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Hypothetically, How to Break into Paraguay, and Getting a Blood Test in Spanish

Posted by on July 24, 2010

Sunday, we decided we had different goals for the day. Amal and Blair wanted to try a tree-top rapelling and canoping excursion in the forest, and I wanted to break into Paraguay. I kidded of course, but I did fancy the idea of hopping across the borders. I’d done some research and worryingly, it looked like it was going to require three passport photos, my bank details, proof of a job (uhoh) and presumably samples of my DNA and fingerprints. Darren, the American, had decided he wanted to go to Asuncion, Paraguay and was planning on winging it at the border. I decided I’d look around town a bit and then try my luck at it as well.

Thankfully it had stopped raining, and I strolled down to Tres Fronteras to see the other two countries. The junction itself looking over the river, is quite a good view, despite the rain which kept coming through. Around the monument is a variety of tacky tourist shops, and a number of coaches keep pulling up and depositing more tourists. I took a couple of pictures and found my cameras were still cloudy/wet from yesterday, so I decide I’ll endeavour to try the ferry to Paraguay, which I believed to be down the hill by the river (naturally).

It’s a reasonable walk down to the ferry, behind some of the major hotels with swimming pools and fountains. It’s quite a different way to travel, but I still think I prefer meeting people in hostels and getting out and about. I’m sure that’ll change eventually. Probably. Eventually I come across the ferry terminal, if you can call it that – a small dock with some bored looking policemen. In broken Spanish I explain I wish to get to Paraguay, and the main policeman informs me that they don’t run on Sundays – I have to come back Monday morning. I ask about the bus, and he says that’s running, so I start walking up the other hill back into town. More steep walking, which I’m quite pleased about.

Eventually I find the bus station, and then it gets interesting. There’s a bus labelled ‘Paraguay’. After discussions with the hostel earlier, I had established that the Paraguayan bus travels across into Brazil to Foz Iguacu, and then across another bridge into Cuidad de Este, naturally with a ton of border crossings in the way. Excited by the prospect of getting some decent stamps in this new passport, I hop on the bus, although it doesn’t technically say Cuidad de Este, for five pesos I’m happy going anywhere. The bus is jammed full of locals and indeed I appear to be the only foreigner, and I stand for the trip up the front by the driver, and exchange a few words about what to do.

Upon reaching the border of Argentina, the bus pulls over and the driver points and says what I assume to be instructions to get stamps. I follow everyone off and attempt to read the signs. It sounds like you need to declare laptops or money, but I figure mine’s not worth much these days. There are a series of other warnings but I have no clue what they say, and all too soon it’s my turn. The bored looking customs official glances over my passport and gives me my exit stamp. Of course, getting out of a country is usually fairly easy.

We hop back onboard, and carry on – although leaving three behind who apparently weren’t allowed out – they grabbed their bags and walked off. It’s quite fun trying to guess what’s going on when you have very little idea of what’s being said. The bus crosses over the bridge above the Iguazu River, and into Brazil. I decide I can’t count it until I get my stamp. Up ahead we see the customs for entering, and standing to one side I recognise the English chap and his girlfriend who told us our flight was leaving back in Buenos Aires. Our bus zooms on past them, and I realise there’s a special lane he’s taken which doesn’t require stopping. It turns out the bus to Paraguay is like being in transit through Brazil, so you don’t officially enter it, despite travelling for more than half an hour through Foz Iguacu and the surrounding area.

As we come towards the Paraguayan border…ok let’s stop here. This is the internet, of course. Let’s just say hypothetically there’s this bus, and there’s this hypothetical driver, who upon hearing that the only non-local on the bus only wants to go into the border town, can’t be bothered getting the tourist a stamp, drives on through the express customs lane for locals, and says he can just do the same on the way back after picking the tourist up again. Imagine that. Hypothetically of course. Hypothetically said tourist would hypothetically be in Paraguay without a visa and without a stamp, wandering around Cuidad de Este.

Me of course, I was back in Argentina. The fact that my passport has an exit stamp and an entry stamp on the same day, with no other countries that day, clearly means I just walked out of Argentina and straight back in. Clearly.

I spent the afternoon at the local hospital where no English was spoken, trying to in my limited Spanish explain that I needed an INR test for Warfarin anticoagulation. It took two hours, I saw a lot of other patients and a LOT of blood, but I got my test eventually. Success in Spanish medical jargon!

In the evening we met up again and discussed our days. Amal and Blair had some pretty fantastic videos of their adventurous day, and we spent the evening in the dining room of the hostel, chatting to Jan-Carel from South Africa and his girlfriend from Germany, Jimmy from Atlanta, Georgia (another state!), and learning a lot more about the cities and countries ahead of us. Fun times await!

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