EN ROUTE TO IGUAZU – PARAGUAY

Last week I had one of the greatest weeks of my life and it wasn’t even a whole week, it was four days filled with buses, border-crossings and buckets of fun. Josephina and I decided we wanted to head to Puerto Iguazu to see the Iguazu falls and because it’s a little far from Goya, Corrientes, we thought we would make a little pit stop on the way. We ended up going to an extra country than initially planned and had so much fun being the ultimate tourists, waking up at 6:30am to make the most of our days and wearing our invisible tourist signs with pride.

I think a chronological account is going to be the easiest way to write about everything so as not to go off on any tangents when I get overexcited about everything. We started our journey on Friday the 21st of November and we got a night bus from Goya to Posadas in the Misiones province. We were headed to see the Jesuit mission ruins and reading up about them the night before, I discovered that there were also some in Paraguay which is only a stone’s throw away from Posadas across the river Paraná. So arriving in Posadas around 6 in the morning, we boarded a bus and off we went to Encarnación in Paraguay. Not having been in the initial itinerary we had no idea about the exchange rate or the currency but luckily I had some euros that we managed to exchange, there was no shortage of currency exchangers and before we knew it we were being ushered on to a bus heading to La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná.  The currency is Guarani which is the name of the indigenous people of the region and their language.DSCN0255

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The Jesuit missions were first set up across South America during the 17th and 18th centuries and were perceived as types of settlements for the indigenous people. European Jesuit priests were sent over to preach Christianity under what now can be described as an early communist system. The priests did not attempt to dramatically change the values or lifestyle of the indigenous people, the main change they implemented was the abolition of polygamy. However, they learnt the native languages, provided safe and secure housing and adapted to their cultures.

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Before researching this area, I had no idea that there were ruins or of the different types of colonisation that took place but I definitely learnt a lot. The missions in Paraguay were some of the first founded and were full of history. When we arrived at the Trinidad missions, after getting off the local bus and walking around 1km down a red dirt road (the colour of the soil changed dramatically as we went further north), we joined a tour guide around the site. Trinidad is so well maintained and reconstructed in such detail, it was lovely to wander around the ruins taking in the sheer scale of the settlement.

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Afterwards, we wanted to go to the Jesuit Mission of Jesús de Tavarangüe and asked for some directions as it was at 12km off the main road. We were told by one person that there was a bus and there would be one in half an hour, another person said we had to take a taxi, another said there would be a bus in two hours so we decided to wait in the hot midday sun which isn’t the best idea in the world until we saw some locals hitchhiking and after a little hesitating we decided to join suit. I was a little worried after hearing so many horror stories but it was honestly the best decision. We met some Paraguayan farm workers who took us to their soya farm and we shared some watermelon. After chatting and learning about their way of life they took us to the Jesús Jesuit mission.

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As it’s a bit out of the way and we were there during siesta time, it was pretty quiet and we got to wander around peacefully. There was a great view across the countryside which looked so much like Luxembourg or Germany, the only things out of place were the red roads, the palm trees and the heat. But otherwise it felt just like home!

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We then started to head back to the main road until we managed to get another lift, this time with a third generation German man who’s family all still spoke German. It was really interesting as he told us there is a large market for German products here in the German communities. Didn’t expect that in Paraguay! We then got a bus back to Encarnación where we finally got some food, relaxed in the shade and thought we could see a bit of the city before we headed back to Posadas.

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We were given directions to the coast and honestly wasn’t expecting the river beach that we encountered. It was just perfect to lay back, relax and reflect on our day! After a little siesta (Josephina!) we wandered back to the terminal and got another bus back over to Argentina whilst watching the sun set against the city of Posadas.

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