The 5 people you meet on a Paraguayan cargo boat – The welcoming captain

10 Sep

This is part of a 5 post series where I tell you about my cargo boat trip to Concepcion through the people I met.

The welcoming captain

The amazing blue sky that can only be enjoyed in the early hours of the day welcomed me as I jumped off the bet up public bus. An unusual morning calm hung over the downtown Asuncion streets like a stillness of a jungle before the birds and monkeys awake. I had a skip in my step fuelled by a sense of adventure and the fact that I was running a little late, although I think it is impossible to be late in Paraguay.

I arrived at the concrete island jutting into the water representing the pier where I was told the previous week by some terere drinking old men that the Concepcion bound cargo boat departs every Wednesday at 7am. I walk the plank onto the boat, looking for someone to ask if it is OK that I’m onboard, and if I have to buy a ticket etc. I ask a potential crew member, a young guy with a notebook in his hand who seems to be ticking off the sacks of potatoes on which his worn tennis shoe rests on. With a smile he says “no hay promblema”, and waves in the direction of the steps going up to some sun bathed wooden white seats by the captain’s wheel house.

From my top deck perch I look over the cargo of gas bottles, motorbikes, fence posts, rocking chairs, miscellaneous sacks and even a kitchen sink that is bound for Concepcion and the farms along the way. Then a rusty blast on the captain’s horn breaks me from my daze and the Cacique starts its 30 hour voyage up the calm muddy waters of the Rio Paraguay.

Soapy water snakes its way over the deck towards my pack that is resting against my legs as the boat boys start making the boat ship-shape. The tan skinned captain that seems content like a king in his castle sees the watery snake and tells me to bring my pack and join him in his wheel house. Upbeat Paraguayan music fills the wheel house as the captain asks me all about my country and what I’m doing, and patiently rephrases questions when I don’t totally understand. Then he gets out his cell phone and proudly shows me pictures of his 2 sons and his wife, and as though we had been mates for years he then shows me a picture of his girlfriend that he has in Concepcion.

Within 30 minutes of leaving the Asuncion skyline the captain steps away from the wheel, picks up his terere and says “manaja” (you drive). In one of those special travel moments I found myself driving a cargo boat in the heart of South America as my new captain friend sips terere beside me bopping his head to the latino flavoured music with the sun beaming through the wheel house window.

During the trip it didn’t matter who was driving, the door to the wheelhouse was always open, actually I don’t think there was a door. The passengers and crew alike hung out there drinking terere, no hierarchy, or sense of “I’m better than you”. A feeling of “mi barco, tu barco” (my boat is your boat), something that is characteristic of Paraguayans, “my country is your country”.

Below is a video of me hanging out with one of the captains/drivers in the wheel house, sums it up. If the video below doesn’t work click here to view it.

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4 Responses to “The 5 people you meet on a Paraguayan cargo boat – The welcoming captain”

  1. crystal edge September 14, 2009 at 4:36 am #

    Your adventurous spirit never ceases to AMAZE me! I look forward to the rest of the chapters:0

    • Hap September 14, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

      I best get writing them ¨)

  2. Navi December 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Ha! That is unreal that he let you guide the boat! Awesome.

    • Hap December 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      Yeah, you gotta love Paraguayans, they are the best!!!!

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