November 2002 – Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay & Argentina
Hello. It has been a busy and at times exhausting couple of weeks since the last issue. We have left Salta, in the North of Argentina, and travelled quickly across the country to Paraguay. I can’t say the capital of this country, Ascuncion, has much going for it; the city seems to shut down at eight in the evening and is run down with deteriorating buildings.
Many South American cities have slums and shanty towns, but nowhere have we seen any on such prime real estate: by the river twenty yards from the parliament building in the centre of a nation’s capital. The people though seem both honest and helpful. Twice I gave a taxi driver the wrong note (ten times the fare) and twice he handed it back.
Though with little else to change our minds about our original plans not to stay very long we crossed the country to the livelier smuggling town of Ciudad del Este and from there took in three countries in one day.
Hiring a taxi, we travelled from Paraguay through Brazil and back into Argentina. We visited both the Brazilian and Argentine sides of the spectacular Igazu Falls, returning soaked from both the efforts of the unmissable falls and a mischievous inflatable motorboat pilot.
Sipping champagne and reclining in fat seats, we treated ourselves to some luxury for the twenty hour bus journey to Buenos Aires. As a mark of class the bus company didn’t show any films starring either Jean Claude van Damme or Jackie Chan. We have been on a lot of buses in the past five and a half months but this was the first time JCVD didn’t rear his karate kicking features.
Finally we’re in sophisticated Buenos Aires, where we order Irish coffee and receive free pizza, bread, cakes and biscuits. The streets are wide and the banks covered in graffiti and new, but bashed, steel plate. Despite their problems, the people are well dressed, intelligent, hospitable and friendly.
We are due to fly this evening to Santiago and then across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. We didn’t really know what to expect when we first arrived in South America, the continent was one of the least known to me, but it has been a pleasure to travel around all of the countries we visited in the region. We stayed over twice as long as we originally intended, mostly in Cusco, and would recommend a visit here to each and every one of you.