Paraguay is not like Argentina at all, we were reminded of central America, as the customs official laboriously typed out the forms in triplicate for the bikes, on an ancient looking machine. Money changers were also hanging around, so took the opportunity to change some Pesos into Guaranies.
Trinidad was our destination, more Jesuit ruins and more Germans. Our original plan was to just ride up to Cuidad del Este and then onto Iguazu Falls, however, we found ourselves with a few days to spare before we were due to meet up with another rider, so decided to spend some more time in Paragauy. Opted not to take the direct route to Villarica as the road – according to the locals – was pretty bad, so we rode toward Asunsion. We passed through lots of small towns and villages, each having different things to sell. One village had stalls full of wool goods lining the main road, another had wooden furniture and toys. The fruit stalls in one village were good for breakfast and lunch.
What to eat this time?
We made the detour to Villarica and rode around the German colonies there. The countryside was lovely, rolling hills and roads with curves!! A nice change after the straight highways in Argentina.
Back to the main highway and into the chaos of Cuidad del Este. This town borders Brazil and is one huge shopping experience. There are huge shopping malls and a maze of street stalls, offering almost anything for sale.
Much of the suff is smuggled in from various places and sold here as there is almost no tax. Electrical goods are everywhere, but it is difficult to tell the copies from the real thing. The same goes for motorcycle tyres, there were some good copies but who knows what sort of quality they are.
The traffic here is crazy, the police control the main street that leads across the bridge into Brazil, as otherwise it would be complete gridlock. The queue stretches for a good few km’s for most of the day and we were advised to wait until late afternoon to cross, when it would be a little less busy.
Crossing the border here is easy if you dont need to complete any formalities, there are few checks and there are so many moto taxis crossing that it would have been a piece of cake to just ride into Brazil. However, knowing that it would only cause headaches for us later, we checked out of Paraguay, a 2 minute task and rode across the bridge into Brazil.
Moto taxis waiting on the Paraguayan side of the bridge
Immigration was easy, customs took a little longer, 2 hours in fact! Several forms filled out in triplicate, the longest border crossing yet!! Not to be recommended, unless you want to incur the wrath of the many truck drivers who you will be holding up! By the time we were finished, the queue of trucks was stretching back over the bridge! I hate to think about the chaos that resulted back in C del E!
Our first day in Brazil and the sun shone! We took it easy after the stress of the day before and got to know Foz a little.
We went to see the waterfalls from the Brazilian side first, where you get a good view of the whole of the falls.
An overview of the falls from the Brazilian side
The next day we went across to Argentina and saw the falls from the other side of the river. They really are spectacular and it really is worth seeing them from both countries.
A chance to see the falls close up, on the Argentine side
We were due to meet some people in Porto Alegre, who were bringing some things from Germany, so left Foz and headed south again. Took the small roads which took us up into the mountains and into the rain!! After a couple of days riding in the rain, we had had enough by around 4pm, so turned off into the small town of Soledade. Were looking in vain for a place to stay, when a pick up pulled alongside us and the driver asked if we needed any help. He showed us a good place to stay and when we had changed out of our wet clothes, took us to see his business and to meet his family. He ran an export company for precious stones and we wandered around his showroom with our mouths hanging open almost. It was huge and full ofgem stones made into all sorts of shapes, as well as the rough uncut product.
Our hosts in the hall of gems
Jairo and his wife took us out for dinner – our first Brazilian churrasco and I’m afraid to say it beats the asado hands down! A huge salad buffet and then BBQ’d meat brought to the table on huge spikes, from which slices or chunks were cut off as you wished. It was a wonderful evening!
It would have been nice to stay another day and have a look around this small town which is dominated by the precious stone industry. 50% of the jobs in the area are connected to the industry and shops and factories line the roads. However, the weather changed for the better and Arno was keen to get to Porto Alegre where a jar of Nutella was waiting……..
Posted by Sian Mackenzie at May 30, 2003 06:46 PM GMT
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