Country hopping - Uraguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Paraguay!
So the weather hasn't been much fun over the past two weeks and hence I have not been able to see much of South America yet which is getting quite frustrating. I'm not one to be able to sit around for a week doing nothing, and this is exactly what we have had to do! Ahhhh. In Montevideo we sat around in the hostel, walked around the city a little, I went for a few runs in the rain and got drenched by the sea crashing up on the side, so returned to the hostel looking like I had been swimming in the sea. It was also hard running in the strong winds! But nice to get out running again, I definitely miss my daily exercise but I have had time to do a few runs lately when the rain has stopped, or if not I have found a space in the hostel to do Davina which is a nice home comfort J Punta del Este was a nice little beach side resort...well, I can imagine is it anyway. We didn't quite get to experience the summer vibes as it was raining for the 3 days we were there. We didn't let the rain take all the fun out of our visit as we still went out walking to see the town, but for the majority of the day we were sat in the hostel chilling once again. It probably would have been ok if there were more backpackers, but we were the only 3 people in the hostel, it was so quiet. I guess thats what you get when you travel in the low season. We returned to Montevideo on 17th September, and checked into our hostel. Ok so I say hostel, because they call themselves a hostel, but it seemed more like a grungy student house. There was only us 3 staying in the hostel again, but the staff were all really nice so we chatted with them for most of the night. I took a stroll to the shopping centre to just get out and about as it was better than sitting in the hostel all day. The hostel was pretty bad, everything was dirty, they didn't have hot water to clean dishes, the stove didn't even turn up high enough to boil water for us to cook rice. But hey, it was an experience. I didn't mind it too much because the staff made up for it and the man was helping me with my Spanish. Every opportunity I get to speak Spanish I try and take it, especially when you are on the bus sitting next to people and when you are in hostels its great because most of the staff can speak good English so you can fire questions at them on prounounication or how to say things correctly. Most people seem to understand what I am trying to say with the words I use but it's now time I should be able to construct properly sentences together with correct grammer so I think that is my next challenge. So in Uruguay it is legal to smoke weed...and that is what all teh hostel staff do around here. You can smell it constantly. They were smoking in the living room too so I'm glad I didn't waste my money wash my clothes!
On Wednesday 18th September it was time to face the long journey up to Paraguay. Our bus was at 1pm. The man from the hostel kindly offered to give us a lift and stopped off for me to change my money too which was really nice of him. We jumped on the bus, which seemed rather comfortable, big seats, pillows....all was good. 10 minutes into the journey we were told that the air conditioning wasn't working on the bus properly (so George was able to understand from the Spanish bus host), so after swapping buses at the next terminal we were on our way. The journey was fine, we were well looked after with coffee, coke, water, crackers and dinner which consisted of a mini ham and cheese croissant, plain sandwhich, a lasagne and a mini cake for dessert. I was satisfied with this despite not being served dinner until half past 10, but I was able to get 4 hours sleep on the bus before we arrived in Encarnacion at 5am on Thursday morning. We found a hotel next to the bus station but the lady wouldn't let us in and made us wait outside until it was later in the day, even though the place was unlocked and she was up. We wouldn't have done any harm sitting on the sofas inside the hotel so I wondered off to find another place to stay which ended up being 2 minutes down the road. The hotel was open and the man was very friendly so we checked in and headed to bed for a bit. I took a stroll around the town whilst the lads carried on sleeping (yes I have discovered they like their sleep and lye-in's a lot) so I went off wondering around the streets and bought some long leggings as I stupidly left mine behind in Uruguay In the afternoon the lads were able to get themselves out of bed. We grabbed some pizza and then took a bus to Trinidad which took about an hour on the local bus. The bus was quite different to our previous journeys, it was creeking as it drove about 5mph. It honestly felt like it was going to break down any minuet, but we did get there...eventually! The ruins reminded me very much of Ayathya in Thailand but on a smaller scale. We weren't that impressed but took a stroll and it was a great opportunity for me to practise a little with my camera before we jumped back on the bus. That night we grabbed some snacks and watched The Queen in the guys room.
