Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
08.02.2010 - 08.02.2010 28 °C
Next day, we decided to head over the other border into Paraguay because I needed a new Camera (as you may have noticed from any of the pictures with a black spot in the middle). While in Brazil all electronics (and any other imported goods) are massively overpriced due to their high taxes/VAT (apparently they add 40% on everything), several people had recommended to buy in Paraguay because it's just cheaper.
So off we went after a short stop at the Bus terminal to secure our seats to Rio. There's a bus that goes directly from the terminal to Ciudad del Este, the town on the Paraguay side of the rivers. The boarder crossing was the easiest you could imagine - the bus didn't even stop at the border. Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and most other South American countries an agreement as part of the Union of South American Nations (UNISUR) that their citizens can freely travel between the countries (probably similar to Schengen in Europe), and apparently at this point so many people cross the border to go shopping in Paraugay that they don't even care to check for foreigners. So we hadn't officially left Brazil or entered Paraguay, but that was no problem.
Once on the Paraguayan side, you are immediately released from the bus into a very busy street which is a huge and messy combination of market and shopping malls. It starts with two or three rows of market stalls lining each side of the street, selling all kinds of cheap clothes, shoes and other stuff. Behind that, an almost infinite array of shops and malls again containing many smaller shops, selling everything from electronics to jewellery to whatever else you might imagine. And in between, hundreds of people trying to sell you something off their hands, from drinks to piles of USB memory sticks. We were only looking at the electronic shops that sell cameras, and there even seemed to be hundreds of those, each stacking piles of cameras and all kind of other electronic devices. It seems that enough Brazilian people come over here for shopping that it works out and they sell all that stuff in the end. (see link below)
Ciudad del Este shopping street. This shows only a small part of the actual market stands and shops..
After shopping around for about two or three hours and finding similar choices of cameras in most places but surprisingly different prices (140 US$ - 230 US$ for exactly the same camera), we both decided for some camera model that seemed ok. We were both not very up to date on recent camera models, and of course most vendors were not much help, whatever you ask them they say this is a very good camera and has (insert number from box) megapixels and (insert other number from box) zoom. So it was more going by "look and feel" and hoping that we get something worth its price. Ivan bought a Sony and I bought a slightly cheaper Olympus (FE-5020), which seemed ok from the specs and when trying it in the shop, but now after trying it a bit more in the bus and viewing the results on the laptop, I'm not completely convinced anymore. I'll have to see if I manage to get any halfway decent pictures out of it. The old camera was probably better, apart that the black spot makes it pretty useless... so it will be an improvement in any case.
While we were buying our cameras, suddenly a big storm with lightnings and a torrential rainfall started. Apparently this was the first rain after more than a month of heat in the area. The street transformed into a dark brown river within minutes, people running in all directions to seek some shelter, market stall owners trying to close their stalls and protect their goods, suddenly everywhere people selling umbrellas and cheap plastic rain coats. We managed to get on the bus through almost knee deep water, protecting ourselves and the cameras we bought with some of the cheap plastic rain coats. Back across the border was easy again (we did stop and one border control person in a raincoat came into the bus to take a quick look), and made it safely back to the hostel, just had time to picked up our stuff and chage our wet clothes, and then left for the bus to Rio.
Within minutes, the road was transformed into a river by the heavy rain...
Now while I'm writing this, we're still on the same bus, some 18 hours since we left and still several hours to go (it's a long trip, 23 hours total). During the night it was quite freezing in here because the staff didn't want to turn down the air conditioning despite most people in the bus complaining that it was too cold. They insisted that it can't be too cold because they had set the temperature to 22 degrees, but obviously it was MUCH colder than that. Luckily they let us grab things from the luggage (which they usually wouldn't), so I was wearing a sweatshirt, my warm fleece jacket and raincoat during the night, in the middle of the Brazilian summer... not all things need to make sense here UPDATE before arriving in Rio: Of course in the meantime it's day and sunny outside, meaning that it's now very hot and the climatisation of course stopped working. Now they allowed us to open the windows, which is quite funny too...
Next up, CARNIVAL in RIO DE JANEIRO!!!
Some interesting reading on Shopping in Ciudad del Este: http://www.colorsmagazine.com/issues/colors63/08.php