Bus del Infierno

Our two weeks in Paraguay are over and we are a little sad to be leaving. While we’re not sure we’d use valuable vacation time to make a special trip to Paraguay, we are really glad we came here and would wholeheartedly recommend it to other travelers.

Our next destination is Salta. There are no direct buses to Salta from Asunción, so we have to change buses in Resistencia. On the map, Resistencia looks very far out of the way since Salta is a little north of Asunción. In fact, it looks so far out of the way we explored other options including crossing to Clorinda, just across the river from Asunción and catching a bus there. There is a city bus to Clorinda, but it can take two hours to cross as it winds through all the city streets first. There is also a ferry from Puerto Itá Enramada in Asunción, to Puerto Pilcomayo just outside Clorinda. Allegedly there’s a shuttle into town, but if you missed it, you’d be 10km from anywhere. The final argument is there’s only one bus from Clorinda to Salta (leaving at 1:50pm), but it goes through Resistencia anyway, so it’s a lot easier to just get a bus from the bus terminal in Asunción to begin with.

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Five Days in Asunción, Paraguay

Months ago we booked six nights at El Nómada Hostel in Asunción because we needed to show accommodation on our Paraguay visa application.

The first night after our sweaty bus ride, we ran into Jonathan and Danielle in the kitchen, the first Americans we’ve seen since we left Buenos Aires. While we aren’t particularly focused on finding Americans on our trip, it was fun to meet them. We are doing our trips in opposite directions, so they had lots of tips about Colombia, and we could tell them about Encarnación and getting Bolivian visas in Buenos Aires. They had spent three days in Asunción and were leaving the next day. They warned us Asunción is weirdly empty and there isn’t much to do.

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Bus to Asunción

We arrived at the bus terminal in Encarnación at 10:40am, and before we had even made it to the ticket windows a guy asked where we were heading and told us he had a bus right now to Asunción. Before we had agreed, he had written out a ticket for a bus leaving at 11:45. Not exactly “right now” by our definition but we figured it was fine. Louisa showed up 30 minutes later and managed to get on a much nicer bus leaving 15 minutes before us. And that’s when we realized we had made a mistake.

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Buses in Paraguay are not like other buses we’ve experienced to date. For one, no one cares about your passport when you buy a bus ticket. They expect you are going on the next bus and they are happy to take your money. For two, the buses are quite old and there are no fancy features: no AC, no WiFi, at least not that we’ve seen. You might get a seat that doesn’t recline or you might get a seat that doesn’t stay up. In fact, you might not even get a seat.

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Itaipu Dam

On Sunday, we decided to visit the Itaipu Dam, which is an impressive bi-national collaboration between Brazil and Paraguay to develop sustainable power generation in the region. Construction on the dam over the river Paraná began in 1975 and was completed in 1984. The hydroelectric power plant at the dam produces approximately 79% of Paraguay’s energy need and 20% of Brazil’s. Paraguay exports most of the excess power back to Brazil making electricity Paraguay’s single largest export. In 2016, the Itaipu hydroelectric power plant produced the most energy of any in the world. The dam is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

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Saltos de Monday

The internet can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s full of useful travel tips, and on the other hand it can scare you away from really cool things. If you read too much, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, sounds like a terrifying place. So much so that we seriously considered whether it was worth spending any time there or if we should get on the first bus to Encarnación. Luckily, we had also read enough to know that the two main attractions near Ciudad del Este were worth seeing: Saltos de Monday and the Ituaipu dam (more on that in a later post).

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