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East from Asuncion, PGY



October 10th, 2019

We awoke to sunshine, heat and humidity at Quinta Tiffany (and an hour time change – it’s not done every year but this year, they “sprang” ahead).  After sorting out a few things, we packed up and headed to the dentist for what we hope is Doug’s final appointment.  He felt better afterward but did experience some residual pain for a few days.  Fran began a cold just before we left Buffalo so she had stocked up on some meds and was keeping it under control.

About three weeks before we went home Fran began experiencing some forearm pain and as it was still bothering her in Canada, researched it some more and diagnosed it as tennis elbow.  She picked up a brace from Walmart one day and it’s helping in addition to some exercises but we understand it can take some time to heal.  The joys of getting older, eh?

We drove to a national monument nearby called Cerro Koi where we did a 1200 m hike upon a hill to see some cool rock formations.

We drove a few kilometres more to the town of Aregua on a lake where there is a funky hostel that takes overlanders and stayed for the night.   We did wander over to the beach on the lake:

Friday we drove to Caacupe to see a huge basilica

and then on to Pirebebuy to a guesthouse run by a German woman who also takes overlanders.  This place looked attractive because it said there was a pool!  It was quite nice and the pool was super refreshing.  In this 39 C / 99 F  this was most welcome – we decided to stay two nights.  Saturday morning we got some chores done, including laundry, reorganizing our suitcases to put away purchased items. Both afternoons we chilled by the pool and one evening, had happy hour with Monika, our hostess.  When we left, she gave us a jar of her homemade jam.

it was SO hot, even the dog had to cool off!
Monika had four dogs as well as these two talking parrots

Sunday we moved on eastward to Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city and another border town with Brazil with a large shopping/duty free zone like we encountered two months ago when we entered from Brazil in the north.

But our first stop was nearby Salto Monday – one of Paraguay’s few natural attractions.

We parked outside the gated pay parking area and spent about an hour total in the intense humidity viewing the falls from up top before catching the pay elevator to near the bottom.  These falls have a bend in them which is kinda hard to capture in a photo.

Quite impressive:

Now we had a place in mind to camp but had read it was busy on weekends but hoped that mid afternoon on a Sunday, it would have slowed down; nope! Parties were in full swing.  This is a social club/park/zoo with half a dozen covered party venues that can be rented.  There is a small pool, lots of playgrounds, grassy areas, and birds roaming and in cages.  We saw rheas and peacocks wandering around with chickens, ducks and turkeys and there was a large cage with four toucans beside a similar size cage with two parrots.

We were greeted by a young Bolivian man named Sebastian after we parked; he and his Argentinian friend, Mattius, were on a motorcycle trip and tenting here.  They took us over to the largest venue for internet access and we cooled off with some cold ones.  The parking area for RV’s was currently full with cars and the security guard told us it should clear out by six.

After chatting for a bit, we decided to go into town and see if there were any subtitled movies (as in Paraguay, other than in Ascunsion, this is the only city with cinemas) and just see what the duty free area looked like.  We could not find the theatre and the downtown core was rather scuzzy.

We returned to Club Social Akaray around 6 and managed to get ourselves into a corner of the almost empty lot near a power plug.  Security here runs hourly drivebys and the parties were all gone by 9 pm so it was a quiet night with the odd bird call.  That night we figured out where the theatre was located and did go by it to check it out but all movies were dubbed not subtitled.

Monday we met one of the owners, David, a super nice man who lets overlanders stay here free! He asked how he could help us and we told him we were on the hunt for a new microwave and it had to be a 110 v.  He felt sure we could find one downtown.  Brazil is a country that uses both 220 and 110 and many Brazilians come into the duty free zones here to shop.  We made our way into the city mid morning and after finding a parking spot, checked out a few shops before finally finding one in a large mall called Shopping Hill – it was the last one and they offered it to us at a small discount.  Naturally the plug is wrong

but we figured we could just swap the one of our broken microwave.  Now the challenge will be to remove the old one which does not look like an easy task.

This afternoon we had a tour booked to do the Technical Tour at Itaipu Dam.  This is a dam between Paraguay and Brazil on the Paraná River, built equally by both countries and they continue to work together running the dam.  The Paraguayan half gives power to over 90% of the country and their excess power they sell to Brazil at a discount until the original contract expires in 2023.  The dam provides 15% of the power for the country of Brazil (Brazil has a number of its own other dams).

For this tour, despite the high humidity, we had to wear long pant, long sleeves and closed toed shoes.  Fortunately, more than half the tour was indoors.

This is not the actual largest dam in the world (Three Gorges in China is bigger) BUT it is the largest producing because the Three Gorges dam does not produce power over the winter when the river freezes!

Fun facts about the dam:

  • Cost over $19.5 billion USD (in today’s terms: $47.3 billion)
  • Construction began in 1973 and was completed in 1984
  • Height: 197 m (643’)
  • Length: 7919 m (25,981’)
  • Volume: 12,300,000 m3 (430,000,000 cu ft)
  • Reservoir Surface area: 1,350 sq km (520 sq mi)
  • Reservoir length: 170 km (110)
  • Reservoir width: 12 km (7.5 mi)
  • Brazil produces 60Hz power; Paraguay 50Hz
  • Number of Turbines: 20 x 700 mw
  • WORLD RECORD: In 2016:  103,098,366 megawatt hours were produced
  • The main dam is made up of 18 double blocks, 34 metres in width with a maximum height of 196 m
  • The concrete is of the hollow gravity type which is the way to economize the concrete
  • During the concrete pouring, granulated ice was used to prevent major temperature changes
  • Every 55 minutes the amount of concrete poured was equivalent to that of a 22 storey building – this was done around the clock during the build

This was a excellent tour in English just for the two of us – and it was free!  Lasted about two hours including a short film on the building of the dam.  Jésus was our guide and took us in a small van to a lookout point:

view of spillways from the lookout

Then to the dam itself where we toured various parts:

you can feel the vibration of the water entering the turbines
control centre
computer banks go on and on
atop the dam overlooking reservoir

The building which houses the offices and the workings of the dam sits right on the border and one side is Brazilian and one side Paraguayan with signs in both Portuguese and Spanish.

the windowless part of the building sits on the border
the double yellow line is the border

Afterwards we were driven up on top of the dam to take photos before returning the Visitor Centre.

We drove back to the Social Club and spent a further night here.

Before leaving for our trip home, we’d responded to an ad on the “Overland Mules” Facebook page to a fellow named Marcos who was wondering if someone could bring back a couple of things for him from the US.  We had offered and brought them back for him and that Monday evening he came by to pick them up.  Marcos is Italian and travels the world on his Harley, while working online as a software engineer.

We left Tuesday morning after Doug installed a new Cyclone vent (we’d lost the old one in the past few days but not sure where) and the new stove hood vent and attached our flag sticker of Antarctica:

AND Doug drilled holes to screw down the air intake that continually pops off:

Before we left the country, we went to the spot in Paraguay where its border meets Brazil’s and Argentina’s along the Iguazu River.  (it’s a T junction)

Brazil’s monument to the 3 borders
Argentina’s monument lookout
Brazil in left corner, Argentina on the right and where the ferry is, that’s Paraguay

Just below this spot on the Paraná River is the ferry to Argentina which was where we were headed next.

We drove down to Immigration where we bought a ferry ticket, exited the country and handed in Tigger’s TIP.

We were able to drive right onto the ferry and on board we met two young German backpackers, Nina and Stefan, who were headed in Puerto Iguazu like we were so we offered them a ride.

We’ll be back Paraguay for one last visit after we tour the “finger” of Argentina that’s we’ve not visited yet.