Tornado Tour of South America – Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil
A morning in Ciudad del Este to see the Itaipu Dam before heading to the border for Brazil!
Flying from Santa Cruz, there is a brief layover in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, before arriving in Ciudad del Este. During the transfer I listened to a harp player and bought my Paraguay tourist shirt.
At the tiny airport of Ciudad del Este, there was one guy at a window waving everyone through. I had to ask him to process my entry into the country or I could have just walked through.
Country 69 complete!
Ciudad del Este
The second largest city in Paraguay and capital of the Alto Paraná Department, is famous for its Itaipu Dam and market of cheap goods as it sits on the border with Brazil and near Argentina. Smuggling and drug trafficking is known to be a problem in this city.
On a lighter note, a part of the movie Miami Vice (2005) was filmed here.
As it was already 8 p.m. I got some cash at the ATM and cabbed it to my hotel, HG Tower.
The massive and modern hotel was completely empty. I only saw two people in the lobby, a receptionist and a bellhop. Backdrops of a “Miss Ciudad 2014” event were still up which would have been a fun event to see.
I was led to my room on the 3 floor overlooking the pool. It was huge with a large bed, desk, and bathroom. Wifi was really fast too.
After a roast chicken and mash potatoes dinner, I had an early night.
The next morning I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and got ready. After a shower and breakfast, I checked out and got into a prearranged taxi.
The driver was quite hard to understand possibly cause he spoke with a Paraguayan accent. He said there are three languages spoken there, Spanish, Guayan, and Catalan. I managed to explain that I wanted to go to the dam.
This dam is the largest hydroelectric facility in the world in terms of annual energy output, even surpassing the Three Gorges Dam in China. However, tiny Paraguay cannot come close to using the energy created, so much of it (95%) is sold to neighboring Brazil.
The drive was pretty straight forward and took about 20 mins.
We got to the visitor center and an armed guard with a pistol at his waist pointed us to the other parking lot.
I went into the reception and showed my passport. The tour was free and the friendly staff even helped me store my bag in a closet.
They had a movie playing about the dam in Spanish so I understood about half of it. The film focused on how great the dam is and the environmental areas they set up to counter the damage. As the audience was mostly local when the end credits started rolling with prideful slogans they started clapping with fervor.
Then we were directed to a specific bus that took us to a viewing platform. There was explanation in the way in Spanish.
The area oversaw the entire dam and was the perfect place for photos, though the sky was dark with an impending storm.
Back on the bus, we went over the dam seeing the large turbines. Then we looped around and drove back over on the higher road with a view of the reservoir.
There were no other stops. Overall a well run and interesting tour of a important engineering landmark of Paraguay.
Finding my taxi driver we headed to the border of Brazil. We chat about Paraguay and bargained over the fare. We passed by shops, huge malls, and casinos. The city is famous for its shopping with tons of Brazilians crossing the border daily to buy less expensive items (mostly electronics), but I didn’t care to see any of it. Due to the border and price deferential, smuggling is also a major occupation in the city.
I shook the driver’s hand and went into Paraguay immigration. The room full of officers sitting behind the counter looking bored out of their minds. Handing over my passport and the man just went through the process a robot and stamped it. Not a single word was uttered.
Outside a torrential downpour started. I now had to figure out how to get across the border into Brazil.