We were in Paraguay! Specifically, we crossed the borders with Brazil and we got to Ciudad del Este. The first city of Paraguay we saw, was different from what we were used to until that moment. More chaotic and noisy…maybe it was our impression only. What was not only our impression for sure waw what was happening on the national road which connects Ciudad del Este and Asuncion. It was the unique road to connect the two big cities, so all the trucks and the other large vehicles were moving there during the whole day. The problem was that it was a single lane road and with all this heavy circulation, driving on it was a tricky matter. From the first few kilometers, we realized that there was a rule for all the motorcycles: we had to drive on the security lane (yes, exactly the lane where no one is supposed to drive on and it’s only for those who have to stop for security reasons!). However, in Paraguay the security lane was for motorcycles! The other fact that made the situation more surreal was that every 10-20 meters, there were bumps on the security lane to discourage driving on it, but every time we tried to drive on the correct lane, a car or a truck would angrily honk to us to make us return to the security lane! (Stergios used all the curses he knew to describe how annoying this was for him!)
Apart from this detail with the security lane, our trip was very peaceful and according to our calculations, we would need 2-3 days to cover a distance of 330kms and get to Asuncion. We had read that the prices in Paraguay were generally low, so with no stress at all, we decided to continue towards Asuncion until we find a cheap place to spend the night. We asked for the price in one or two hotels and while I probably was outside the most expensive one, Stergios met a guy carrying tourist maps advertising hotels and restaurants of the region. We saw the advertisement of a campsite on his maps and after thanking him, we immediately left to find this place. After 9-10kms, we were at “Nativa Nautic Club”, in the small town of Juan E. O’ leary. It had started getting dark, but from what we could see, the place seemed very beautiful. The plan was to stay there for the night and then continue to Asuncion, but when we saw the place we agreed to stay for2-3 days or even more…
We pitched our tent after carefully calculating the distance from the bathrooms, the lake and the campsite cafeteria – the wifi was an important factor. Pitching a tent at a completely empty campsite is something to be done after serious thinking and difficult mathematical calculations! The next 10(!) days we stayed at this campsite were really great! – there were 2-3 things that we’d prefer not to have happened, but let’s say that some of them were result of “cultural differences” (I’ll explain later)…nothing can make us think of those days as less than perfect! Every morning, we waked up, had our coffee and a really rich breakfast consisting of large amounts of bread with some Guava marmalade or our traditional vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and many kilos of onion – as we’ve said, Stergios is a fan! The discovery of the traditional Paraguayan cheese (“queso Paraguay”) made us also very happy (especially me…I adore every kind of cheese!) and from the day we first tried it, it became the basic ingredient in our cooking. Unfortunately, we never managed to find the same traditional cheese in Asuncion.
After breakfast the sun had warmed enough the day, so it was time to swim in the lake! Cool fresh water and sunbathing…what else to ask for?! The campsite was relatively new and everything was neat and clean. Additionally to this, it was the low season so, we were alone in a huge place covered with green grass and trees. The only people who were there everyday was the guard and his family, very polite and friendly. However, this changed a bit during the weekend. Visitors started coming but with no intention to stay for the night (luckily for us!). The first group was a team of 40-50 people, probably from a local ecclesiastical college. They followed a strict program of group praying, group hymn-chanting and group…outdoor games! It was a bit funny…the only thing we didn’t find funny was that all these activities started way too early in the morning and waking up by loud prayers isn’t our thing!
When I previously talked about “cultural differences”, I was referring to a short “fieldwork” research I had the opportunity do on some Paraguayans regarding: 1) too much beer consumption, 2) too loud music and 3) lack of common sense. So, I had to find out why a group of 5-6 men had arrived at an almost empty campsite, carrying a huge loudspeaker and chose to put it exactly next to the only tent, pointing at it! The things got worse when the above mentioned group put the reggaeton music they preferred as loudly as possible and started drinking beers and preparing barbeque, ignoring our presence (they were almost touching our tent!). I tried to understand them but in vain…only when Stergios started mumbling curses and I had reached the point when I couldn’t hear even my thoughts, we decided to do something. I went towards them and just told them that we could not understand why in an almost empty, huge place they had chosen to sit exactly next to us. They seemed a bit confused and didn’t know what to tell me, so (fortunately) they picked up their stuff and left!
We fought and got our paradise back! We continued staying at this perfect place with no one to annoy us…the weather was perfect! It was summer on a Greek island! Although, for the last few days, the weather forecast application on my cell-phone had been insisting that the next Sunday at 18,00′, it would rain cats and dogs…heavy rain and thunderstorms…we didn’t believe it! When that Sunday came, the weather kept on being nice and we just laughed with the usual mistakes of the weather forecast companies worldwide! Until 18,00′! We couldn’t believe how rapid can be a change on weather! Black clouds instantly gathered, the wind became cold and…here comes the thunderstorm! You can guess what happened next…we started running to put our stuff in the tent to protect them, but soon we realized that our tent was not that waterproof anymore!
