I am now traveling with a New Yorker as we both wanted to float up the river. He speaks fluent Spanish, which is nice when traveling in rural areas. After our bus to Concepcion, we prepared for the first leg of the boat trip, a 30 hour journey to Vallemí.
This boat followed the same theme I have experienced so far in Paraguay; this is not a tourist country. The people around me are not making money off of me. I do not get fed the expensive, watered down version of a country.
For example, the cargo boat was loaded with bananas, onions, eggs, people, mattresses, refridegerators, desks, motorcycles, flour, sugar, peppers, gasoline, and some other stuff. Actually, it was two boats which were tied together, so as they could use both engines to push the same stuff. At each town, locals of all ages would come on the boat and take their alloted goods. Once the sun went down the second day, I helped out to see how difficult it was; the locals cheered me on, but I was glad it was dark and cool.
The river itself was gorgeous, and went through various transformations as the day went on. The night saw incredible stars, with perfect reflections in the glassy water. Dawn saw a fiery sky, and eerie mist floating up from the river. The day was bright and hot, but still perfectly calm and glassy. Dusk saw amazing sunsets before the bugs started attacking; these bugs included the countless mosquitos, moths, and some hand-sized version of houseflies I thought only existed in my nightmares.
Since then, we have left the boat, made friends with locals, played in the river, had days of reading, siestas, and a tour of the cement factory which employs the better part of Vallemi. All the while, the locals have been incredibly sharing, genuinely interested in where we come from, and excited to show us their country.
--Hammocks offer very little insulation. You have air all around you, with not but a thin piece of cloth. During the night, I require my sleeping bag.
--Their exists fresh water rays. My travel partner found this out while crossing the river to Brasil. Yes, he got stung, and yes, the only thing separating the two countries is a knee-deep river (and yes, smuggling occurs).
--The country of Paraguay is one of the only which has two national languages, Spanish and the indigenate Guarini. Spanish is stronger in the Capitol and (relatively) larger cities, while Guarini prevails in those small and remote areas.
--I continue to be openly stared at, especially by children. In the town where I helped them unload, I was resting with the adults and a pack of kids was staring at me from no more than four feet away. I barked at them, causing them to run off giggling.