A Travellerspoint blog

Famous for: Corruption, Contraband and the Chaco

also known as Paraguay...

rain 10 °C
View South America 2007 on miromar's travel map.

That is the quick description of Paraguay in my south american travel guide. Interesting. Why would I want to go there?? And my answer is: Why not??

Every traveller I met has questioned my choice of travelling through Paraguay... What is to see there? is the question... and "I will find out" is my only possible answer...

I entered Paraguay through the bridge that links Posadas in Argentina and Encarnacion in Paraguay in a very rainy and dark day. I have just visited the jesuist mission in San Ignacio in Argentina and the idea was to visit Trinidad in Paraguay, another mission, and then make my way up to Asuncion and through the Chaco, one of the wildest areas left in South America, to get to santa cruz in Bolivia. Encarnacion is famous for its "zona franca", a duty free area south of the city, which in the coming years will be flooded by the creation of the Yacireta Dam. This project has been going on for years, and due to the corruption and the political issues, it is not clear to the paraguayans, not even the ones living by the river whose houses will be flooded, when this will happen. However, the goverment is doing its part in building houses for these people further inland for when that happens. Who will get the houses and how, it is another matter...

Got to my hotel, in front of the station, not even having a booking and hoping I had luck in my side. Gloria, the owner of the hotel welcomes me with her big smile. She also informs me that the two american guys seating in the lounge are volunteers who live in the "campo" and that due to the weather were unable to access to their sites. I guess they might not feel the same, but I feel lucky the weather was bad and they could not get back that same morning, cause for me, meeting Sam and Nico, the Peace Corps volunteers that gloria was telling me about, was one of the best things of Paraguay.

They have been living in Paraguay for a while, and not only speak a very decent Spanish but are also learning Guarani, the language of the guarani indians, to be able to communicate with everybody in their sites. Their job is not easy. They are working in a program of environmental education, trying to teach the locals the consequences of some of their day to day actions: cutting trees for farming, burning rubbish.. nobody likes to be told by someone from another country how to do things, even if it is for their own good. And Paraguayans are no diferent. The determination and patience of these volunteers have been of enourmous inspiration to me. Thanks to this guys I have learnt a lot about the country ans its people, and why not, they have also taught me where to get the best ice-cream in town :)

I wanted to visit the site where Sam is living, but unfortunately the weather kept me from doing so... I decided to leave for Asuncion, and I took something very important with me: Nico said at some point "the beauty of Paraguay is not about its monuments or sights, it is about its people" and how true that is. Everybody I have met there, from Gloria and her family, to Maria the woman from the laundry, has showed me how people can live in a world that is so different from mine and still make you feel like you were at home.

Thanks to these guys, I stayed in Asuncion in the attic of a hotel which is normally reserved for Peace corps volunteers, at very good price. I had to lie a little bit for it, i must confess, so apparently now im a "spanish volunteer on my way to bolivia" in the eyes of the staff at that hotel. They still tried to sell me another room which was more expensive, but that is part of the paraguayan way of life...

Asuncion is a rather strange city. The differences that can be felt around the rest of the country are even bigger here. I have seen the biggest and more opulent houses in my life here, they are next to the slums and built in streets where dogs search for rubbish and that they are barely paved. It is difficult to understand such diferences, but i guess it would be even more difficult to live with them. Somehow, the visit to Paraguay has showed me that the goverment of my country, although far from perfect is way way closer to perfection than the one in Paraguay.

In the local bus (which I have to say are sights themselves due to the most random decoration) I met Francisca, from PJ caballero, a town northeast of paraguay. She does the usual third grade: what is my name, am i argentinian, what am i doing here, am i married.. together with the story of some relative or friend living in Spain and of course the positive thought that im gonna find a paraguayan man and im gonna marry him. This has been the typical beginning of the conversation with every person i have talked to in this country. She also tells me she is going to a demonstration downtown, she is a teacher and they have some petition for the goverment. I dont pay much attention to that, and maybe I should have.

After I visit the presidential palace, and realised that is located next to the slums, in a pretty good example of the country┬┤s situation, I begin to see police everywhere. And i mean everywhere. I also begin to hear really loud voices and people shouting. Mmmmmm I guess it is the demonstration.. And then loud bangs, and I panick a bit, not a lot, because nobody is running, but still. Soon realised they are fireworks from the demonstration and there is nothing to worry about, but the presence of dozens of riot polices doesnt help to relax.. so i decided to get the **** out of there, but how? To the left, the riverside slums, to the front the demonstrators, everywhere else the riots... So i manage to get through the demonstration in the side, and skipping all the guys having a pee in the walls... I manage to make it to the Uruguaya square, where I found all this people camping there and making fires to keep warm.. they come to the city to look for something, but from what i stand, they dont seem to be looking fo anything is particular, and it is cold.. Dogs, dirty kids, dodgy looking characters... not a pretty sight, and the one that makes me wanna leave Asuncion. Im sure it is a great city, but im not enjoying it so far, so why stay?? I make my way to the station to ask about the buses that leave for Bolivia... and end up going somewhere else... but that is part of the next chapter...

Hasta Pronto!

Posted by miromar 09:39 Archived in Paraguay Tagged backpacking

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint