We crossed from Argentina to Paraguay on a small car ferry on the Triple Frontier, at the confluence of the Río Iguazú and Río Paraná. It was a Saturday and the border in Paraguay was only manned by immigration. It meant that we would have to deal with the car documents on Monday.
Visiting Iguazú Falls has been one of the top highlights of our travels so far. Apparently Paraguay had falls that were far superior, however, in the 70's that natural wonder plus a vast wildlife habitat disappeared under water when the Itiapú Dam was built. So, first on our agenda was a visit to the offending dam. Interesting visit, but it left the impression that they were still trying to justify the build. A few small 'Nature Reserves' were created by the electricity company, providing free public access and some camping areas. We arrived early evening at Tati Yupi Park but were refused access and told to return in the morning. That meant a night sleeping behind a petrol station. Sunday morning and after jumping through a few hoops, we were given permission to camp in the park. There was the possibility of seeing a puma and a host of other animals. With a feeling throughout that Big Brother was watching, we started our drive from the entrance. Immediately, on our right, we spotted a pair of ground nesting owls with three large chicks standing in the centre circle of a football pitch.... we thought that boded well for later, but it turned out they were pretty much the only wild things we saw in the reserve.
Monday arrived and we visited the waterfalls, Saltos del Monday. We then had fun sorting out the importation documents for the van, before heading to Parque Nacional San Rafael, where we stayed in the grounds of a farm owned by a Swiss German family. There, we took walks through the dense forest - N.B. 1) Always send your wife ahead, so you don't block her view (deal with the cobwebs). 2) Marry someone tall, otherwise 1 doesn't work......
Paraguay is another country with a history of Jesuit Missions and in Paraguay the mission ruins are better preserved and presented than their equivalent in Argentina. We visited Jesús de Tavarangüé for an afternoon. We then visited Trinidad, where we took the night tour of the huge mission site. I hadn't brought my camera tripod, so we decided the place was impressive enough to warrant a second tour the following night. Great idea, but it was Easter and the next night was more than a little busy. Outside San Ignacio Guazú, we parked in the grounds of Hotel Rural, where Gustavo the owner took us on a tour of his property. It was a fruit picking walk - we've never been given so much free produce. On Easter Sunday, in the quiet town of Santa María de Fe, the curator of the Mission museum turned up to give us a guided tour. I have to say this was one of my favourite museums - the religious carvings were fantastic - some compliment coming from a complete heathen. As we headed for Asuncion, we stopped at Yaguarón to see the Franciscan, Templo de San Buenaventura. Not bad, but the Jesuits were more impressive.
Onwards and we find ourselves in the Asuncion, the capital. As cities go, not the most impressive. There is the pink Palacio Lopez and the National Pantheon of Heroes, the Cabildo, which housed a very interesting cultural centre including information on immigration into Paraguay over the years and the Casa de la Independencia. We took the free walking tour which was interesting. Paraguayan history seems to be a random batch of rash/unwise decisions and the odd 'Last Stand' and plain bad luck. Two examples:
1. Uruguay is having a Civil War (one side backed by Brazil and the other by Argentina) and ask ally Paraguay for help. In come the Paraguayans and piss off the Argentinians and Brazilians by coming through their land/waters. Their friends lose the Civil War and now you have Uruguay turning on them as well as Brazil and Argentina. The result - devastation. When all was over 70%+ of the male population were dead. On a lighter/darker note, it was a busy time for the remainder as polygamy became the norm for some time.
2. A war over disputed land with Bolivia. Paraguay won the war, but the international community said they should give some land to the losers. The bit they handed over - well that turned out to be the oil rich bit.
Back to travel. We headed across country towards Laguna Blanca. Then to Park Cerro Corá, where we camped and saw monkeys, bats, frogs and some spiders - the monkeys were in the wild and the others were in the toilet area. The park is at the site of the 'Last Stand' during the War of the Triple Alliance , where death or glory resulted in the former for the the President and his men.
Overall, the weather hadn't been too good, but we'd still enjoyed the time. The people are friendly and the countryside is handsome. There is not a lot of tourism here, but Paraguay is definitely worth visiting. Onwards to the Brazilian border...