Most of the traffic was walking traffic and the people are carrying back, on their back, mattresses, full sets of tires, flat screen t.v.s, etc! Big electronics, anything I think you'd find in a Walmart in the United States, they are crossing the border to purchase in Paraguay.
Then! I find out I need a visa for Paraguay. I thought I did my research and the only country I needed a visa for in South America was Brazil. I'm not sure how I missed this one.. I really thought I was sure. So the immigration agent says I have to wait until Monday to get a visa in a different office (closed for the weekend). I told him I can't, my visa expires today and I have to get out. It will only be worse on Monday. He talks back and forth with another agent and he came back to say if I wait until Monday, the fee will be $75 USD. But if I give him $50 USD cash now, he'll let me through. Sounds a bit dodgey to me, but what can I do? Next problem? I don't have USD on me! I have some $100 bills buried on my bike, but I'm not about to tear it all apart with millions of people on the path between borders. Luckily young James comes to the rescue again. He's got $50 in his wallet, so I borrow it and we're on our way.. Hallelujah!
Once we got past the madness of Saturday shopping in Ciudad del Este (the border town), we drove somewhat away from town before looking for an ATM to get Paraguay Guarani (money). Always a top priority when crossing a border.. new money! I need to buy fuel and something to eat.. starving!! And then straight west toward Asuncion.
We are not going into Asuncion today though. A couple of weeks before my bike broke down, I knew I was going to be needing a new chain and sprocket. Asuncion has a KTM dealership and he had this on order for me. And extra special treat is I also have new headlights waiting for me. Carlos Otonelli, the owner of KTM Paraguay, let me use his address to receive new LED lights from Craig at CJ Designs in America www.cjdesignsllc.com. Craig showed me these lights when I came through USA last year, but I didn't want to put any more money into the lights. The lighting system I got in Adelaide before I left was the most expensive part of my bike set up. After all that money it turned out they were not the solution. I could still never see well at night. Always having to ride next to somebody or right behind a big truck. James feels he can install the new lights for me, and I've had enough of needing to borrow people to see at night. So I finally gave in and had them sent down.
In the meantime, it's the weekend, and the shop is closed. So Carlos and his family invited us to stay in their weekend home in San Bernardino, on a lake outside of Asuncion.
This is actually a very sad story.. The lake is very beautiful, but it is also very dead. It's pollution levels are so high now, that the fish are dead, the birds are gone because there are no fish to eat, and no boats passing by with skiiers which used to be the norm here because the water is so toxic it shouldn't be touched. I have been in polluted water areas before, but I've never known one to be completely dead.. on the virge, yes, but usually somebody or group steps in to try to save it. Carlos tells me the government never agrees on a solution to help the lake and now it seems to be too late. It will cost millions to protect it now so that it can recover and the country doesn't have the money to do that either. Humans!!!
Old town San Bernardino has a fair bit of German history.
Since the big bike breakdown in Brazil and not having a KTM mechanic there, I'm having this trained KTM mechanic in Paraguay go over the work hopefully to insure it's all fixed properly and avoid any more problem with the rocker arms, valves, etc. James is working away on his own time, free of charge, to put in my new lights.. which happens to require rewiring. I'm sure glad he's a smart boy.. I'd be lost in that mess of wires!
Time for a quick test run...
First, a quick trip to the makeup room.. Ha! I've done some t.v. interviews on this journey, but this is the only time they've sent me to makeup. I must be looking extra bad.. Lord have Mercy!
They decided to have me ride up on my motorcycle with the male host and camera outside. We had a 10-15 minute long interview in Spanish.. I held my own for the most part, as English wasn't an option. Carlos did tell me when I returned that I did well, minus one mistake.. "What was it?" Well, he said I answered a question that was more along the line of me saying, "I had many boyfriends in Mexico".. This is not true and totally not what I meant to say, but now this is what the Paraguayan public thinks. I'm so embarrassed! (Thank goodness I didn't say embarazada, which means pregnant in Spanish) I must get back to taking Spanish classes.
Our last night in Asuncion, the Otonelli family takes us out to their "club" for a meal. It's a super big club, full outside with people playing sports. The club dining room has quite an impressive buffet meal. We ate so well, it was the best meal... But wait, there's more!
I have to include a photo of the desert section. I think I managed to try 5 of them.. but look how many there are to choose from. They were not basic boring buffet deserts either, they were the BEST! I should have just taken my plate there from the beginning. Forget about salad, if I go back to Paraguay someday, I'm heading straight for the club desert table.. Mmmmm!!!!!!!
Check out my nice super bright new LED lights from Rigid Enterprises.. Now I can see from here to China.. thanks James!!
And thanks Carlos and Aida, for a lovely weekend in your home, and that super meal in Asuncion!
I think I will always remember about Paraguay is that it is super hot. There's not a lot to draw you there tourism-wise, so most riders give it a miss. I am glad that I did visit Paraguay though. Carlos gave me some nice discounts on the bike work and he's hoping to make more of a KTM presence in Paraguay and South America. The next morning, we crossed the border again into Argentina.
And another super hot day.. We are riding in 44 degrees Celcius (111 degrees Fahrenheit). Memories of the Amazon come flooding back. So hard to breathe. No matter how fast I go, the wind isn't much help. It's like somebody has a hot blow-dryer blowing straight into my face. Not nice.
But I got a wonderful surprise!
This photo of palm trees below is not just a photo of palm trees. Well it is, but it's the after shot of a great experience I just had. While riding behind James I see a bird coming for me. I watched the bird wondering what the heck it was, and it flew right in front of me, straight across my path.. It's a Toucan!!!! The most colorful beautiful Toucan! And I can't share that image, because I wasn't holding my camera at the time. I usually keep it around my neck, though so this photo is of the trees once I got a hold of my camera, and somewhere around those trees is my Toucan. The only other Toucan I've ever seen was with Kevin in Nicaragua on New Years Day.. so this was special to me.
If I can't express through my photos how hot it is in northern Argentina, maybe this photo will help.. ;-/
Bienvenidos a Argentina.. y Hasta luego!