August 12th, 2019
Since we wanted to leave Brazil legally and enter Paraguay, we had to first stop at Immigration at the airport to exit Brazil, then drive about a click to the office to cancel our TIP, then cross over into Pedro Juan Caballero to Paraguayan immigration, get our passports stamped after showing them the $160 visa we had obtained at the Consulate in Buenos Aires in June. Fourth and final stop was Aduana Paraguay to get Tigger’s TIP. This all totaled less than an hour’s time but by now it’s dark. We pulled into a gas station near the duty free mall and asked the security guard if we could spend the night. He was good with it but there was some confusion about where to park and finally after three tries, we got it done and had a pretty quiet night for a gas station; probably because it wasn’t a truck stop.
Note: We are happy to be back in a Spanish speaking country!
Paraguay is bordered by Bolivia to the north, Argentina to the west and south and Brazil to the east. It is one of only two landlocked countries in South America, and due to its central location, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de Sudamérica (“Heart of South America”).
The Spanish arrived in 1524 and in 1537 they established the city of Asunción which is the capital city of the country. Paraguay was the epicenter of the Jesuit Missions, where the Guarani people were educated and introduced to Christ and European culture. However, after the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish territories in 1767, Paraguay increasingly became a peripheral colony, with few urban centers and settlers. Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of authoritarian governments but this period ended with the disastrous Paraguayan War, during which Paraguay lost at least 50% of its prewar population and around 25–33% of its territory to the Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In the 20th century, Paraguay faced another major international conflict – the Chaco War against Bolivia, from which the Paraguayans emerged victorious. Afterwards, the country entered a period of military dictatorships, ending with a 35 year regime that lasted until 1989 by an internal military coup. This marked the beginning of the “democratic era” of Paraguay.
With around seven million inhabitants, Paraguay is the third-poorest nation in South America after Bolivia and Guyana – although the latter has just discovered oil recently, so that should change. The Guarani culture is very influential and more than 90% of the people speak different forms of the Guarani language in addition to Spanish.
Paraguayans are known for being a very happy and easy-living people and many times the country has topped the “world’s happiest place” charts because of the “positive experiences” lived and expressed by the population.
Gasoline here costs around $3.78 a gallon, the currency is the “guarani” and it takes 4594 of them to make a Canadian dollar and 6056 to make up a USD so the bills here are in quite large denominations. The local beers are Ouro Fina and Munich.
Tuesday morning we went into the town to get a cell phone SIM card and drop off our laundry; we had trouble finding an laundry place in Brazil and understand this is a common problem for overlanders in Brazil.
We then decided to check out the two large duty free shops here in this border town and a large supermarket. They were both not actual malls but just think airport duty free and picture it ten times larger.
We did find a few things we wanted to buy and then went for lunch at Pizza Hut! We’d not had good pizza in a long time and this was a welcome change – we know they are not the top of the line pizza but at least it was familiar – sometimes you just need something from home!
We carried on a whole 7 km down the highway to another petrol station with a huge parking lot that does not get too many trucks. We ended up staying two nights so we could have some downtime; we’ve been driving a lot due to the short amount of time we wanted to spend in Brazil. This place had clean bathrooms and okay Wi-Fi that it turns out gets turned off when their office closes at six but we had good cell reception. Our cell plan here gives us 3GB for three days for about $2.50 so we were able to do a great deal online.
Thursday, the 15th was Doug’s birthday and we awoke to quite a blustery day and decided to move on. Paraguay does not offer a lot of tourist sites but their Laguna Blanca sounded good. It was just over 200 km / 124 mi and all on paved highways until the last little bit on sandy road.
Along the sandy road was a small house with a few children and some elderly people. We stopped to offer them some clothes we’d set aside to give away, gave them a bit of money and Doug made balloon animals for the kids. He really enjoyed doing this on his birthday.
We walked over to check out the lake before deciding to stay; it was a little underwhelming but nice enough. We found out the price and got set up. The place offers lake front beach with white sand, bathrooms, cold showers, slow internet and power. It would be alright for a night. There were no other campers but a few people staying in the cabins. The weather was pleasant, not hot so we didn’t go swimming.
After doing our morning exercise, (Fran did her yoga on the sandy beach!) we packed up and went back down the dirt road and had a few more things to give to the family we’d helped yesterday and Doug made more balloons.
We made our way about 60 km / 40 mi to the small city of General Isidro Resquin and found yet another gas station to spend some time at. Today it’s getting hot again – back into the 30’s C and full sun – and we are still in winter!
