Archive | October, 2009

A fellow kiwi on an amazing mission

17 Oct

I was hanging out in the downtown Asuncion tourist office as you do, actually I spent over 6 hours hanging out there. I am trying to start up a tour for backpackers etc, but so far my market research points to one major problem, there is no market, haha.

While I was there approaching the rare breed of backpackers I bumped into Annette (pictured above with Javier from tourist office). She is a fellow kiwi who was living in London and then decided to learn how to ride a motorbike so she could travel from Alaska to Argentina. She is currently in Paraguay and has been on the road for over 320 days! If you have time check out her website www.alaska2argentina.co.uk.

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A fooking shite bus, great ruins and Chilean wine

14 Oct

This is the last post (the link to the 4 previous posts are listed below) about my travels with friends Hazel and Ami from back home who are currently travelling South America. We went on a 3 day mission, camping at Ybycui which is “3 hours” by bus south of Asuncion. Then we went onto UNESCO classified Jesuit ruins of Encarnacion, located at the southern tip of Paraguay. These posts go to show that Paraguay is a travel destination that is more about the adventure, the experiences and people met, “it’s all about the journey man”! Enjoy.

  1. Jesus helping me out
  2. On the side of the road in Paraguay
  3. The never ending road
  4. A bright new day

We woke to Mother Nature’s uncontrollable bladder trickling over Encarnacion. We decided to go and have a wander around Encarnacion and wait for the rain to pass before going to the ruins. After eating dwarfed bananas for breakfast we wandered the wet streets below the bus station that were home to the markets. An experience in itself, the rubbish mixed with the red dirt that had turned into a muddy paste that threatened to break my jandals, horse and carts, leftover food scraps, imposing grey skies all made for an impression that we were at the arse end of Paraguay. In fact we literally were at the arse end of Paraguay, Encarnacion is located at the southern point of Paraguay with Argentina in plain view across the rubbish transporting river. A disclaimer, please don’t be put off going to Encarnacion, these are just my thoughts from one rainy morning in the dirty area of Encarnacion, and although it sounds like I didn’t like it, I actually enjoyed it in a funny way, it makes you appreciate how well we have it living in clean countries.

After the morning of walking around it was no surprise when we caught a Ciudad del Este (the eastern city of Paraguay that borders Igauzu falls) bound bus that it followed the run down third world theme of the morning. I have caught a lot of old dilapidated buses, but this one took the cake. Because you knew that once it used to be a luxury liner, like a 60 year rock star, the years of body abuse showed with a leaking roof leaving some of the seats feeling like a teenage boys socks, broken seats with one having snapped off. Add to this the people packed into the isle of the bus and we just happened to find ourselves at the back of the bus. We stopped along the way to pick up a group of 4 Irish Backpackers who had their tickets for the 5 hour journey to Ciudad Del Este , as the packed bus pulled up you could tell they weren’t impressed. A thick accent that would of been at home in a smoky bar holding a pint of Guinness booms out in disgust “this is a Fookin shite bus”, they ended up refusing to get on.

But for us we only had to stay on the bus for 1 hour, and pushed our way down the aisle trying to avoid the awkward pressing of genitals on unsuspecting passengers in the cramped aisle. At the unmarked stop on the side of the road an old lady also got off with what looked like her month’s supply of groceries. As she was going our way so we helped her with her bags. I asked her what she thought of the ruins, she informed me that she had seen them on TV and had been told they were really nice, but she had never been to them. The funny part about this was that she lived 300 metres from the entrance!

The ruins were a pleasant surprise and the facilities had improved greatly since the guide book had written its report on them. A helpful staff member informed us of the ruins history, and I wish I could recall it all, but it’s something along the lines of the Spanish missionaries came in the late 1600’s, got the locals to build the communities, educated them, spread the word of religion and planted crops etc, but then the communities became too powerful so 167 years or so after them coming the Spanish sent orders to get rid of them. Sorry history isn’t my strong point.

The ruins were spread over the lush green grass of the well kept grounds, unhindered. The beauty of these ruins was that you were free to walk around everywhere and you basically had the place to yourself. From all the other ruins I have visited it is always something that takes away from the experience, sharing it with busloads of other tourists.

What better way to enjoy the ruins than a little picnic. We had set up camp under an archway of the ruins, sipping Chilean box wine and discussing time travel. A policeman approaches us, we’re thinking “ah great here we go, he’s going to tell us we are not allowed alcohol in the grounds and ask for a bribe“. He approaches without saying a word, picks up our wine, shakes his head and says “bad, this is Chilean wine, you should have Argentinian” and then walks off”!

Then it was time to head back into town and catch a bus back to Asuncion, marking the end of our little trip, good times, good memories.

A bright new day

5 Oct

This post is a part of a series from my travels with friends Hazel and Ami from back home who are currently travelling South America. We went on a 3 day mission, camping at Ybycui which is “3 hours” by bus south of Asuncion. Then we went onto UNESCO classified Jesuit ruins of Encarnacion, located at the southern tip of Paraguay. These posts go to show that Paraguay is a travel destination that is more about the adventure, the experiences and people met, “it’s all about the journey man”! Enjoy.

