On Wednesday, I left Encarnacion and took the bus for the six-hour journey to my final destination in Paraguay. Cuidad del Este is the second city of Paraguay. I think it could be exciting or a dump.
The city is famous for being near the three frontiers. Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina all border here. The famous Iguazu falls can be seen just across the border in Brazil and Argentina.
The city is also known as being one of the largest tax-free zones in the world. Thousands of Brazilians and Argentines cross the border each day in search of cheap goods.
The city also has a darker reputation. U.S government agencies have long claimed some of the worlds top terrorist groups operate here. I have seen many gun shops here.
Brazil has introduced a monthly 300 dollar limit on what can be taken across the friendship bridge tax-free. This has made smuggling a profitable business. Many boats make the short trip across the Rio Paraguay under darkness.
Many people have come to live here to get a part of the action. Chinese, Koreans and a large Lebanese community have settled here.
I made my way around the thousands of shops in the tax-free zone. Casa Chino. House of India. There are large shops with names from all over the world.
One of the strangest experience I had is seeing ten guys in suits in a shop with sawn-off shotguns. I wonder what would happen if ten other guys with sawn-off shotguns came in to rob it. I don’t think it would be a good time to be a shopper.
On a personal shopping front, I had a mixed experience. I was looking for a Gimbel for my phone. It stabilises a phone when recording a video. I was shown one a shop had for sale for 250 dollars.
The guy used a computer to show me the version. He showed it to me on amazon. I said how come it is 99 dollars and 250 in your shop. He did not have an answer.
Clothes are very cheap, but with the likes of Primark in Europe, clothes are cheaper now than they ever have been. Is Cuidad del Este worth a visit? If you are passing by yes, but I would not travel halfway across the world to see it.
Before I visited Paraguay, I had heard many Nazis fled there after WW2. I thought it might be the stuff of Hollywood. The fact is many did end up in Paraguay. Josef Mengele also is known as the Angel of Death did spend some time in Paraguay.
I am surprised he was never captured. Paraguay is not that big and I would not have thought it would be too difficult to find someone. Maybe the Allies were not that bothered and Israel was busy as a new country.
Mengal drowned in Brazil in 1979. He deserved a worse fate. It is disappointing to think he was walking around a free man for so long.
The Nazis were not the first controversial Germans to set up in Paraguay.
Nueve Germania was founded in 1886 about 250km from the capital Asuncion in Paraguay. It was the idea of Bernhard Forster Fourteen German families were chosen for their Aryan purity.
They would prove that German superiority could overcome any obstacle. Herr Foster ruled the settlement from his house Forsterhof.
The dream lasted two years. Failed crops. Disease and infighting meant all was less superior then planned. Many returned to Germany. Some committed suicide. Forster himself committed suicide in 1889.
I have enjoyed my time in Paraguay. Would I recommend visiting Paraguay from Europe? Not really. It is landlocked and flat. I have not seen much in the way of historical sites. Oh ya, it’s as hot as an oven.
I would recommend people travelling throughout South America to take time to visit. It is still undiscovered by most tourists. All fellow travellers I met all had the same reason we came to Paraguay. We were all curious.
The people are very friendly and appreciate that you have taken the time to visit. Beer is cheap and good. The German influence is not all negative.
On Saturday I made my way on the bus for my next destination Puerto Iguazú in Argentina. The three frontiers. We left Paraguay. Drove through Brazil and entered Argentina. All for three euro.
When we entered Puerto Iguazú, and I found the accommodation and I needed Pesos. There were no banks open, and I could not find an exchange shop. Then I heard it. Pssst. Cambio Cambio.
A guy on the street said he would give me 59 pesos per dollar. That is the official rate. I would hope to do better but I had no pesos and I needed to eat. I exchange one hundred dollars. I will be ready for the next guy.
Currently, Argentina is in the middle of a major economic crisis. Inflation is set to hit 55% for 2019. The Peso has plummeted. Time are tough for people here.
The problem for Argentina is they have been here many times before. Last week a new government was elected. It included ex-President Cristina Kirchner who will now be vice president. Kirchner is linked to many corruption scandals from her two times as President.
It is hard to be optimistic about Argentina it that is how it works. You deserve the people you elect three times.
Already I have noticed most people in supermarkets have calculators to keep track of their spending. Just imagine prices going up by 5% every four weeks for your shopping.
From the moment I passed the border from Paraguay I felt Argentina was different from all the other countries I have been. It feels more European than the others.
Not that is not a bad thing. It means I don’t have to go 10km for a beer. I can have coffee. It is very hard to get a coffee is many south American countries.
A lot of places I have visited I would describe as socially conservative. As a gay man, it will be nice to spend time in a more open-minded country. Europe has still a lot going for itself compared to other countries.
What a way to end the week. I took a look on Sunday to see the world-famous Iguazu Falls.
The falls can be visited from both Brazil and Argentina. It was one of the more special days on my journey so far.
It is a very special place and it lived up to its reputation. If you are in South America it would be a shame not to see it.
This week will be busy. I plan to visit three cities as I make my way to Cordoba. I will base myself in Argentinians second city over the Christmas and New year. I am due there on the 23rd of December. The 24th and 25th are holidays in Argentina.
This weeks video is from Iguazu Falls.
Join me on my journey.
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