Bela Vista to Foz do Iguazu
past Jardim - Bela Vista
ca. 85 KM
sunny and hot, as every day
6:20 - 13:00
That night was so cold again. Couldn't even get more sleep than about 4 or 5 hours. My bike finally kicked the bucket - the fork got loose and at a certain speed the wheel blocks. Strange thing. And beyond, around 9:30 I ran out of water. It's a miracle I made it to Bela Vista.
And guess what - it isn't an international border! The brazilian guys there couldn't stamp my passport.
"I'm sorry, but you have to go back to Jardim and follow the road to Ponta Pora. From there you can cross into Paraguay. With your bike... you'll need about two days."
He said that so seriously, I couldn't tell if he was joking or not... o.O But eventually they allowed me to go there via the Paraguayan side. No way I'd go back the route I covered with my sweat...
The guys at the Paraguayan immigration post were really helpful and after one hour of chatting (felt so good to speak Spanish again) and drinking terere (ice cold herbal tea) I took the bus to Pedro Juan/Ponta Pora. Got my passport stamped the next day and continued directly to Concepción.
Due to the lack of a useable map, cheap buses and lack of time I decided (not without regret) not to cycle through Paraguay. It certainly has a different feel than the other countries, I'd say. The language most used in this country eventually isn't Spanish - Paraguayans normally communicate in Guaraní, the native tongue. Only five years ago it became mandatory in the schools to teach Spanish, from what I heard. Adding the lack of tourist attractions and little economic importance caused a certain isolation... It feels like a remote place, where someone from outside still can discover and explore.
Arriving in Concepción at dusk, I checked the port to travel to Asunción on boat and found out it would leave the next morning - perfect. Someone introduced me to the local German priest, Harald, who is living already 36 years in Paraguay. He showed me around Concepción, told me all the background stories about Paraguay and we had lots of beer and BBQ ^^
The coolest priest I've ever met
A bond for life - in a romatic frenzy couples sometimes jump the 30+m from the bridge. Some of them even survive.
Made an early start and boarded the "Cacique II" at 5:30 a.m. The journey to Asunción took 22 relaxed hours. Gotta love river travelling! It wasn't as interesting as the Rio Napo adventure, but just chilling in the hammock, talking with locals and listening to Guaraní chatting while watching the landscape passing by made the ride a lot more enjoyable than an unpersonal bus...
Asunción - view from the port at dawn
In Asunción I had a hard time finding a cheap accomodation. Cycled all the way through the city at rush hour to get to the bus terminal, where I finally found a place for about 4.50$. It's an interesting city with a bit an ancient atmosphere, but not really much to do. The most interesting spot I found was the legislative palace, where you can see the riverfront slums (including pigs and horses, they're EVERYWHERE in Paraguay!) in the mirrored fassade.
Most of the time I spent optimizing my bike - got slimmer outer tyres and even a speedo.
After five days I left to Ciudad del Este, a dodgy city at the Brazilian border. I was going to visit the Itaipu Dam, worlds largest hydroelectric plant, but had to idle another day. On sundays there's never more to do than watching TV or reading a book. But got really impatient by then.
Some nerdy but impressive statistics:
20 generators, 700MW each
Over 90 billion kWh per year
Provides 95% of the energy needed in Paraguay and over 25% in Brasil
Contains steel to build 380 Eifel Towers
40.000 people worked at construction at the same time
But the reason why I came here is - you guessed - the Iguazu Falls. 2 border crossings later (again at rush hour >.< I was in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Pictures just don't do the falls justice. The noise, the mist, the lighting - an amazing place.