The kind guard of the campsite and his wife helped us carry a plastic four-legged tent and put it above ours. At least now we were protected from the water which was hitting the tent from upwards…but the poor tent was also flooded from its floor! After 2 really wet days, the rain finally stopped, but the whole area had turned to a swamp. Walking on the grass was funny because after the rain stopped, the weather became warm again and walking in warm water was not annoying at all! Although we liked it a lot there, it was time to move on, so when our stuff got dry again, we took the big decision. We were also waiting for a package from Greece to come so we were anxious to go to the post office in Asuncion (only if we knew…)
We had to cover a distance of 260kms and we had two options: either to start early and be in Asuncion on the same day, or spend a night somewhere in the middle of our way. We had already found a campsite some 40 kilometers outside Asuncion on our GPS, so we were not worried at all. With no idea of what was about to happen next, we left the wonderful place we had spent our last 10 days at and headed to the capital of Paraguay. Our trip was peaceful: trucks, bumps on the road and some donuts that had gone bad…when it started getting dark we were still away from that campsite we had found on the GPS, so we decided to ask for a room in one of the many hotels on the side of the national road. To our surprise, all the hotels were “love nests” charging by hour and we couldn’t persuade the receptionists that we wanted to spend an “innocent” night there, only because we couldn’t drive by dark.
Our only option was to continue until we found the campsite on the GPS. It was already dark when we found it and the main entrance was closed. So, I had to open the side door and walk towards something which was more like a church and not a campsite building, looking for someone to let us in. After 2-3 “Hola!” I yelled, the guard heard me and got out of his house. When I explained him the situation, he replied that in no way he could let us spend the night at the campsite because we hadn’t taken the permission from the owners who were not there! I tried to insist, given the situation, but apparently the owner of the place was some church or religious institution and they were not hospitable at all! Back to the nearby village to ask if there was any place where we could spend the night. After eating some empanadas to regain our energy, we tried to drive to the only hostel in the village, but it was impossible. Due to the heavy rain of the past two days, the dirt road had become a huge muddy nightmare and we couldn’t cross it.
We were tired and angry and the option of pitching our tent next to a gas station wasn’t appealing to me at that time (I know love staying at gas stations: free wifi, shower and the chance to meet other travelers!). We decided to continue driving towards Asuncion and search for a hotel on our way. We stopped outside a hotel in Aregua (about 40kms from Asuncion) to ask for the price. A really nice young woman who was working there, told us that the room cost 35euros, which we kindly declined. The moment I was about to get on the vespa and leave, Stergios told me that the clutch cable had just been cut! Now we were really angry! We were trapped there, so we asked if there was a chance to pitch our tent in their backyard, as we had also ran out of local currency. We had only 10USD. The young woman was so kind that she ran to her boss and persuaded her to let us spend the night in one of the cheaper rooms she had for 10USD. We were happy and at that time, we thought that we were also lucky…
The room was not very clean and it seemed to have been empty for a long time, but we were ok with it. We also realized that it belonged to the category “charge by the hour” and that the owner probably avoided renting it to tourists, but still, we didn’t care. We slept, and the next morning Stergios started repairing the vespa. The hotel was half-empty and no one was around, neither the owner nor any employee. The reception was also closed. We thought that the owner would understand our situation and let us stay in her yard to complete the repair. Around 12,00′ the kind employee from the previous day came and without even looking us straight in the eyes, told us that we have to pay a “fine” of 10-20USD because we stayed more than we should. We explained that we didn’t have the intention to keep the room – most of our stuff was already outside – and we had been looking for someone in the hotel to inform about the problem and to stay a bit more in their yard. Every hotel/hostel/campsite allows their clients to spend some time or leave some luggage in their property after the check-out time. The poor woman seemed frightened and when we demanded to talk to the owner, we understood why: the owner probably had some issues…
There she was! A woman around 60, really rude and bad mannered. (the funny thing is that we were thinking of staying 2-3 more days in her hotel…). When we saw her, we regretted to even have given her the 10USD to spend the night there. We’d rather have slept on the vespa! She started yelling and from what we could understand, she was insisting that we had promised to leave a) before 6,00′, b) before 5,00′ or c) before the sunrise in general (every time she was changing her mind on the time!). She even threatened us to call the police, but when we replied that we have the right on our side and we are going to wait until the police arrives so that we can explain that she has the problem, she became really mad! We even reminded her that she didn’t give us any receipt…Fortunately the vespa was ready, so for one last time we informed her that what she is asking is illegal and put our helmets on.
We said goodbye to the poor employee who was standing there pale with fear, and we explained her that we believe she is a really kind person with a really bad boss. Immediately after this, we tried to head towards the exit, but the furious owner had started her car and was waiting for us to make our move. It was the first time we were a bit stressed…she was yelling that we are in her country, her house, her rules and she wanted us to leave, but she wouldn’t let us! We were afraid that she would chase us and force us out of the road or hit us! The moment she wasn’t paying attention, Stergios tried to get out as fast as he could, but the car was faster than the vespa and we soon saw her behind us. We stopped on the side of the road and she stopped in front of us and continued yelling and calling us criminals. She even took pictures and we also took a video of her threatening us! In another false attempt to call the police (she called her employee, as we saw) Stergios found the opportunity to leave the place driving to the opposite direction and as there were many cars on the road, she lost us. It was a strong experience meeting such a bad person. We also thought about her poor employee who was really scared of her, what a pity! We needed some time to forget what had happened and cheer up again.
We were now entering Asuncion on a cheerful mood! The plan was to stay there for a week or 10 days…as usual, our predictions were completely mistaken!