We woke up on a comfortable mattress of concrete, as during the night we had moved our tents under a shelter when we felt rain and saw the flashes of lightening in the distance. We were not willing to see if our $50 tents were waterproof.

Who needs a chiropractor when you have Mother Nature to nurture you. The night before when we had arrived at the camp site it was pitch black, so it was quite a surprise to see the beautiful grounds and the even more beautiful waterfall that welcomed us. The best part of it was that we had the whole place to ourselves.

Paraguayan travel tip #456 When you’re at a swimming hole and you see a sign “peligro lugar profundo”, and you know that peligro means danger and lugar means place, but you don’t know what “profundo” means. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that it’s a profound place and if you’re simple you’re not allowed to swim. It means, “deep”, that the swimming hole is deep! I find this quite funny, as in New Zealand they would have signs up telling you if it’s shallow.

After hanging with Mother Nature and cleansing ourselves of the days before travel grime if was time to have breakfast (crackers and jam) and wait for the collectivo that supposedly passes at 7am. Unlike the day before, we had more luck, and we were quite excited when we heard the grinding of gears and struggling diesel engine bumping along the dusty dirt road.

Usually when on a bus that never gets over 30km/hr you would be annoyed, but it was quite the contrary on this sunny morning. Because firstly we were stoked that the collectivo actually arrived, secondly, going 30km/hr is better than walking, and thirdly it was a great experience bumping along with the local indigenous old ladies who were going into town and watching the road pass by underneath through one of the wooden floor boards that was missing.

The rest of the day was spent in transit, we only had about 400km to go to Encarnacion, but that required 2 collectivos and a bus, all of which stop along the way picking up people on the side of the road. It was a good time to catch up on some Z’s from the night before and get some Spanish practice with 76 year old Euserbio who was quite interested in where we had come from, what we were doing and if we had turkeys in my country.

We finally arrived in Encarnacion and Mother Nature seemed to be quite sad or maybe she had an uncontrollable bladder, it was pouring. This meant no camping, so we checked into a bus station hotel. But the rain meant that we got to crank up the “stare’o’meter”, which is usually out of control with my dreadlocks and Hazel and Ami’s height. We hadn’t packed raincoats so had call on our boy scout days and purchased some rubbish bags, this made the stare’o’meter go off the charts! Classic.

After searching high and low for a dinner place that had more atmosphere than your grandma’s living room we stumbled across an unsigned back alley Korean restaurant. Six thumbs up to this little gem, by far the best Korean food I have outside of Korea. Note to the Korean crew, I still make funny gurgling noises when doing soju (Korea’s answer to sake) shots.

The never ending road

2 Oct

This post is a part of a series from my travels with friends Hazel and Ami from back home who are currently travelling South America. We went on a 3 day mission, camping at Ybycui which is “3 hours” by bus south of Asuncion. Then we went onto UNESCO classified Jesuit ruins of Encarnacion, located at the southern tip of Paraguay. These posts go to show that Paraguay is a travel destination that is more about the adventure, the experiences and people met, “it’s all about the journey man”! Enjoy.

After waiting a couple of hours for a collectivo that never showed up we made our way back to the centre of town. We managed to get a ride down the road that supposedly took us within 8km’s of the camp site. From the sign our “8km” trek started, and then 2 hours later we were still walking along the road that never ended. The prey that our missionary friends did for us must have paid off, as we stumbled across the super friendly old park ranger who was willing to sell us a beer for the road. Walking a never ending road seems a little easier with a beer in hand.

All roads lead to somewhere and ours led to a “light at the end of the tunnel”, well actually it was just a light on the side of the road attached to a ramshackle family house. It was dark; we had been walking for a couple of hours on what felt like a treadmill not a road. We went into ask the family sitting around on miscellaneous chairs and rural objects watching the men fixing a motorbike how much further to the campground. We were answered, “about 4-6 kms more” Paraguayan travel tip #546: don’t trust distances on road signs.

Thankfully the men offered to take us the rest of the way on their motorbikes for a small $5 fee (we didn’t read the small print and actually ended up having to stop off and buy a bottle of petrol as well – cheeky buggers). With Ami and Haze on the back of one bike and me on the other bike we took off following the solo headlight of my bike as the other bike had none, although the driver was using his cell phone to light up the road at times.

The road that never ended finally led to a potholed dirt road, our drivers hooting out load as they drove 2 tall and one dreadlock foreigner, a story they would be telling for the rest of their lives. We finally arrived at the camp site after leaving Asuncion 10 hours prior. We thanked our drivers with new found enthusiasm which can only be found when you know that you are lucky that you didn’t have to experience Paraguayan emergency response services.

What better way to celebrate arriving at our destination than a box of red wine. Travel tip # 679 don’t buy Paraguayan boxed wine, it tastes like something between urine and vinegar with red food colouring, lucky for us we had 3 litres or Argentinean wine in reserve.