The time had come for our second border crossing…. having conquered the mighty Andes, we were ready to conquer the might Paraná river..
Our journey started in San Ignacio, Argentina, with the first leg being a bus journey to Posadas bus terminal. This would take around an hour and having reached ‘medium’ level in the art of Argentine bus travel, we soon had this notch under our belt (is that even an expression?) Anyways, the next step was the ‘international’ bus from Posadas, Argentina to Ecarnación, Paraguay.
The ‘international’ bus departed from the same bus station, and was like a city bus, and used a ‘pay as you get on’ system, meaning we had to drag all our luggage onto the main bus. It wasn’t too crowded when we got on, so all good. The distance is around 20km from end to end.
All went well, and just before we went on to the bridge over to the Paraguayan side, the bus stopped at Argentinean border control, and everyone got out and duly lined up to be allowed out of Argentina by Argentine immigration. During this process the bus waited, and when everyone had got back on the bus, it headed over the bridge to Paraguay. We had officially left Argentina and we were in ‘no-man’s land’ as I like to call it – but I’m sure it technically belongs to somebody or other.
This is where things started to go a little bit astray, as the bus stopped at Paraguayan immigration – which seemed to be a long shed in a fenced car park – but with a big gate and nobody stopping you going in and out. Most people got off the bus, but not everybody – we figured we had better get off.
We then lined up at immigration, but the person that was dealing with CC seemed to be unable to work out what to do with this strange passport, and spent a long time looking at it, and trying to find the page with picture on it. Eventually we had both been stamped in – WELCOME TO PARAGUAY! Yay!
But then we noticed that everyone else had gone, and so had the bus… Oh dear – what happens now? We asked a man behind one of the immigration windows and he said to go out the gate – well we think he did – it seems that when you cross the river everybody starts speaking weird and fast Spanish that foreigners can’t understand… or maybe it’s because we had no idea where we were exactly, no map of the town, no Paraguayan money, and it was 33 degrees and there was no shade, and we were very thirsty… YES, POOR US – I can hear you saying it now..
You are probably wondering why we didn’t do more research about how this works? BUT YES WE DID – it said the next bus would come along and pick us up – but the man told us to go out the gate, and there was no bus stop outside the gate – only a massive jumble of market stalls full of Argentinians buying cheap stuff in Paraguay. We concluded that most of the people on the bus didn’t need to go into the main town as there was a purpose built commerical centre right here for them to buy all their stuff and then get back on the bus the other way back to Argentina.
So, this part of the crossing was not going to plan as we were around 5km from the town where our hostal was… like the seasoned backpackers that we are, we calmly came up with a plan – we definitely didn’t stand around saying ‘what shall we do? what shall we do? I don’t know? we haven’t got any Paraguayan money! How will we get to town? It’s really hot. I need water. Where’s the bus stop? I don’t know. Will they take Argentinean money? I don’t know. What shall we do? They said that we could get the bus after immigration. Shall we go back to customs? BOO HOO – WHAT NOW!
So, we asked a policeman, and he told us to go to a bus stop around the corner, and then we waited for the ‘international’ bus again. During our wait, one of the stall holders kindly pointed out that it was ‘very hot’. Yes – we agreed… in that case ‘Would you like to buy some shorts?’ Hmmm – good sales pitch.
The bus finally arrived (they are every 20 minutes), and although he was surprised to see us boarding in this particular location, and was looking a bit dubiously at our already used twice, ripped bus tickets – the driver let us get on the bus, and we finished the route and ended up at the bus station in town.
We had successfully crossed the Paraná river, and as is traditional now after border crossings, we marked the occassion with a beer. Luckily, Encarnación has a lovely riverside beach especially for the occasion…