If we are in Paraguay, it is mainly to attend the famous carnival in Encarnacion, a border town with Argentina that has absolutely no border town look.
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
Day 1 :
The trip to Encarnacion is an endless series of #fail. Even if there isn’thing serious, it just shows that we are a little tired of moving all the time, under an overwhelming heat as a bonus, and are less demanding in our choices.
We take the bus with NSA from Asuncion at 1:30 pm, for 6 hours. Arriving at the terminal, we take a cab to a hotel reserved only for the price (16€) located 6km from the city. The driver asks us for 50 000 Guaranis but we insist that he puts the meter on. After the race, his counter indicates 48 000 Guaranis. So we gave him the 50 000 requested.
As soon as we enter the hotel, JB remarks to me that the presence of several garages with stairs for a direct and discreet access to each room seems suspicious to him. And he isn’t wrong! Since we reserved by mistake a lovel hotel ahahha, a hotel on time for the illegitimate couples #fail
Day 2: Carnival
Today is Carnival day. We change our accommodation and will spend 2 nights with an Airbnb lady. She is waiting for us at 11am in front of her nice house in the city center. During the whole trip by public bus to the city center, we draw the attention of all the children on the bus, they turn around and observe us during the ride. They should not see backpackers so often.
Encarnacion is a border town, separated from Argentina by a river that surrounds Paraguay. Argentines come here en masse from the city of Posadas (Argentina) to buy everything (clothes, furniture, household appliances…) because prices in Paraguay are half the prices in Argentina. So, apart from the carnival period when there are a bit more European tourists than usual, the rest of the time, the only tourists that Paraguayans see are Argentines or possibly Brazilians. And they are absolutely not backpackers. Thanks to the spending of Argentinian tourists, you can feel the wealth here, the houses look like American houses with a nice garden and a big 4×4 parked in front.
Vivi welcomes us with open arms in her pretty house that looks a bit Cuban. An enormous terrace and two large balconies await us. There is enough draught so that we don’t need to turn on the fan or the air conditioning.
Since we bought our carnival tickets in Asuncion, we have to exchange our coupon for real tickets here. But no one really knows who has them, because the tickets for the people of Asuncion are specially set aside and only one person has them. Big #fail.
Fortunately, the people working at the carnival office are very friendly and reassuring. Every 10 minutes, they come to see us and ask us to wait a little longer, they even give us two bottles of fresh water, until a girl finally appears with our tickets. TOO GENTLE !
Vivi invites us to have lunch with her and her daughter. She cooks us a typical Paraguayan dish. We talk… as if we had known each other for a long time. She is from northern Argentina, I have a little trouble understanding everything because of her speed of speech, but her daughter Antonella has the singing accent of Paraguay that I’ve gotten used to and I understand a little better.
Then we decide to go all together to the beach by the river. It is 40°C and we bathe joyfully in fresh water of the river (surprisingly clean besides) without any concern. Here, the girls wear very indented Brazilian bikinis, without any complex. I really like the atmosphere! You can rent an umbrella and two chairs for 45 000 Guaranis. There is everything on the beach: a Burger King, a cafeteria, music and commercial animations organized by beer brands.
After a delicious dinner at Hiroshima, the only and good Japanese restaurant since our trip in Asia (3 months ago, snif!) .
…. we go to the Centro Civico Sambodromo where the carnival takes place. The doors are open at about 8 pm past. The show starts slowly around 9pm, to be really good around 11pm. People don’t seem to mind buying tickets in advance for the Carnival. I see a lot of people arriving only at midnight, without a ticket. They buy them either from middlemen on the street or at the ticket office. If we knew that, we wouldn’t be bothered to buy our tickets from Asuncion! #fail
We buy bottles of snow foam from teenagers who sell it on the street. But as we approach the entrance, 2 boys accost us and tell us that these snow bombs will not be allowed. But that we can give them to them 🙂 Great, we bought them 15,000 Guaraníes each. JB hides them in his bag and luckily, he passes the entrance without any control. If the bombs from outside aren’t allowed, it’s because they sell them inside, for exactly the same price (15,000 Guaranis).
There are several schools marching. But only one at a time, the dancers lead the march, followed by a superbly decorated float, then the music group accompanies the dancers live.
