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March 12th, 2012 | Brazil

Paraguay…!!

We were beset with bad luck for a good part of the day today…!!

The night before, I had a runny nose, and hoped that it was just a sinus thing… My hopes were dashed the following morning…!! I woke up with a bad case of flu, feeling as if I had been run over by a truck…!!

I did not feel any better as the morning wore on, and when we put on our gear to leave Hostel Natura, I thought I was going to start melting… My temperature soared…!!

Roger had found a nail in his rear tyre the day before and when he pulled it out, saw that there was a very slow leak… The tyre had not deflated much during the night, but we felt it was better to get it checked before we made the run to Asuncion in Paraguay…

Roses among the thorns.. Silvia and her daughter Sylvia (with a "y"...!!) bid Roger and I goodbye at Hostel Natura.

We said our goodbyes to our Venezuelan friends and then rode out of the gate and on to the gravel road… I heard something fall off the bike and stopped to find my cell phone lying a few metres behind me…!! I had forgotten to put in back in my pocket, and had left if on top of my gear…!! Lucky break that I heard something fall…!!

The repair to Roger’s tyre took about an hour, and we had to sit waiting at the local Suzuki dealer, while they removed the back wheel, and then went off on a scooter to have the puncture patched… With barely 350 km to ride today, I was not at all perturbed by the delay, knowing that we were both capable of making hard rides when the “chips were down” in order to get to where we wanted to go…

We're off to Paraguay... At least" we" thought we were...!!

It was already swelteringly hot by the time we reached the Brazilian/Paraguayan border on the outskirts of Fos do Iguazu… This border crossing is renowned for it’s con artists, thieves and other long-fingered types, so we decided not to leave the bikes alone at any time during the crossing… All the guide books suggest that you do not walk across the bridge, but take a taxi instead, to avoid being robbed…!!

While Roger took first watch, I went over to the Immigration offices and had my passport stamped, then the merry dance began…!! It took almost two hours to find the office where we had to hand back the Brazilian registration papers for the bike… By the time I got back to the bikes, Roger was lying down on the sidewalk, in the shade of a nearby building…

His formalities took barely an hour, as by now we knew which office to go to, and who to see…

When we hopped back onto our bikes, Roger’s would not start…!! His battery was flat…!! We pulled our bikes into the sahed of an open traffic lane, and I fished the jumper cables out of my pannier, while Roger went to see who could help us get his bike started… I did not want to use the Big Fella to jump start his bike, as I was afraid that it would cause some damage to the electronic on the bike…

We stopped one of the thousands of Taxi-Scooters that cross the border daily, and within minutes had his Triumph running again…

A disappointed and exasperated Roger after hearing that he would not be allowed into Paraguay without a visa...

I led the charge across the bridge spanning the Rio Parana, which forms the border of the two countries…

I went into the Immigration office first and had my passport stamped within just a few minutes… I was told that we would have to ride around the building to the customs offices behind the border post to get our bike papers sorted…

Then while I looked after the bikes and constantly chased money-changers away, Roger went into Immigration… He was away for a long time, and finally came back with a very crestfallen look on his face…

“They won’t let me in, Bro…!!” were the first words out of his mouth…!! “Kiwi’s need a visa…!!”

It seems that since last he had checked, the rules had changed somewhat…!!

I stood agonising about what to do… I was already stamped into Paraguay, and to go through the agony of entering Brazil again, in 40 degree heat, was not something I was looking forward to…

Roger broke into my reverie by saying, “You gotta go on, Bro…!! This is your ride…!! Mine is almost done now… I’ll head straight back to Buenos Aires and fly home…”

Last photo of us together at the Paraguayan border... We had covered almost 5 000 km together...

Even though he was right, it still felt wrong to me to leave him like this… We had planned to be together for at least another four or five days before we split up in northern Argentina…

We hugged each other, shook hands a few times and said a quick and emotional goodbye…

“I hate saying goodbye…!!” he said, “It’s been great riding with you…!!” and then without a backward glance, he opened the throttle of his Triumph and shot into the traffic crossing back to Brazil…

And that as they say, was that…!! We had covered almost 5 000 km together, and for the most part, Roger had been content to ride shotgun behind me, intuitively knowing that as he put it, it was “my ride”… I truly appreciate and respect him for that…

Go well Roger, and maybe someday we will meet again…!!

What should have been a doddle, turned into a long, hot, wet and sweaty ride...

I battled my way through the bustling streets of Cuidad del Este, the border town that is more like the wild west than anything I had seen so far… Guys with guns and bulletproof vest stood at every money changing office… Even the car guards had holstered Glocks on their hips…!!

