27 Hours in Paraguay (part 4): mayhem at the Paraguay-Brazil border and racing to Itaipú Dam

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See also parts 1, 2, and 3 of my 27 Hours in Paraguay.

Plan A: visit the UNESCO-listed Jesuit missions, roll straight on to Cuidad del Este and catch the ferry at Presidente Franco to Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, viewing Iguazú Falls in the afternoon, leaving Brazil for the final day.

Well, that didn’t work, time for a Plan B.

Visited the missions no problem, then added a two-hour stop at Selecta Yerba Mate, followed by slow going up to Cuidad del Este and seemingly no one knowing of the existence of the ferry except my guidebook. No chance of Argentina today.

14:45 and approaching the Brazil border, traffic backed up over a kilometer in a multi-hour wait for Brazilians to smuggle their low-cost, low-tax purchases back over the border.  The narrow road to the border is shopping chaos, and reputedly not a safe place to proceed on foot. In daytime, in such blasting heat no one wanted to move. I risked it and abandoned my car and driver, darting through the gridlock.

Uruguay Paraguay Iguazu 054

Brazilians flee high prices and myriad taxes to shop in Paraguay

Uruguay Paraguay Iguazu 055

Gridlock 1 km long

Reaching the end of Paraguay, I held up my passport to a guard with a stamping motion, but he just shrugged and waved me on. The nice young man and young woman duo on the Brazilian side, when I asked if it was an issue to not be stamped out, they just shrugged and smiled, even courteously filing out the arrival form for me.

Uruguay Paraguay Iguazu 056

Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, serene across the river

Now 15:15 and without a Brazilian real in my pocket, I charted a motorcycle in a sprint to reach Itaipu Dam for the last tour at 16:00.

[flickr video=http://www.flickr.com/photos/rapidtravelchai/7347004202/]

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[…] many of which do not go to the city center. Consider hiring a taxi to wait. In a hurry, I took a motorcycle taxi from the border and then spent quite some time trying to communicate and find the proper bus down […]