After a bit over two quiet, relaxing weeks
– during which our friend Steve
stayed a couple of days with us – we headed out to the airport. Our destination: Puerto Iguazú.
The rows in the airplane were so narrow that Thomas’ knees touched the seat in front of him. Our friend Mark, being well over 6 ft, would never fit :-O When the flight attendants showed the usual emergency procedures we noticed that the life vests were missing. Checking under the seat… Really, no life vests, instead a sticker on the tray mentioning that the seat cushion is a floating device. After take-off we flew a big loop over the Rio de la Plata and some way up river – without the afore mentioned life vests 😀
Puerto Iguazú greeted us with warm sunshine and a humidity level of 90%.
The next day a bus brought us to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Even though the bus drove through Brazil, we didn’t have to pass the Brazilian immigration. Soon, we were, in possession of our rental car, westbound. The landscape, flat, green, with bits of forest and the occasional rolling hill didn’t seem foreign to us. More so the many white, blond or brown haired people in their old fashioned clothing. Ah yes, the Mennonites…
Our first stop was supposed to be San Bernardino. Founded by Germans/Swiss at the shore of Lago Ypacaraí and today’s weekend destination for the rich and famous of Asunción, the capital. During the week, and low season on top of it, a dead town with incredibly high accommodation prices.
Frustrated we decided to head into Asunción, only 40 km (25 mi) away. Ha, three hours later, we regretted this decision. My “love” for Paraguay increased to an unimaginable level when the coordinate of our hotel proved to be wrong and, finally having arrived, the room wasn’t worth its money. The Lebanese restaurant with its delicious falafel did a lot to reconcile us.
Some people and guidebooks compare Asunción to Buenos Aires. No idea why. It is quite a bit smaller. There’s no Tango and no pedestrian zone. A favela (slum) lies in the middle of town. Sounds bad, but isn’t so.
Our day in Asunción started at the breakfast buffet in the neighboring hotel, a ??? star place belonging to the same chain as ours. Our exploration started in balmy, humid air under a sunny sky. In the Manzana de Rivera, a collection of nine old restored houses, the guard of the “Museo Memoria de la Ciudad” acted as our (unwanted) guide. But we learned a lot from the charming young lady. For example, that Paraguay was the first South American country to declare its independence. Or that around 1820 the whole existing city, with the exception of a few buildings, was torn down, only to be rebuild in square blocks (Hippodamian Plan, grid plan).
Palacio de Lopez, seat of the Paraguayan government, has only one similarity to the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires – its pink (rose) color 🙂
The local Cabildo is a bit uncomfortable to reach since the big park on the city map has been transformed into a shanty town. Apart from that little inconvenience the Cabildo offers a little museum about immigration, an impressive staircase
and a view of Bahia Asunción.
But the most fascinating activity in Asunción is roaming its streets – one eye on the sidewalk
– and letting the gaze wander over house walls.
Here, local artist found over dimensional canvases
on which they expressed their roots
and their culture with high impact.
For the next days, the weather forecast announced rain. We still started out towards the South, in direction of Encarnación. Soon we learned that the warning signs “Attention, water on road”
are better heeded.
On the way, Templo de San Buenaventura, a small, inconspicuous church with an amazingly ornate interior,
called for a stop. But when we reached the church, the door was closed – lunch break / siesta. Now, many of the South American lunchbreaks are not of a duration where you sit in a café and wait for it to pass. No, they last three to five hours. But the guardian, just about to leave, offered to work overtime for a little appreciation from our side. An offer we gladly accepted.
But we idiots were in such a rush that we didn’t have a camera – not even from the phone – with us. We had left it all in the car 😎
which were very successfully built and operated in both departments. From 1609 until 1768 theJesuits amassed hundred thousands of indigenous people in these reductions. To save them from slavery and death but as well to Christianize them – without robbing them of their culture and language. The handicrafts produced in these reductions are still famous and sought after.
With this background, the movie “The Mission” staring Robert de Niro, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson was the predestined evening entertainment.
The Misión jesuítica de San Cosme y Damián was our first impression of these reductions. Due to some misinformation we didn’t see as much of it as would have been possible. But it still was, due to the restored roof, an imposing sight.
Contrary to this, Encarnación had nothing to offer us. Famous for the biggest carnival in Paraguay, we found it little appealing. But she’s the perfect stop to explore the surrounding area.
As far as the missions went we ended almost with an overload of our senses. The Misión jesuítica de La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná possesses an interesting little museum and an impressive outdoor area.
At its peak up to 4’000 Guaraní lived here.
Almost next door lies the Misión jesuítica de Jesús de Tavarangüé.
Passing Mate shrubs and trees (we never really learned which of the shrubs and trees we passed are actually Mate) – as well as Mate tea factories – and Mennonite settlements we returned to Ciudad del Este.
There, the lady of the rental car company asked if the car was clean. Limpio??? Clean??? Never in my life, after all the rain and mud… Well, the car needs to be clean when you return it :-O
Little was left to do in Puerto Iguazú before we flew back to Buenos Aires.
We strolled to the 3 Borders Landmark
(Hito de las Tres Fronteras) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay
There was one last highlight left: the Iguazú Falls!
As it happens frequently pictures are more telling than words.
But I still have to jot down two or three.
It is incredible how many butterflies you can see in the area.
They land on t-shirts, hats, arms and hands…
What a gigantic culmination for an incredible amount of South American impressions and experiences!!!
The only thing left to do, after our return to Buenos Aires,
was to ride the bikes to the airport
how they were wrapped for shipment.
The time had come to leave autumn
and fly into spring!