I was shocked to see that we actually made it to the 7.30am bus to Ciudad del Este. The bus was a minibus, and our seats we at the very back...hence we had a very bumpy (and humid) 6 hour journey. We had lots of stops, picked up lots of people, dropped off lots of people, picked up posts and packages...dropped packages off, were offered all sorts on the bus every time the bus stopped from bread, to drinks, to stocks, to childrens toys. People just jump on the bus walk up and down trying to sell anything...and if they can't jump on the bus, they stand by the traffic lights and when we have to stop they walk around us swinging their goods in the air and try to communicate with us outside by our window. It is a funny scene and definitely reminded me of Asia. The streets are full of rubbish too, they don't care about throwing rubbish away, even though there are bins around. We also get a free circus show in some of the towns, as there are guys stood at the side of the road waiting for the traffic lights to go red and then they stand in the middle of the road doing all kinds of party tricks from juggling, Diablo, fire twirling, balancing all kinds of balls on every part of their body, and some even try out tricks on a slack rope (like a type rope but springy) on the side of the road. So atleast our 6 hour journey wasn't boring with all this free entertainment J We all managed to nod off at some point too. The landscape was very flat so nothing to see on the way in that respect. From Cuidad we waited an hour and a half to jump on the local bus to Puerte Iguasu which is actually in Argentina. We were sat in traffic for ages to get out of the city and across the bridge through Brazil and into Argentina. Luckily we didn't have to get stamped for Brazil and we only stopped to get our passports stamped out of Paraguay. This bus was just like a local city bus back home. There were lots of Argentineans jumping on the bus with heaps of shopping bags as it is probably cheaper to take a day trip to Paraguay to buy things because they don't charge tax in Paraguay. It seemed like a standard thing for Argentinanas to do, and I guess you would if it's only an hour away (although not for us this time thanks to the traffic!). After 8 hours of travelling George and I were desperate to do something so we went into the hostel court yard and did some fitness for half an hour. We died because we had only eaten crackers for the entire day, we were extremely dehydrated and it was pretty humid that day too...so we didn't really last long but it was better than nothing. We went out for dinner (65 pesos - £6 for a pizza) and then had a chilled night in the hostel.
Saturday 21st was a very lucky day for us...we visited Iguazu Falls, one of the places to visit before you die! And it was stunning, especially to see the grand scope of the place and the sheer power of the falls. There were several viewpoints you go to so we ended up just staring out at the falls for half of the day, saying wow and attempting to take some photos inbetween the flocks of tourists that came, took a photo and left rather rapidly. We simply enjoyed being there, and experiencing the feeling of this magnificent natural wonder that stood below (and at times, above) us. I must admit, I think my photography skills are getting a little better, so I take good photos of other people and then don't get good photos in return! I think I'm turning into one of those 'fussy' photographers...but hey, I had a few photos but would prefer to enjoy where I was rather than worry about getting a good photo for my facebook profile, like all the others! It was a great day spent at the falls in the sunshine (with a few rainy spells). It took us about 6 hours to wonder around, and wait for the little trains that took us from one view point to the next. I'm not sure why it cost $170 Argentinean pesos, as it's a natural wonder...and it was much cheaper for the locals and S.A tourists to enter, I felt a little cheated but it was still worth the visit and $170 is only about £20, so in the grand scheme of things, it really was pittance. I guess to total up the time it took to actually get here and the money for the buses added up but I'm glad we did it.
This morning is Sunday 22nd September. And guess what, it's been raining ALL DAY! We spent an hour and a half at the bus station because the lads couldn't get their arses out of bed 15 minutes earlier so we missed the 9.50am bus and had to wait until 11.50am. So I sat in the station writing this! J Yep, I waste no time here on my travels. There was a great big storm last night that woke us all up...probably the biggest storm I have experienced. The lightening was huge and lit up the entire room and the thunder was very close behind and rumbled so loud and for such a long time I was actually scared! And this morning it has just been a constantly raining...heavy rain at that. We are about to jump on the bus from Puete del Este back into Paraguay now to stay at Cuidad del Este for 1 night and then I think we plan to move on to Asuncion the following day before a long bus trip into Bolivia...wow, I feel like I have seen nothing but spent half the week sitting on a bus travelling from place to place, but I guess this is the biggest most sparse place I have been to so far so I guess I should expect that. I look forward to getting into Bolivia and seeing more of this place...
ps. it recently occurred to me that I have no idea who is reading this (if any)...so it would be pretty cool to know - sometimes these blogs keep me going at times, especially during harder times of my travels,, I always think ah it's bad now, but hey, it'll be nice to spice up my blog with this 'bad' experience or whatever. Not that anything too drastic has happened yet (thank goodness), but it would be awesome if you could maybe send a message on this blog in messages, even if it's just hey, I'm reading it..I would much appreciate it :) THANKS SO MUCH!!!
Well, Chao for now, it's time to hop on this bus! xxx