We have made many friends over the past 2 months. But we want to head back to where it is warmer. We have decided we don't want to go further south just now. It is too cold, and also we are finding s it is ff season, well there just are no Gringos around - and travel is getting lonely.
So my first option is to try Paraguay.
We are meant to have a visa to enter, but we have spoken to many and all say it is cheaper, if not possibly free for some, if you go to the Immigration at the border.
So we say farewell to Ricardo, and we grab a taxi.
What I did not know was that the taxi was going to drop us on a road, and we had to walk and drag all our stuff to the Brazil Immigration Office to get our stamp.
No big deal, except this is on the long "Friendship Bridge".
We crossed roads and lanes of traffic, and not a man would help.
But after a while, a nice lady came and she helped us. She took the bag to immigration and gave me a great smile and the traditional cheek air kisses.
The Immigration guy was great. He helped us to stop a bus and get on with our bags. This is no easy feat - as you have to understand there are lanes of moving traffic, and they don't stop. Poor guy got whisked off in the traffic and left his station unattended!
Now I have a choice - be honest, or wing it and not pay. Most enter Paraguay don't stop at immigration. I found at both borders of Brazil you could easily get in and out with no Visa. However, I decided to go for the honest choice. I do not want trouble when I am travelling with a child. I also heard if you get stopped they can demand hundreds off you.
Now this is OK to want to stop, but the same applies. It is a slow flow of traffic. A guy on the bus gets the driver to stop and our luggage is thrown out onto the road. "Get to the kerb" is all I worry about for my boy. The man helps with the bags to the Paraguay Immigration.
I get my son to stand guard with the bags. I eye off who I think I should choose. I have been warned about people rejected (one girl just yesterday who argued paying $100 to get in). I selected a lady. But this big overweight guy stepped in and called us over - great - not! The deal is - a real visa is $135US each. At the border it is usually $100 for a 3 month visa, or $60 for a transit visa.
He told us we had no visa, and we are to return to the office and get one in Foz do Iguazu. I told him we can't as it is the weekend and they are closed. I showed him we are already stamped out of Brazil and asked if we could pay him. Ah - magic words. He decides it should cost $50 each. He grabs my $100 and throws it in his draw. No form - am I surprised. He stamps our passports, and tells me we will have no problems and to be happy! ??!!!
Well, I am happy we didn't have to go back to Brazil - as "Plan B" was to travel through Argentina, and "Plan C" was to travel back up through Brazil to the border of Bolivia - but we had travelled that way before. (This by the way is what everyone 'told' me I should do. I selected the option everyone 'told' me not to do.
I am also happy it was only $50 each - which is nearly 1/3 of the full price we could have had to pay - so overall, I guess I am happy.
I head outside and there is a money changed - perfect - well so I thought until I discovered he gave me a really lousy exchange rate. The local currency is Guaranis. Pronounced "wurraneez".
Now to find a hotel / hostel. We are right off the Gringo Trail now. We meet a man who tells us there is a reasonably priced hotel "just around the corner". He grabs the heaviest of bags, and off he marches. I tell my son to "keep hot on his heels" - I realise later he has no idea what this means! So off we go.
There is madness in the street. It is like Brazilians go crazy for a bargain. It feels like we just stepped into Asia. I daresay most of the stuff comes from there, but people are stocking up with bags and bags of stuff. Vans and cars fill the streets - loaded with clothes, toys, blankets, electronics, knock off handbags - and whatever other bargain they find.
I try like crazy to keep up with this guy who has my bag. Son in front. Always son in front. Keep going. We have to walk on the road. It is a bad pot holed road. Soon I feel we can go no further. We have dragged our stuff for blocks. I keep asking "how much longer", and he point us up the hill.
I am thinking 'who needs boot-camp" as I do not enjoy this work-out. Our extra bag of souvenirs needs to get shipped back to Australia. But postage in Brazil was crazy prices. So we drag it around with us - and there is a lot!
We finally arrive at the Victoria Hotel. The lady gives us discount. $27 for a room including breakfast. She and the girl are both friendly but they speak no English, and I have forgotten all my Spanish. My son however is right back into the Spanish. Good boy!
We get to a small and below average room. I do the bedbug check - all clear. Time for a shower - no curtain so there is water everywhere. We unpack and I set up a clothes line and wash the clothes. The bathroom looks awful now.
My son wants to go shopping. He wants to be in a city. I go to lock away our computers and discover there is no lockable cupboard, and the window doesn't lock - there is a ledge outside anyone could walk on. Oh no! I head downstairs and stress they need to fix this. After much debate, I lose. there is no safe in the hotel, and no lockable windows or cupboards. I tell the guy we will take it all with us, but secretly I lock it all in the luggage - hidden. Normally I would not do this, but I figure it is safer than dragging valuables in the Asian feel madness of what lurks outside the front doors. Paraguay is also known to have very little crime.
So we head out. Now my camera was dropped at the waterfalls, and the one we have left has no flash, so time to get a new one. We haggle at a few shops and get a good deal. But he then does a dodgy exchange rate when he converts. I learnt a big lesson. I am cranky but all up I have lost about $40 in 2 dodgy money deals in one day. I am glad I am claiming the other camera that got dropped at the waterfalls on insurance.
Next we have to go to the toilet. Problem. We only have 100mill Guaranis notes - no-one will let us into the Banos with this. They just say no. My son is busting. So in the end a lady lets us in without paying - yeah!
We find Burger King and my son is in raptures. It is actually about the same price as Australia. The buns however are like leather, and there is no way I can finish mine. So after feeling more like I am a horse than a human, trying to chew the bun, I give up.
I see the most divine scarf - and silly me does not buy it. I live to regret that. We hunt for mini Lego figures, but can't find them. The Lego we do find is 3 times the price of USA.
We head back to the hotel. They are drinking the local matte tea. But here it is in leather flasks and is cold. We change and head out to try to find internet and some dinner.
We madly cross over the main road and fine a gorgeous shopping centre still open. The sunsets as we look out over the river towards Foz do Iguazu, Brazil - good-bye Brazil.
We end up having Turkish food for dinner. By the time we come out it is dark.
I am yet to find a hotel for tomorrow. So we head back to the hotel again. On the way we see the poor emerge. They forage through the trash. They clean the streets. It is the sad side of the rich vs. the poor. I secretly hope they find some treasure some rich Brazilian threw out in error. But I doubt they will.
As I have no flash - this photo is not good, but there are people in this trash pile!
Back at the hotel, the owner is great. He gets us a password of a neighbours internet as theirs is not working. I imagine they have been cut off, as their main phone is also not working. But he borrows a mobile phone and he rings and confirms our next hotel. And then he shows us so many places to see in Paraguay. As I didn't know if we would be here, I have not researched where we are headed. I felt like we just wanted to charge up to the sunny parts of the world, but now I feel like taking my time and seeing this great country.