time I flip through my passport and see only three stamps for Paraguay, it reminds me that any backpacking trip can truly be an adventure.

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Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

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Paraguay And The Jesuit Ruins

La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná

La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part story. 

Missing the bus meant a trip to Paraguay and the Jesuit Ruins. What?

This is just another story about the random things that happen when you’re backpacking, the ebb and flow in which a slight setback can lead to a super discovery.

I never thought about traveling to Paraguay. My two-month trip in 2012 was going to be Argentina and Uruguay, that’s it, and we already know I made a stop in Chile to climb an active volcano. Well Paraguay was my first surprise detour.

The idea came about in Corrientes, Argentina, where I missed the bus to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, a beautiful region I’ll tell you about later. At the bus stop I met a French traveler and two German backpackers and we decided to share a private car to get there, to save time and money.

I cannot remember if it was during the road trip or when we finally got to the hostel, but at some point the French traveler told me about Paraguay. He had just gone, he said, and loved it.

He said the ruins are nothing compared to what you find at Machu Picchu or in Central America, but that they were worth the trip, especially if you’re passing Posadas, Argentina, on the way to Iguazu Falls.

I was, so I changed my itinerary, a little.

You only need a day to see the ruins. You just cross into Encarnación, Paraguay, from Posadas, and then take another bus toward the country side.

Paraguay is really cheap, then about 75 percent cheaper than Argentina, so I spent only $100 the whole day, transportation and meals included, as well as the entrance fee. You normally would get a Visa but I went on a Saturday, changing everything.

Jesús de Tavarangüe

Jesús de Tavarangüe

I went to both the ruins at La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangüe, both well-preserved, a symbol of the Jesuit missioners that made this their home during the colonization of South America in the 17th century.

La Santísima Trinidad is just off the major northbound highway. You tell the bus driver to let you off at its access road and he will.

I’ve loved ruins since I went to Chichen Itza in 2004, by chance on spring solstice, when the mirage of the snake appears on one of the Mayan temples.

Nothing near as grand happened in Paraguay but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

On my way to Jesús de Tavarangüe, I had to stop at the gas station across the street from where the bus left me, to wait for the next moto taxi because these ruins are not a short walk from the highway. There were several locals watching a World Cup qualifier and invited me to sit with them, watch, and have a beer while I waited.

I was there only 15 minutes, but it was fun.

Then on I went to the last leg of the trip, where I spent about an hour before heading back to the highway to catch the bus to the border.

I decided then and there that I would return to Paraguay after going to Iguazu Falls, that I would make my way to Asunción before crossing back into Argentina.

I should have left well enough alone.

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Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

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