Between the 2 schools, the public must wait between 10 and 15 minutes. During the entire parade, the main activities consist of (1) watching the parade (2) attacking the neighbors with his snow foam bomb (3) catching the cool drink vendor passing by. Those who come as a family are very considerate, they come with their cooler full of cold drinks, they are also equipped with snow foam, goggles (or sunglasses so as not to get caught in the eyes) and a small towel to wipe off the foam.
Not having thought about the small towel, JB has a little trouble removing the foam properly after a violent and cowardly attack from his neighbors, covering half of his head (and glasses) with foam ahahah. Luckily he can at least boast that he defended himself well because his opponents also had the same amount of foam on their faces (but they had the towel to wipe themselves off).
Now it’s time for images, it’s a mix of official pictures and pictures we take. On the first one, we see (not very well) JB in white
One thing is for sure, it is surprising to see so much beauty in one place. The girls and boys of the parade are all beauty cannons, smiling, energetic, not hesitating to dance, jumping even with 15cm heels. Total admiration!!
The parade lasts until 2am but we return earlier, exhausted by the moss battles and the heat.
Day 3: Jesuit Ruins of Trinidad
After a well-deserved matte sleep, we wonder what we want to do. It’s 38 degrees, I don’t feel like going out. Paraguay is really a great country, but it’s too hot. In Asia, the heat didn’t bother me that much, there was always a tuk tuk, a subway, an Uber, a scooter available to save me from walking would only be 5 minutes. Here, walking 10 minutes to the bus terminal seems to me interminable.
We plan to rent a car but everything is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. The heat melts my brain, I really don’t feel like thinking. In the city center, no tourist agency on the horizon, we can’t even pay an agency to take us to visit the ruins 🙁
In the streets, the battles of moss and water continue the day after the carnival. The cars that pass in front of these guys take a lot of money. Luckily it is very hot and a little water doesn’t hurt.
We finally get motivated to go to the Bus Terminal to take a local bus to Trinidad, where the Jesuit ruins classified by Unesco are located. These ruins are internationally known. There are many Argentinean agencies organizing tours to visit the 3 Jesuit ruins in the area, but on the Paraguayan side, there are no tourist agencies today. The visit to the ruins in Trinidad is the easiest to organize for us. The trip takes 1 hour, the visit 30 minutes because of the imminent storm.
It’s very nice, you can see that the decorations were directly carved in the stones and then put together to form the final pattern. What a titanic work!
As soon as the first raindrops appear, we hurry out and wait at the bus stop on the side of the road. We just have to hail any bus because they all go to Encarnacion. Our series of #fail follows us because we fall on a super crowded bus and have to stay up for an hour.
We test the Arabic lomito at El Asador (which I recommend) before talking for hours and hours with Vivi in Spanish. I understand only 1 word out of 3 but by some miracle I understand the general idea 😀
Next stop: Ciudad del Este
Part 2: Practical Tips
Tips & useful links
- La super maison de Vivi in Encarnacion on Airbnb: https: //www.airbnb.com.py/rooms/11902715?s=Fy8J9kd9 If you have never used Airbnb and you want a coupon code, you can use this link to get a 25 € discount: https: //www.airbnb.fr/c/jmoingt?currency=EUR
- Pictures of the 2017 carnival: https: //www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1167342083364369.1073741907.131928163572438&type=3
- love hotel ahaha : 16€/night Motel & Hospedaje Panky
- Airbnb : 67€/night during Carnival period (but cheaper outside Carnival, 40€)
- Bus Asuncion -> Encarnacion : 80 000Gs/person with NSA
- Bus Encarnacion -> Trinidad: 8000Gs/person with Gondalez the outward journey, same price for the return.
- Entrance to the Jesuit ruins (giving access to 3 ruins over 3 days) : 25 000Gs/person
- Carnival tickets: 90 000Gs/person
- Purchase of snow foam: 15 000Gs/bottle
- Food :
- Hiroshima : 65 000Gs/person approx
- El Asador: 25 000Gs/person approximately
- Bohemia: 40 000Gs/person approx
- Bottle of water at the supermarket: 3000Gs the 2.5Ls