Day 87: It’s Thursday so it Must Be Paraguay

Thurs. 8th November 2012

Ciudad del EsteTime to pack our bags again and move on as it is our mammoth 24 hour bus journey tonight, across Brazil to Paraty on the coast. We do not leave the hotel until 5:20pm so are taking advantage of the optional trip to see the “Black Market” in Paraguay as it is only a few kilometres away. It also means we can add another country to our list.

The Iguazu river meets the Parana River close to Foz Do Iguassu and this is the border with both Argentina, which we visited yesterday and Paraguay . Like yesterday the journey involves crossing a river but this time half the bridge is painted yellow and green and half blue and red. However the paint work is much more faded and there are high mesh barriers to deter suicide jumpers! The other difference is that the border controls seem non existent except for bored looking border guards standing around. Our passports stay firmly in our bags and no stamps in them today, which is good as they are filling up fast.

Fancy a genuine fake bagThe roads are busy and it is a grubby looking place. I hope this will not be like our trip to Tijuana in Mexico, a day trip from San Diego were there was many market stalls and locals selling poor quality goods on the street just to get hold of US dollars. Ciudad del Este in Paraguay certainly had the street sellers offering socks, boxers and many other items we did not want. They were very persistent and even tapped you on the arm even when we were talking, to get your attention.  The market stalls also sold the usual array of T shirts, watches, bags, DVDs etc. James Bond Skyfall was available on DVD for £1!

In addition the the stalls were shopping malls selling masses of electronic goods. The prices may be cheaper than Brazil and the rest of South America but are about the same as in the UK so no bargain iPads or tablets to be had, although Dave did get the portable hard disk he wanted at a good price.

Lots of shops and stallsThe final stop was Mona Lisa department store which sold perfumes, make up, electrical goods and sports goods, again no bargains to be had. There was also a really bizarre system whereby you chose the goods that you wanted at the counter, then had to go and queue to pay for it at a kiosk and then go and queue a second or third time in order to collect it. All in all, it was an interesting shopping trip to pass away a wet morning and with the sheer number of shops you can see how it has earnt the nickname “The supermarket of South America”.

There was little choice for lunch close to our hotel so we ate in the nearby supermarket cafe, which was buffet style and it appears common in Brazil to pay by the weight of your food selected. Therefore lettuce is cheaper and stodgy pasta not so.

Finally it was time to catch the bus, so armed with warm clothes, as the buses have the air conditioning turned up,and snacks to keep us going we were off. After less than an hour the coach had to stop at a checkpoint and the driver opened the door between the passengers seating and his cab and babbled full pelt at Dave and I in Portuguese. Luckily Zaida was there to translate – he wanted us to move to the back of the half empty coach to equalise the weight before going on the weighbridge. Was he trying to infer something?? Most bizarre but you have to do as you are told. Soon we were on our way again and we could move back to our seats in the second row. The scenery was not much to look at, fields and trees in the rain so after our snacks and a stop for a toilet break it was time to shut the curtains and try to sleep. Dave moved to the empty seats in front of us to stretch out.

The noisy chatter from the cab called for earplugs as well as facemask to shut the world out. It certainly worked as the next thing I knew was 8am and time to wake and a breakfast stop. Apparently we were running about 2 hours late as the weather had been torrential rain so the bus had to go much slower than normal. It was comforting to know that the drivers cared and were not rushing to keep to schedule. (PS I now regret the delay but more about that tomorrow!)

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