These money-changers are persist, I’ll give them that.. Many of them stepped right in front of the Big Fella in an attempt to make me stop…!! On more than one occasion, my side mirrors and panniers brushed their clothing as I ducked and weaved between them…!!

It was after 2.00pm when I finally got out of town and onto the highway to Asuncion…

Far up ahead, I saw thunder clouds building… Glancing at GiGi’s screen, I knew at once that there was no avoiding them…!!

Face in the clouds...?? The weather gods were about to unleash some discomfort on me...!! They were just peeping out to make sure they got it just right...!!

I felt the temperature change as suddenly as if I had ridden into an air-conditioned room from out of the hot sun… The rain came down and lashed the countryside around me, but only for ten minutes or so, and then I was out into glorious sunshine again…

Rain on the road to Asuncion...

With so many trucks taking this main route from Brazil to Asuncion, there was bound to be oil and diesel spillage in places, and I quickly discovered a few patches of them…!!

There was also a strong smell of diesel in the air, even though there were trucks directly in front of me… The Big Fella squirmed his way through a few slippery patches, not liking the sensation at all…!!

Helmets and road safety in general seem to be an optional extra in this country...

I noticed that very few people bothered to use helmets in Paraguay…!! Another indication of the break down in law that seems to afflict the poorer countries…

They are not too strict on overloading either...!!

Riding under a cloud...

I passed through one toll gate after another, the first one I had to pay at, and the rest I was able to ride through without fiddling about for my wallet…

The boys in blue, or khaki, as it it seems to be here, were out on force on the highway, carrying speed guns that they did not seem to use too often…

Maybe it was because they had a cup of Mate or tea, in their other hand most of the time… I sped by one speed check at about 40 km/h over the 80 km/h limit, and the guys hardly batted an eye…!!

The countryside was much drier than Brazil and Uruguay, although the land was flat and certainly looked good enough to have extensive farming on it…

For the most part, large herds of scrawny cattle grazed on the road side, some them right on the verge…

It was easy to see that Paraguay was much “poorer” than it’s eastern and southern neighbours…

The sale of charcoal on the roadside made this very evident, and reminded me of Africa, where trees are chopped down to smoke the wood for cooking purposes…

Some of the villages I passed through had homes that were in a very sad state of disrepair, and ox-carts were being used for carrying firewood and supplies…

The main road however was in good condition, and small stalls selling fruit and vegetables, as well as local handicrafts, seemed to sustain the people who had built there homes along it…

I stopped at a place called Camp Ocho to refuel, and had a short argument with the guy filling my tank… The counter on the pump had not been set properly, and long after he had filled my tank, the counter was still running…!! I had to pay for 24.8 litres, which I know is impossible to fit into my tank…!!

One of the many Love Hotel that line the road to Asuncion...

On the outskirts of almost every town, large and small, I saw signs advertising the ubiquitous “Love Hotels” that you find here in South America…

Homes are small, and families are large, and when they want to get intimate with your wife/girlfriend, the locals go out to these hotels for their horizontal entertainment…

Rooms are rented by the hour, and hopefully sheets changed just as often…!!

Roger had once mistakenly stopped at one when it was getting dark, and the owner quickly guided him to a “better establishment”, explaining that his hotel had one of those “revolving door” policies, and renting a room for the entire night, would not look good on his Profit and Loss Statement…!!

The last hour of my ride into Asuncion was a bit of a ‘mare…!! The town of San Lorenzo merges with the capital, and the main road runs right through it… The late afternoon traffic was backed up for more than 30 kilometres, and I had to battle through busses and trucks that spewed diesel fumes…

By the time I got into the city itself, and miraculously found a decent hotel, I face was covered in black grime, that took more than one wash to dislodge…!!

This coupled with a now serious bout of flu, did not put me in the best of spirits…!! The Hotel Presidente is in a run down part of town, but judging from what I have seen so far, maybe the whole city is a bit run down…

Peeling paint, and unpainted buildings give the place a look of despair…

With a strong internet signal, I resolved to spend the next day cocooned in my room, chugging any tablet I could find in my medical kit, and uploading photos from the past week or two…

See updates of Sao Bento do Sol and Rio, later…!! Iguazu Falls, much later than that…!!

©GBWT 2012

1 comment to Paraguay…!!

  • Mark Behr

    Wow, that was an abrupt end to a ride with a friend. Looks like you are not in the best place to be recovering from flu. Go well.

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