Paraguay is wonderful: open verdant landscapes; sun beating down all day; meat by the tonne; men on motorcycles being run over by Landcruisers; fence posts being attacked by Landcruisers; essentially, it has the lot! We had no real expectations when entering, which in itself is a rarity: usually we know at least something about a country, and yet all we could muster was a free-kick taking goalkeeper called Jose Chilavert in the 1990’s. Oddly, this didn’t come up that often.
Unfortunately for me my Wednesday started out a little badly. Well, that said, we had an excellent breakfast with bacon - first time I’ve seen it in 7 weeks - and a fabulous hotel stop in the cheapest capital city in South America. But after trying to nudge our way out into traffic, a motorcycle sped past and clipped the front of the bonnet, wiping out my left indicator. Shit, I thought, I’ve done it again! <For reference, I almost wiped out a busload of women and children going to a wedding in the Karakorum, Pakistan, but as the saying goes, that is another story>.
As happens in this part of the world, there are accidents every day: motorcycles rush by on either side of the road including the hard-shoulder; not all vehicles have worked lights; and traffic in cities is merely a diffident chaos. It was simply a matter of time in a big city that there was a scrape, and so 12,000kms into the trip I finally had an accident. Fortunately, the motorcyclist wasn’t injured, the bike needed only minimal of repairs, the Landcruiser was all right and police were friendly didn’t ask for a bribe. The whole matter was sorted within an hour. No one asked about a free-kick taking goalkeeper.
We spent the next few hours sightseeing in Asuncion, a cool small city of a few million people with some good restaurants, colonial architecture and food-trucks that would give Melbourne a run for it’s money. We shopped for a new indicator, replaced my disintegrating shower pipe and finally found a 7mm spanner to, there’s no other way of saying it, grease my (car) nipples. I did say Paraguay has the lot. We then headed up to the highway and spent a good few days in the Mennonite colonies, checking out the wildlife in the natively-famous Chaco Region and relaxing where we could amongst the blistering heat. Again, our timing has been impeccable – last week the whole area was flooded and rendered impassable. This week the water has gradually receded enabling us to spot cayman, heron, cormorant, flamingo, jabiru, sandpipers, coatis and bucket-loads of big damn spiders that create webs between trees spanning 20 feet <shudder>. And we saw puma . . . tracks. Not quite the same.
We made some good new friends too with tourist guide Marilyn who let us stay out at her cattle ranch, Ulrike at the tourist info that guided us around the museums and didn’t mind one bit about the fence post I knocked over and put back up, and the extremely kind Hector, a Landcruiser enthusiast that helped us grab parts in Asuncion. We headed out for some beers and food in the evening as a thank-you and put our broken Spanish to good use. Oh, and he knew Chilavert – yassssss!!!!
If you're enjoying the write-ups (and even if you're not!), I am trying to raise awareness of two great charities during this trip, and am constantly amazed at the number of people I meet that have been affected by domestic violence or mental health issues. It's not an Australian thing, it's a global human issue. Any donations would be most welcome and all funds go directly to the charities - am over one third of my way to the $5000 goal!
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here