Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Read Part 1 here.
That’s right, I said second time is the harm in Paraguay, not charm. My quick return trip there was anything but charming.
It is there that I crossed back into Paraguay, this time to Ciudad del Este, one of the ugliest cities I have ever seen.
There are no hostels there, just cheap, dirty hotels for people on a budget, as I was. I could not keep the mosquitos out of my room and in Paraguay these blood-sucking bastards are known for carrying Dengue fever.
After a terrible night’s sleep, I decided it was time to move on, to head off to Asunción, the capital, where I figured there would be a lot to do, being that it’s the biggest city in the country.
I was wrong.
Compared to other parts of the country, sure, it was lively. But after experiencing other South American capitals, it was quite the disappointment.
Asunción is a poor man’s Montevideo, a place with some nice architecture, a few museums and maybe a bit of nightlife, but that’s it. Paraguayan food is nothing special either.
I was there during the winter and it was still disgustingly hot and humid, and overcast the whole time with occasional showers that did nothing to cool the place off, not really. Like Ciudad del Este, the mosquitos were everywhere and it was hard to sleep at night.
I still cannot believe, to this day, that I did not get Dengue fever from the trip. I was easily bitten more than 50 times between the two cities, probably closer to a hundred, even though I brought bug repellent with me.
We spent one day walking around the city, taking in the historic district, including the partially pink presidential palace, and one night on the town.
The locals were not particularly friendly to us. They kept staring at us, but unlike in Colombia, when saying hi starts a conversation or a friendship, it led to more blank looks from the locals. But we had a good group, other than one girl who complained about every place she had ever visited, and we had a good time.
Then the morning came, when I found out my camera was stolen. I think it was one of the guests, probably the one who left that day. Oh well. S*#t happens.
But the most frustrating part was trying to leave the country.
Because on this trip, I acquired a Visa before entering, I didn’t pay much attention at customs. Turns out they pulled a trick I’m sure they’ve done on others: they didn’t stamp my passport.
As I left, the customs officials at the Asunción border said they were going to detain me for entering illegally. I pleaded with them to let me go, that I would never do that, that I paid for a Visa and I didn’t realize the customs officials didn’t stamp my passport, and then it became clear this was all part of the plan.
One official asked me how much money I had on me. Thankfully, it was only 104 Argentine pesos and a few Guaraní, the Paraguayan currency, altogether $26 or so.
They told me I could leave if I gave it to them, so I did.
Every time I flip through my passport and see only three stamps for Paraguay, it reminds me that any backpacking trip can truly be an adventure.