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I can tick South America off!

6 Nov

Howdy folks,

It’s official, I can tick the continent of South America off the list as having been lived and worked in. The emphasis in this continent has been more on the living side of things as I have spent 7 and half months in South America, (6 weeks backpacking in Brazil in 2004, 6 weeks backpacking in Colombia in 2007, 6 weeks in Argentina this year and now 3 months in Paraguay) I have spent a lot of that travelling and studying Spanish.

The past month I have been teaching Sebastian, a student that is going to New Zealand on exchange in December – who would of thought a New Zealand speaking English teacher would actually been in demand, haha. I have been teaching him the finer points of the queen’s English, getting him use to the plethora of kiwi slang, teaching him the rules of cricket, educating him how kiwi’s are better than Ozzies (jab jab), showing him how to treat a sheep, having him listen to some quality New Zealand music and having him read some Maori legends. He is now ready, if you see Sebastian walking the streets of Auckland, say g’day, he’ll be going to Rangitoto high school.

I have also become a professional story teller! Yep I have been going around the primary (elementary) schools reading childrens books, well actually the emphasis is more on jumping around like an idiot acting them out as most of the kids don’t understand English. The photo below is me being an airplane, and the 80 kids were meant to be sitting down but it all turned pear shape, ohhh you have to love the enthusiasm of 7 year olds!

It’s usually pretty easy to keep them amused as they haven’t seen a real live person with dreadlocks, and considering until 20 years ago it was illegal to have long hair due to the dictatorship, you can understand why, plus it’s so darn hot here you don’t really want a whole of rope hanging from your head. It was 40˚C today! Bring on the 3˚C days of Ushuaia, although then I will probably be complaining it’s too cold. I leave for Ushuaia on Monday!

I have also made a few guest appearances at Mandy’s school, talking about my goal and my travels. The question time is always quite amusing for both myself and the students. My favourite question was “are you a hippy?”, to which I counter asked the 10 year old boy “What’s a hippy?”, he sharply replied “a person that doesn’t shower”, after having a laugh I replied “well I showered this morning, so I guess I’m not a hippy”. Classic, oh and for the record I’m not a hippy, I don’t make jewelry, I wash my hair, and I value personal hygiene! I just have dreadlocks, that’s all. Remember my names Hap as in happy, not Hip as in hippy.

 

Peace and love man!

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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.

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.

On the side of the road in Paraguay

30 Sep

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.

With a belly full of rice and sausages and god looking over us, our friend Melo walked us to the road outside his house to wait for the collectivo (bus) going to the camp ground. Dependant on who you talked to, the collectivo went by at either 2, 2.30, 3 or wasn’t going today.

Well 2 hours later we were still waiting and it was now obvious that it wasn’t coming today. But this is all part of the Paraguayan travel experience, there is no real tourist infrastructure. In most touristed countries you would be able to get a mini-van straight from Asuncion and go direct to the sights in one hour. But if you did that you wouldn’t get to have lunch with Melo and his friends or see Paraguayan country traffic and smiles pass you by.

Here’s a few photos of watching life pass you by on the side of a Paraguayan rural road.

There’s no need for tying loads down in Paraguay, just chuck your son’s on the back to hold it down.

It wouldn’t be a rural road without a random sprinkling of farm animals and a cart passing by.

I hope they are wearing their seat belts and have insurance. Is it just me or is that truck going to snap in the middle.

After 2 hours of watching life go by, it was time to take action, so we started walking back into town, for what? We didn’t know, but it felt good to be walking.

Jesus helping me out

28 Sep

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.

OK, I know you’re all getting bored of me telling you how friendly people are over here. Well just encase you didn’t quite comprehend it the first hundred times I told you, I will tell you again.

We met Melo on the bus from Asuncion as we were drinking our bottles of cola bought from a street vendor, which on closer inspection saw that the seals had been broken. The suspicion was confirmed when we saw the old man who had sold us the bottles picking up bottles off the street. A great little business, getting used bottles and filling them up from a 2.5 litre bottle – that’s 3rd world entrepreneurship at work.

Anyway, back to Melo, we believe that he was attracted to the vacant seat beside me due to the picture of Jesus with wide open arms on my t-shirt that said “put down the drugs and come get a hug”. Melo was a friendly Brazilian missionary who was working with the local impoverished of Ybycui.

When we got to Ybycui we found out that the collectivo (small local bus) that was going out to the camping area 26 km out of town was supposed to be “leaving” in an hour. Melo invited us back to his house for lunch.

In the house lived a family and other missionary types. Their hospitality was second to none, and after grace we were treated to a tasty feed of sausages and rice that would probably mean they wouldn’t eat for the next 2 days. Following this we were shown photos of their church back in Brazil and told many great things about what their church does. I had the feeling that they were waiting for the guy with Jesus on his shirt to tell them of all his Religious achievements, little did they know that today’s grace that was said doubled his grace experiences.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave the believing beaming Colgate smiles and go wait for the collectivo and feel a bit inadequate at how much we contribute to the world. But not before a pray was said for us, asking god to look over us in our coming travels. Thank you Melo and friends, another humbling experience that let’s you know the world is full of good people and not just the twisted excuses of people that appear on the 6 o’clock news– Oh and a shout out to Jesus, cheers bro.