In order to get from Brazil to Argentina, we decided to go the slightly more adventurous way, through Paraguay. We caught a bus from Bonito to Ponta Pora, where we stayed overnight in a dingy hostel near the bus station. The next morning, we tackled the bureaucracy, getting exit stamps on our passports from the Brazilian Police and entrance stamps from Paraguayan Immigration. We thought we needed a visa, so we checked with the Paraguayan Consulate who assured us that we didn't, and said that we could easily cross the border with just a stamp from Immigration.
We then caught a taxi to the Paraguayan bus terminal in Juan Pedro Caballero, the same town as Ponta Pora, but just across the border. Within an hour we were on a bus headed for Concepción! The whole process was far easier than we expected. Perhaps a little too easy…
Beautiful countryside in Paraguay
After spending around 6 hours on a bus, we arrived in Concepción slightly tired and hungry. We were greeted at the bus terminal by an excited man with a horse whip, who wanted to give us a lift to our hostel on his horse and cart. It was cheaper than a taxi, and far more fun! The look on the driver's face was priceless as he carried two gringos on his cart through town, waving to everyone he knew!
Horse and cart is a standard form of transport in Paraguay
The whole place is very relaxed. We only stayed for a couple of days, but were able to have a good look around town, which is quite run down, but there are some lovely buildings from the early 20th Century.
The statue of Mary is an icon of Concepción
We found the local market and bought some much needed fruit. The food here has been pretty ordinary…its all just carbs and protein! One of the worst meals to date was our first night in Concepción when Mark ordered a 'Milanesa Cubano', which consisted of steak crumbed and deep fried; a slab of cheese crumbed and deep fried; a slab of ham crumbed and deep fried; chips deep fried; mashed potato; bread; and for that Cuban effect, a banana – crumbed and deep fried. South American food is all about quantity, not quality!
If we had more time I would have liked to go exploring more and find the Australian Colony. “New Australia” was established in 1893 by 220 Australian immigrants with the aim of creating a socialist utopian commune. It failed miserably, but apparently descendents of some of those immigrants still live there. I heard about this last year for the first time on the news, and thought that was such a random part of Australian history that we should have been taught about it at school!
Bus in Concepción, Paraguay
We had planned to catch a bus to Ciudad del Este, cross the border to see Iguazu Falls, then cross back in to Paraguay and make our way to Encarnación down south, which is supposed to be a lovely city. The bus trip to Ciudad del Este was uneventful, and again we arrived late and stayed at another dingy hostel by the bus terminal. The next day we went to Immigration to get our exit stamps, and then we we were told we did in fact need a visa to enter the country and they were not going to let us leave without one. This left us in a difficult situation, as you can only apply for a visa from outside Paraguay. I explained the whole story, how we had actually gone to the consulate to get a visa etc. and we were told by two separate people that we didn't need one. After much discussion in broken Spanish, they realised that there wasn't anything we could do about it and they let us go. Unfortunately that meant that we could not cross back in to Paraguay, so instead we headed to Iguazu Falls and made plans to go back to Argentina.