Days 209 to 210: Picnic In A Pickup

Day 209. Hotel Hispania has clearly seen better days, but you can see that in its prime it must have been an amazing place. The glamorous young lady on reception clearly thought the place was still prestigious but I guess a lot of things have happened here and decay is clearly subjective. Even though run down, I had a fantastically long and infinitely comfortable sleep compared to the previous couple of nights. I just took a short and slow walk around town on what has been a really hot day. The firemen were on strike today and were driving around town in convoys blowing their horns and waving their flags. While sat watching this in the Plaza Juan de Salazar, just across from the Palacio Legislativo, I started to feel my legs being bitten, I noticed that I was slowly becoming covered in red ants which had huge green abdomens. I figured the green bits were probably not a good sign and that they were pretty pissed off with my presence so I decided to leave.

After taking in the sight of the Palacio de Gobierno, Government Palace, and taking a picture which is something I could have been arrested for a little over ten years ago and shot during El Supremo’s tenure I headed to the Casa de la Independencia. This is the oldest building in Asuncion (1772) and is where Independence was declared although this is hard to believe looking at it as it doesn’t seem particularly well looked after. It’s meant to be a museum but it looked pretty much closed. Just up the road from here is the Plaza de los Heroes and the Panteon de los Heroes with its armed guard of honour. I find this quite ironically named as along with others it contains the mortal remains of Francisco Solano Lopez who basically brought the country to its knees, not someone I would call a hero.

It’s a bizarre city really, it seems completely full of prostitutes waiting on street corners and people sitting on picnic chairs eating in the back of pickup trucks while been driven around, freaky! Every now and again a pickup will go past with a machine gun welded to the back with three soldiers sat around it pointing it at people as they drive by. This does not fill me with confidence, how long ago was the last military coup?!?!

Day 210. I left the hotel early at about 8am and got a taxi to the bus station. Although I’d only been in Paraguay for three days, or four if you include the illegal bit, I had to leave as I’ve lost three days and have to get to Rio for my final flight back home in six days time. I wanted to get a ticket to the bus station on the Brazilian side of the border called Foz do Iguaçu however, I could only get a ticket to the Paraguayan border town of Ciudad del Este. The journey was quite quick and we had no problems with the police but I guess that was because the coach didn’t have Bolivian plates! As I didn’t know how to get to the border I decided to take a taxi across it. I didn’t barter too well but I couldn’t really be bothered with the hassle, I just wanted to get across and to a hostel before it got too late.

Crossing the border took hours and I suppose looking back I could have walked it in about fifty minutes to one hour. But the traffic was absolutely amazing in this busy, noisy, dirty, black market border town. Due to some tax thing electrical and other goods on the Paraguayan side are really cheap so the border has thousands of people trying to cross carrying loads of goods. It’s a complete nightmare and was frustrating sat in the taxi on an extremely hot day moving barely inches at a time. In the street there was the sight of market workers rushing about their business in the extreme heat, it was hectic and maddening especially with the constant sound of car horns. This place has to be seen to be believed, the best way to describe it is it’s mad, hedonistic, drugged up lawlessness with bloodshot eyes and a hangover sleeping in it’s own pool of vomit! It took over three hours, but by now I was at the Paraguay side of the border. I was a bit apprehensive about leaving my bag in the taxi but I had to leg it to the passport control office. I figured that at the speed of the traffic I would be done before the car could drive off. After a relatively short time queuing I was back in the taxi and making my way across the bridge.

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