Monday, October 28, 2013

Spring Break: Encarnacion Day 1: The Ruins

You might think I made a mistake on this title, but yes, we did have our 4-day Spring Break in the end of September. Luckily for lazy people like me, our group has 2 Super Planners who enjoy planning trips, and then inviting us all along for the ride. It's great. :)

Some of the group opted to leave at midnight on Wednesday, while my group decided to leave bright and early on Thursday. It was about a 6 or 7-hour trip, which was not that bad. The bus was reasonably comfortable and it was nice to see the countryside out the window. The only bad thing was that it broke down on the side of the road when we were only a few minutes outside of Encarnacion. We waited a long time while they tried to fix it, and then they put us all on a city bus for the last leg. But we made it!

We basically checked our bags into our various hostels/hotels and met back at the bus station to get back out to the ruins. So the Jesuits were big in Paraguay back in the day. They arrived in the late 1500s, and were described as anything from Utopia-like societes to regimes of terror. It sounds like they were against enslaving the Guarani Indians, and instead tried to learn their language. They taught the Guarani religion and "western" ways of living. They were booted out of Paraguay in the early 1700s and left behind some pretty amazing structures.

First, we went to the "Trinidad" ruins. We watched an informational video and wandered around a bit while we waited for a 2nd taxi to come pick us up.

So then the taxi came and we continued on to the "Jesus" ruins. It was a really beautiful (if bumpy) ride. 

Then we got there. It was purdy.

After it was pretty pitch dark, we get back into our "taxis" (we asked them to wait for us, thank goodness! These ruins are pretty much in the middle of nowhere) to go back to the Trinidad ruins. Why? Night tour! I do not have a good enough camera (or tripod) to take decent night pictures. But it was very cool, they played music, lit up the buildings, and gave us a guided tour through the ruins. 

See, what did I tell you? Really not a camera for night-time shots, so you'll just have to take my word for it, it was very cool. After that we walked back to the main road and waited 100 hours for the last bus of the night to pick us up and take us back to Encarnacion!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What's the Big Deal About Chipa?

When I first got to Paraguay, I, like many visitors or newcomers, didn't "get" chipa. What's the big deal? It's just bread. Why are these people so obsessed with it?

For the unfamiliar, chipa is cheesy bread. Good, fresh chipa is a little bit crisp on the outside, and chewy and gooey on the inside. It is made with corn flour, mandioca starch, eggs, queso Paraguay (and pig fat, or some secret ingredient like that). It can be in many shapes and sizes as pictured. It is sold EVERYWHERE here, in little bakeries but also from ladies with baskets on the street, and guys on motorcycles with loud speakers, announcing that they are selling chipa for all the world to hear! Like I said, I just didn't get it.

Then one of the members of the school board brought in bags of chipa from somewhere was really good. But I went on with my life. Then, on a 6-hour bus ride, there was a vender selling "chipa caliente" and my friend bought a bag of 5 of them (they cost about $.0.25 US). Hey....this stuff isn't so bad! Suddenly mine was gone and I wanted more. Then a coworker told me what place had the best chipa in town, and I investigated. I'm hooked. I am SO glad they don't sell it at the school's cantina, or I'd have a major Chipa Belly to contend with!

Maybe I can convince a local to let me help them make chipa and add that entry to my cooking blog...but that will be another post, another day!

Here is a great link from the "Discovering Paraguay" website about chipa, and what to do with all that leftover chipa after semana santa.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Iguazu Falls Part 3

On Sunday morning, we agreed to get to the falls reasonably early, make a morning of hiking, grab lunch in town, and hit the road to head back to Paraguay. That is what we did. Instead of viewing the falls from above, we went on a great hike to see the falls from below. It was incredibly beautiful. And wet. And we saw MONKEYS! By the time we got to the destination at the base of the falls, the light "pelo de gato" mist had turned into an all-out downpour. I was so glad I bought a mad scientist poncho! The funny thing is, normally that would've ruined a day of hiking and sightseeing. But I was just so in awe of everything, and in such a great mood, that I felt nothing could ruin it.

Consider yourself warned.

This was just a lame, puny falls in comparison  to what we'd see later.

And this is where my jaw dropped.

Kristi, Molly, and Ali are being troopers. Somewhere along this trip,
having a waterproof camera became really important.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Iguazu Falls Part 2

Iguazu Falls is one of those places that's a total cliche-pictures really *can't* do it justice. At the Garganta del Diablo, the sound is one of the most impressive parts of the experience! That, and you can't fit all there is to see in one frame. But here are some attempts I made, anyway.

Janelle and I

Me, Janelle, and JoAna

We stayed at this lookout deck for a long time, taking pictures, videos, and pretty much standing around with our jaws wide open in awe. I have been a lot of places and this one ranks way up there on the list of favorites!

Eventually we pried ourselves away, walked back over the long walkway and took the trains back down to the base. We were tired after getting 3-4 hours of sleep, running, and then walking all day! The evening was lovely and consisted of the 13 of us all rotating through our 2 showers, and bottles of wine and beer on the patio of our hotel, listening to music and talking.