After a noisy night at the gas station (it was too close to the road which is a main highway) we drove the final 240 km / xx mi to Asuncion. Here we want to get a few things on Tigger taken care of and then chill for a couple of weeks before flying home on September 17th.
Our first stop was a mechanic to see if he could change the transmission fluid – but first we had to be sure he could get the filter needed – we had the fluid. He claimed he could after taking out the existing filter and taking it around the city to find it but Doug was not confident in that. Firstly, he’d have to remove the dirty transmission fluid to get the filter out and if he couldn’t find it, then what? So we said we’d think about it and return Monday – we’ll probably order one from Amazon and bring it back with us.
Tigger in good company:
We made our way to a German hotel that allows overlanders in their back parking lot;
it’s not a pretty lot but we’ve stayed in worse places. We have access to power (yeah – we can use our fans all night or turn on the AC if we want!), bathrooms with showers, Wi-Fi and a swimming pool and all for the steep price of $2 a day per person!
We spent the afternoon by the pool under an umbrella using the fast Wi-Fi – it was hot out but the pool was COLD! We went to the hotel’s large restaurant for dinner to have a real birthday dinner for Doug that night during which we enjoyed an ice cold bucket of Corona.
Sunday we awoke to another hot day so we did out walking and sat by the pool again. There is a lovely breeze in this courtyard and Tigger can get stifling in the heat to be inside (besides, WiFi did not reach the parking area well). By mid-afternoon it began clouding over and the wind picked up which made the temperature cool down and instead of 32 C / 90 F and it reached only 27 C / 80 F and was quite comfortable.
While contemplating where and how we’re going to spend our few weeks here in Asuncion, we have decided to take advantage of being near a major airport and fly somewhere that we probably won’t drive to: Brasilia – the capital of Brazil. It was not on our “must see” list but nearby are two very nice looking national parks that are not on our intended route and the country being the size that it is, it’s hard to add 2500 km of driving days when you have less than six months to visit the fifth largest country in the world! We got online and through our credit card points, Doug was able to snag two plane tickets for a trip next week for 11 days; that would give us ten days between that trip and our flights home. We have arranged for a rental car and the first night’s hotel as well.
Monday we took the truck back to the MTR mechanic and had him try and find the transmission filter; as expected he couldn’t but we had him change that fluid, the dif and transfer case fluids as well. Also we had them look at our generator that has still be acting up (won’t stay on for more than 20 minutes) and wouldn’t you know it, it stayed on for an hour. We had them clean it up a bit anyway and hope that all is well now (we think it could have been the crappy Bolivian gas that was acting up in it). Fingers crossed. We found the place a bit pricey for such a poor country but since the bill was not itemized, we couldn’t see if it was the fluids or the labour that was costly.
Sidebar: above in our info blurb, you would have read that the people in this country and supposed to be quite happy. We do find that they seem to be and are quicker with a smile than in most other Latin American countries.
After grocery shopping, we returned to the hotel and settled in again. Tuesday, we did household chores around Tigger; stuff we’d been putting off for the past few weeks until we were set up somewhere. Wednesday, Doug noticed that the truck battery was giving us grief again! It’s only three years old but we do have a fair number of things running off it. We managed to get the truck started using our auxiliary battery (which was also low – it charges only via a small solar panel but where we’re parked, it’s not getting much sun). We packed up and left the hotel to go have it looked at. We found a few battery shops online and went to two different places where both times we were told the battery was fine – so what’s going on? At the second place, they cleaned the battery up some and added water (no charge) and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
For the past few days, Doug has been trying to get in to see a doctor to have his kidney stones checked; not having much luck; cannot make appointments and you just have to show up and when he’s done that, he’s had no luck for various reasons. He’s also been experiencing some tooth pain and got that sorted on Thursday; wasn’t as cheap as we thought it would be but still not American prices.
One of the things we wanted to get done while in Asunción, was to get the sofa bed cleaned. We’d had it reupholstered back in 2015 while we were in Nevada, and Fran’s been repaired split seams for a while now so it’s looking a little weary. Also the one cushion that gets removed each night has seen much better days on its underside. Doug had found an upholsterer on iOverlander so we went to check it out. He told us that in order to clean it well, the fabric should come off it completely, be cleaned and repaired and he noticed that the springs on the underside were quite loose – we’d never noticed ourselves, as we’d never looked!
So he gave us a quote to reupholster the couch and then as we thought it about, we felt it might be time to reupholster all the fabric surfaces so everything matched. Back in Vegas four years ago, we’d paid $600 to replace the foam and reupholster only the couch; this guy quoted us about $250 to reupholster everything so the price was right.
