August 05, 2004

Paraguay: Taking the slow boat up the Paraguay River

I left Asuncion a little earlier than anticipated, in the wee hours of wednesday morning. But when the boat sails only once a week you don´t ask any questions. At 4:30 am I was on the move (Thank you Ryan for setting the alarm and giving me a shove) The bicycle was in a garage, parked behind our new friend Lorenzo´s home in a nice neighbourhood of the city. However, to get to the garage, you had to walk through the apartment below. The previous evening no one had answered the door, so I had left it to the morning. Unfortunately again, no one was home. So, with a very groggy Lorenzo we climbed down from the balcony by way of a tree and into the courtyard before the sun was up. We then proceeded to figure out a way to haul the bike up to the balcony so that I could then take it down the stairs to the street on the other side. We were triumphant and managed to arrive at the docks at 6:30am.

Click to see more pictures!

What followed felt like a part of a Tintin comic (If you are between the ages of 7 and 77, the age range the comic is rated as being suitable for, and are not familiar with Tintin and his Adventures, I suggest heading straight to your local library and picking up a copy in one of the 50 languages that the Adventures of Tintin are tranlated into). I have just spent 30 hours on a cargo ship, The Cacique II, that slowly made its way up the Paraguay river. Upon boarding, I was a little worried when I noticed that the captain was very cross eyed. But after a few hours I soon realized that he could have been blind and it would not have made much difference, as he knew every sand bank and current very well. The ship was full with cargo, basically anything you can imagine was being carried onboard, including a touring bicycle! It also took passangers and had about ten small rooms with two bunks each on the top deck and room for about 30 hammocks on the lower deck. Because of my valuables and the absurdly low prices I got myself a nice little room. All along the way to Conception we made frequent stops. By just coming along side the river bank and throwing a long hardwood plank over the side, passangers could walk down and scramble up the river bank with all the supplies they had brought with them. Sometimes there was a farmhouse in the distance but often it appeared as if they were being dropped off in the middle of nowhere. The evening on the boat was a very relaxing combination of the low drone of the engine and listening to the Guarani speak and sing songs as the sun set. I really enjoyed seeing bats swoop down and eat mosquitoes and other insects that were flying near the surface of the water at dusk. This has definately been one of the most fantastic moments of the trip to date. Hopefully I will find the next boat that will take me over three days out of Conception further north to the Brazilian Border and into the Pantanal. For the moment, I am trying to get a straight answer about getting a boat out of Bahia Negra. If there are no boats following on that will take me I will have to spend three days going back down the river to find another hot dusty road that will let me continue northward to Corumba.

Posted by gwendal at August 5, 2004 01:34 PM