Paraguay - big trip - diary - paraguay - december 2002


Bastard cop gets a bribe

Flat farmland and roadside death monuments

Indigenous types camping in a town square

Thursday 12 - Monday 16 December

Paraguayan customs was a piece of cake with nothing needing to be done for the landy. We stopped fifty metres from the border beside a collection of electrical shops where a new fan for the cab was bought to replace the current one which doesn't oscillate anymore after a year of sterling service. Cuidad del Este is a huge electrical shopping centre selling all sorts of stuff at rock bottom prices, but once you've got your electrical goodies theres not much reason to stay on.

We'd heard bad reports of the police here and we soon came upon the first of a ridiculous number of checkpoints along the main route into the country. We were stopped for not having our lights on dip during the day, an understandable oversight for a non volvo driver. The cop wanted to give us a fine, then he noticed with glee that our brake lights didn't work, something we weren't aware of. The captain sauntered over and was fortunately more friendly and started asking questions about the trip and, after a bit of football banter about Chalavet, we were off without paying anything.

We spent the night behind a petrol station as all the countryside is fenced off. Shortly after setting off we came across the usual police check. Our lights weren't on this time either, despite the switch being on. Turned out that the military switch was broken inside and no longer clicks into position properly. Great, in the country with the most fastidious cops so far and our light switch is broken. Luckily he never noticed the brake lights and proceeded to write us a ticket for $25. Trip and football talk had no effect, then he adopted the classic head scratching pose and asked how much cash we had on us. Careful extraction of just a few notes led us to paying $5 to the fat git's xmas bonus.

Family selling pineapple juice

Sights of Asuncion

Amazing sights of Asuncion

Pink (gin) palace with...

...street showers and...

...the shacks behind

Despite countless other police checkpoints we didn't have anymore problems, partly due to a hapless guy in an old Ford Escort cabrio who seemed to get stopped, overtake us and get stopped again, so distracting the cops from a dodgy old blue landy.

The countryside is flat and largely featureless grazing land and the roadsides are dotted with little crosses or shrines where someone has been killed, seemingly much more than in the other countries we've visited. Mercedes cars are in abundance, there are definitely some very rich people in Paraguay. The not so rich have carts pulled by horses or, more rarely, oxen.

Asuncion is the only large city in Paraguay and has almost 1.5 million people - about a quarter of the population. Its not particularly attractive but the people are friendly and it feels safe. As in south Brasil, drinking maté is very popular, the more addicted ones can be seening chilling out or walking around with their thermoses and maté cups, even going into a bar with it. We found a hotel and spent the next two nights checking out the pumping nightlife and the surprisingly beautiful dorises.

Old bus at its final stop

Wicked ox cart...

...and plenty of rustic scenes

Minging bloke selling a tortoise and a boa

A very O.D.D candidate

AA Bridge to Argentina

By the time we woke up on Saturday everything was closed, only a couple of weeks before Christmas and nobody about, no restaurants either. A quick drive to the outskirts of town found us a Polleria, a place with plenty of roast chickens waiting to quell the Pilsen induced hangover. Come Sunday and not managing to find any reason to stay longer in Asuncion, we headed south through more flat but still scenic countryside, small farms with well kept gardens and big lawns, things we'd not seen for a very long time. With exit stamps in our passports, we crossed the designer bridge into Argentina.

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