Sunday, June 14, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015: Asuncion, Paraguay to Formosa, Argentina

We met the group at 8:00 for breakfast and left the hotel at 9:30 to begin our trip south to Formosa, Argentina. The van we have rented will be great as it is fairly new and large enough for our luggage and to seat 6 persons very comfortably. 

Before leaving Asuncion we drove through the downtown area and surroundings for about an hour. Asuncion is not a very impressive Capital City.  By 11:00 we were at the river ferry crossing.  We completed paperwork, and drove onto this simple ferry for a 15 minute ride across a fast moving river (there were life jackets on the ferry). The river is definitely high now due to all the rain this area has been receiving. 

On the Argentine side we needed to complete immigration paperwork.  When we were planning this trip we investigated the issue of visas for each country we would be entering. Some of these South American countries have what they call “reciprocity fees”, and each country handles them differently.  In Chile you pay a reciprocity fee of U$S 160 at the airport as you enter the country.  They then give you a “Visitors Card” (which you cannot loose), and it is returned to immigration when you leave the country.  In Argentina, the $160 reciprocity fee must be paid on-line before-hand.  We had paid it soon after we booked our tickets.  In regards to Paraguay’s reciprocity fees, - if you fly into Asuncion airport, you pay the fees at the airport.  Brazil requires a Visa and the application must be presented in person at the Consulate.  We hired an agency to do the leg work for the Brazilian visa which cost a total of over $700. While boarding our flight in Dallas/Ft Worth, American Airlines made sure our reciprocity fees had  already been paid.          

Driving onto the Ferry

The Power for the Ferry - Rotating for the next run

The Ferry in the rain

Taxi taking people across the River

Our Sister Ferry

The Paraguay River

Our Landing - The river is high

Waiting in line at Immigrations 
Photos of the Surroundings - cow is belly high in water due to flooding

So here we were standing at the Argentinian immigration office at the river crossing, when the agent asked if all the Reciprocity fees for our group had been paid.  Well, everyone had paid except the one couple!! (They figured it could be paid at the border) These Agents are not allowed to handle any money!!  There were no internet cafĂ©’s on this side of the river either – just back in Paraguay – the other side of the river.  We had no choice but to return to Paraguay again via the ferry. There did not seem to be any mobile phone service in this area either.  However after boarding the ferry we did get service on Cal’s smart phone and the couple began the on-line payment process.  They paid extra for 30 minute processing of the fees and by the time we reached Paraguay on the other side of the river things were squared away.  After reaching the Paraguay shore we did a U-turn and re-boarded the ferry!!!!  What morning! Three trips on the same ferry within 1 hour!  Back at the Argentine immigration office the paper work was Ok, but then came the search of the vehicle plus all the luggage! After a delay of two hours we were on the road to Formosa, Argentina!! 

It was raining most of the morning and day.  In Argentina along the road, due to the flooding of the of the rivers backwater areas, people were building temporary shacks as the water was rising into their current homes or was nearly there. There was water everywhere!

We continued driving south to Formosa.  The topography of the land is as flat as a table top.  There are palm trees spread all over the landscape.  We saw grazing of cattle and plenty of wetlands.    

In Formosa we checked into a Howard Johnson Hotel and Casino.  This was a 4 star hotel!  The Rotary Club of Formosa, whose clubs meeting we would be attending that night, meets right there at the hotel.   It makes it so easy for us to be staying at the same hotel as the Rotary Club meets.  We had not stopped anywhere for lunch (breakfast was at 8:00 am) so after checking in we went to a snack bar for a light “something”.  That was fine and actually would have been enough food for the night.  We finished our snack at 6:30 pm, knowing there would be a full meal later tonight!!

Howard Johnson Hotel and Casino - Formosa, Argentina

Our Group at the Hotel
The meeting time was 9:30, however we did not enter the meeting room until 10:00 pm – we were greeting everyone in the lobby of the hotel.  It was 11:00 before the first part of our meal was presented and then there was a meeting afterwards presenting us with Rotary banners and gifts.  In attendance, beside the Rotarians, there were Interactors (high school age), Rotaractors (college age), and exchange students. The hospitality of the Rotarians was so generous.  Desert was presented at 12:15 am. It was 12:45 before we headed to our hotel room. What an evening!  Nenu’s friends were so glad to see her again and were so glad to meet some of her friends from Iowa. 
Rotary meeting in Formosa
Cal with PDG 98-99 Luis and President (Right)
Banner Exchange
Group Photo
Cal with Interact Club President
Rotaract members, Exchange Student (second from left) and Interact President

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