But now we were concerned with the timing of it all what with our mini vacay to Brazil next week and then our flight home ten days later. Jose said he’d block off two complete days to get the job done and he could do that Monday/Tuesday; we could park outside his shop/home overnight Monday and we on our way by end of business the next day. We took that deal.
So Friday Doug again tried to see a doctor at a hospital to which he walked 5 km to get to without success (was told to return tomorrow same time), the truck battery was nearly dead and the auxiliary was not much better. We had just enough juice to jump start the main battery and once again, after two nights, we left the hotel. The hotel receptionist recommended a battery place to us and we went there directly. They tested it and saw that it was draining faster than it should when only running lights and recommended a new battery. Now our Silverado should have a 90 amp battery and we have an 85; this shop could not sell us anything more than a 72 because the high amp ones were too large for the space where the battery goes. So we bought it and we’ll see tomorrow again…
We had planned to go to El Centro today to walk around as we’ve only see the commercial parts of the city. Since we were only 7 blocks from one of the big squares, we asked where we could park to do so. They said we could park in front of their shop and helped us get parked.
It was a beautiful sunny day with temps in the mid 20’s C / 80 F and a slight breeze.
We visited several squares, walked through a market, bought a few things, then went to a restaurant our guide book recommended for lunch. We saw outside on the sidewalk and enjoyed cold beer and lunch before walking over to the “costanera” – the malecon/boardwalk along the Paraguay River which is the border with Argentina.
Asuncion is not really a tourist destination but we did meet a bunch of young Americans at the restaurant who are here working for the Peace Corps.
Upon returning to the truck, Doug tested the new battery and it was very good but not as high as he’d have liked it; so we’ll have to give it overnight to see if we’ve solved the issue.
That day a young Swiss man with a South African background arrived: Mike is travelling solo in a Chilean plated camper/truck combo. Then an SUV arrived with a young Austrian couple, Verena and Johannes. We had a pleasant happy hour by the pool that night.
Saturday good news – the battery seems to be fine. We spent a few hours today getting the interior of Tigger ready for the reupholstering that we have arranged for Monday. We had to move a bunch of stuff in and around the bed, disconnect things on the wall where the generator button is located and remove a railing we wanted recovered.
It began to warm up again today and we spent the afternoon in the shade by the pool.
Sunday we took it easy, hanging around the hotel, socializing with the other overlanders and late in the afternoon another young couple from France, Tomas and Sarah, arrived. We are now four in the parking area; the most overlanders we’ve been with for ages.
After happy hour, we called it a day as we wanted to get up early tomorrow to beat the traffic through the city to the upholsterer’s place.
We left by six in light rain and it took about a half hour but they were not around! A cleaning fellow was there and advised they don’t usually show up until 8 am although Jose had suggested we come early to beat the traffic and he’d get his crew working on taking things apart. We decided to wait and it turned out that Jose had forgotten to tell his cleaning guy to begin the work. It began to rain harder and for a few hours.
Jose was apologetic, and while taking us to the fabric shop to choose the material, said to make it up to us, he’d get all the work done in one day instead of two. We were still rather annoyed and somewhat leery, but we’ll see how it goes.
The day went very well. They actually managed to get it all done in about twelve hours so a long day for them but good for us – we don’t have to hang around again tomorrow.
We are very happy with the work they did: reinforced the sofa bed, recovered it and all the pieces in the coach that matched it. We no longer have any blue trim left and it was all done quite professionally and we are very happy.
As the work was not finished until after 8:30, Jose said it was a safe neighbourhood and we could spend the night on the street, so that’s what we did. It fairly quiet all night but the traffic began again at 5:15 am. Doug had to go to the hospital for blood work so it was a good thing we were up early and upon arriving there, he was told he’d need an appointment with a doctor in order to get the tests done! WTH? Now he’s debating proceeding because we are leaving tomorrow for Brasilia so that’s on hold.
We went to run a few errands and got ourselves to Quinta Tiffany, an overlanding camp spot that offers power, bathrooms with hot showers, Wifi, a drive to the airport and long term parking. Sebastian greeted us (we’d reach out by email to say we were coming) and got us settled. We discussed our flight with him and arranged for him to drive us there at 8:30 tomorrow.
Today the sun has returned and it’s warming up again. Yesterday it barely got to 20 and the sun never did come out.
Until next time, from Brazil….hasta luego!