Friday 24 October 2014

A brief jaunt over to Paraguay, and Itaipu

I'm gonna miss this place. I mean, who wouldn't? We have rooftop chillouts on the roof, dangling our feet in the hot-tub, sipping on a free Caipirinha, swaying to the tunes and admiring the bright red sunset.

So, determined to at least visit Paraguay for a day, but fully aware that I don't have the time or money to truly explore the country, I sent a message to Anna and headed over the friendship bridge. It's really easy to get from Foz to Ciudad del Este (East city - very original) on the Paraguayan side. Opposite the bus station in Foz is a military base, and a Paraguay bus will pull up every 10 minutes or so.

If you are a foreigner and just want to visit the shops, then you can just walk across the bridge without the immigration formalities - really, no one will stop you. However, I really did want the stamp in my passport, so I jumped off the bus underneath the big metal roof, had myself stamped out of Brazil, and proceeded across the bridge.

I love land borders; for a few minutes, you are no where. No stamp into any country, no official record of your existence, a short time of limbo. It's so much more magical to have to find an office and have someone search through drawers for a stamp than to stand in a queue in an airport. Someone didn't fly you there, you walked on in on your own two feet.

The far side of the bridge can be appropriately described as pandemonium. Stalls, shops, mototaxis (motorcycle taxis) and a throng of people entering empty handed and carrying armfuls of stuff back into Brazil. While I was waiting, I saw trucks, cars, buses and - I swear this is true - an old woman pulling a large cart that was loaded with what looked like car parts. She was walking at a good old pace too, but still annoying every car behind her. Paraguay apparently has no tax of any kind, so rather than buy stuff in Brazil, they walk over to the far side, load on up, and carry it all home.

Oddly however, though we wanted to see Itaipu, the mototaxis wanted twice the price on the Paraguayan side than the Brazilian side. Perhaps it was a punishment for my awful Spanish. Still after some stiff negotiations, we couldn't get the price much lower and made the sad decision to visit the dam from the Brazilian side. By mototaxi!

The dam was impressive, it's the second largest in the world and is owned 50/50 by the Paraguayans and the Brazilians. What's even more impressive, is that the Paraguayans power 75% of their country from their share of the dam, which is a total of, wait for it, 8% of the total power of the dam. The other 42% of the electricity is sold back to the Brazilians at a rate of $1 million per day. And with that 92% of the electricity, Brazil powers 17% of the country. No matter which way you look at it, it's a pretty impressive operation. We rounded off the evening taking pictures on the rooftop, and I did my best to recreate the famous Indian desert scene, but I'm not convinced it's as good, if only that bloody wall wasn't in the way:

Today it's off to Argentina. If you want to take a bus, book the accursed things early, as they fill up 5 days in advance! Three of us in the hostel managed to nab cheap flights and are all flying down to Buenos Aires in 4 hours time.

So, on that note, I need to go cross another border, manage my way through several buses and try and find this airport in time! Thanks for reading!


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