Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Córdoba, Argentina - Asunción, Paraguay

We stayed two nights in Córdoba, although most of the first was spent sleeping off the effects of overnight bus travel. We explored downtown the next day. It's pleasant enough, though nothing special. There are a lot of attractive churches - the population are strongly Catholic. More excitingly, we spotted another high-ranking political figure (our third, after Kofi Annan and Hugo Chavez!): José de la Sota. He's the dashing, charismatic governor of Córdoba - the crowd that was waiting for him outside the legislative building was mostly middle-aged women - with some controversial economic policies. Of course, we had no idea who he was when we first saw him, but a woman turned to us and said (to Katherine :) "isn't our governor handsome?", so that kind of gave it away! (This is true, I swear!).

Yesterday we caught an day and night bus to Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. That involved a change of bus at 1.15am and a border crossing at 5.30am - pretty gruelling!

What do you know about Paraguay? If you're anything like us, nothing! If you're clever you might know that the capital is Asunción. If you're a genius you might know that it was a military dictatorship until 1989. Oh, and if you think it's got something to do with the World Cup - you're wrong, that's Uruguay (where we're off to soon!).

The currency is the guaraní, and their economy has collapsed, so posh hotels are cheap! It looks small on the map, but it's actually the size of Germany (or California for our US readers). It's also horrendously hot - you know you should be worrying when your bus arrives at 6.30am and it's already 29°C outside! Landlocked too, so no beaches :(.

We've just done a (sweaty) walking tour of Asunción. Everything's a bit grim, although there are a couple of nice government buildings. We stopped by the Presidential Palace (and got whistled at by a guard when we accidently stumbled onto the Presidential Helipad ;), and visited the Pantheon of Heroes. I don't think Paraguay has ever won a war, but the building is still pretty big. It's all too hot for us poor Brits (now accustomed to Patagonian temperatures!), so we're off back to our hotel to cool down in the swimming pool or with the a/c in our room.

Tomorrow, we're taking the bus east to Ciudad del Este, gateway to the fantastic waterfalls on the Brazil / Argentina border. Excellent! More groovy stamps in our passports!


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