29 April 2010

Another Boat and a Homestay in Paraguay

Finally, after four days of waiting, the boat came to Vallemi. This is the main and transport for the area and the only (we discovered) when it rains. It was the Aquidaban, a larger, double decker boat than our first, similarly loaded down with everything from fruits, to live chickens, to furniture.

We had two nights and a very lazy day in which we traveled up the river. One night, we saw a lightning storm and were dually impressed until we realized that it was dumping on the very roads we needed. Sights of note along the boat trip include a very beautiful but modernly out of place church, the Alto Paraguay state capital of Fuerte Olimpo, and other, nicer riverboats we guessed from Brazil.

Arriving in Bahia Negra, brought us immediately in contact with Amilcar. We asked him where the bus station was and he ended up giving us a ride for about 200km, hosting us for four nights in the house of his family, and then giving us a gift when we left. I am telling you, Paraguayan hospitality is borderline painful.
We left Bahia Negra in the late afternoon loaded with our stuff in the back of Amilcar's pickup, after hanging with some Peace Corps colunteers during siesta. The cab was full, so we took the first four hours in the bed at the mercy of his impeccable driving. He maintained a solid 40 mph on a dangerously muddy road, spending more time fishtailing than not. It was an experience I am glad I have, though would not repeat.

After dropping us at a small dispensa in Toro Pompa (basically a grocery store for the smaller villages), he promised to return that night and take us the rest of the way. We sat down to dinner of delicious wild boar with a family there, and played with their one month old puppy. Amilcar failed to return that night, so we slept in various jimmy-rigged cots and hammocks, and woke up to more meals with the family.

When we finally left (Amilcar had gotten stuck about 15 minutes outside of town the night before), the family refused payment and gave us wishes of good luck in our travels. Finally able to enjoy the drive, rather than fear for our lives, we witnessed an incredible amount of birds; emu-like runners, large raptors, huge storks, smaller green ones, a giant brown one which made a noise like a cow, etc.

Arriving in Amilcar's hometown of Puerto Casado, we began the search which would last four days for a ride out of town. His family insisted on taking us in, and consisted of his mother, 11yo daughter, 10yo son, and an adopted 18yo. During our four day stay with the family where we were given food and drink, we caught a baby chick with the 11yo to feel how soft its feathers were, went adventuring in an abandoned factory with the 18yo, let the 10yo show me off to his friends at night in the adjoining plaza, and helped the mother with her cake-making job (though mainly in an eating-leftovers capacity).

When we finally left after giving the family a collection of gifts and food, we took the bus to Loma Plata. It is a German, Socialist Community, one of three in the area, and will probably have to wait for another blog post to receive the description it deserves. Right now I am in Filadelfia (one of the other two communities) and am about to get on a bus to Bolivia.

Somethings Interesting:

--Amilcar is actually a driver for the governor of Alto Paraguay, who we met because he owns a store in Puerto Casado. Driving on muddy dirt roads is the only way to get around besides the weekly boat, and because of his job, we could not have chosen a better person to ask for directions than Amilcar.

--My travel partner and I both recently finished 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. We decided that Puerto Casado is actually Macondo from the book, and that our hostess is actually Ursula. We were simply one of the many visitors received throughout the story.

--Puerto Casado was actually the place where I helped unload the boat on our first trip (see two blog posts back). While in the town, people would frequently shout-out to me "Fuerte, Fuerte!!", the name they had given to me that night.

--It has been surreal to be in a city of blond-haired, blue-eyed people who speak mainly German in Central Paraguay. We still somehow manage to stick out and continue to be stared at openly. While sitting here, for example, the clerk took a picture of me.

1 comment:

  1. hahahaha dude the clerk taking a pic of you sounds hilariously awkward