Well I had big plans for Paraguay, me. There were places I wanted to check out, I intended to go camping and walking an all kinds of things you have to do outside but Paraguay had other ideas and dumped a ton of water on my parade. I did attempt to wander round Asunción in order to See The City but that was also a fail. I squelched back to the hostel, wrung my clothes out, laid my various possessions I’d seen fit to carry in my pockets out on my bed to dry and positioned myself on the sofa under a blanket with a carton of wine and back-to-back crime dramas on the TV and refused to move for 8 hours. And no, that wasn’t a typo; Cask wine is SO last decade; carton wine is the new trash.
I figured rather than hanging around in the hope of a dry spell I might as well get on with the trip. So. With no apologies for the title any tabloid would cringe at, grab yer anoraks, people, because the Itaipu Dam has enough statistics to keep any engineer wet for weeks. It’s one of those things you might as well go and have a look at because it’s free and you’re in Ciudad Del Este anyway to cross the border into Argentina or Brazil.
I’d travelled here with a Czech girl who I met in Asunción. Nice lass, spoke Spanish an’ all which helped heaps on account of the fact I’m still replying to Spanish sentences with, “Errrmm… no entiendo…” She had an obsession with the exchange rate though. I generally accept the fact that I have to change money so I just get on with it. Just as I accept the fact that the sky is blue, grass is green and every time I withdraw money Natwest will bugger me for charges. Maybe I should pay more attention, I’d be less likely to run out of money, but all those numbers make my brain ache.
We rocked up a bit early so they played us a movie about the dam in English before everyone else arrived for the film in Spanish. The English version was hilarious, it clearly hadn’t been updated since the 80’s. When the dam was built it destroyed acres of habitat and flooded a waterfall which rivalled Iguazú Falls for its impressiveness. The English movie focused on all the benefits of the dam, how it was a shining example of how two nations (Paraguay and Brazil) can come together and cooperate for a venture of this size, how it produced SO much electricity that Paraguay could sell some of its share to Brazil and how, without the dam there’d be an electric crisis. And anyway, they rescued loads of wildlife and put them in reserves and look at all the gringos that can enjoy the fuck off great big lake with their picnics and shit, because that’s what gringos like to do, right?
The Spanish movie was updated in 2008 and focused on men in hard hats, shiny computers and how the dam actually worked, complete with CGI of water driving the turbines. No romantic images of small children stuffing their faces full of BBQ next to the lake, or of locals with excellent moustaches pouncing on wildlife with nets, or dragging otters out of the water by their tails so they could relocate them. Then they drove us around the dam and let us get out to take photos of the spillway which regulates the level of the lake. Tourists love taking photos of moving water. Anyways, if it wasn’t for this dam, the second biggest hydroelectric dam in the world, Ciudad Del Este would be just another horrible border town. Now its a horrible border town with a fantastic dam. No reason to stay much longer though, or even come here for any reason other than getting out of the place.
Asunción & Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay
Stayed at:Pension Da Silva, Asunción. I didn’t stay in Ciudad Del Este.