Thursday, April 10, 2014

Paraguay across the Trans Chaco (March 2014)

Entering into Paraguay across the mighty Iguazu River into Ciudad del Este requires some patience and making sure you look after your own paperwork requirements.  This border doesn’t feel like a border with the thoroughfare of people moving through with the majority not going into migracion or the aduana.   We managed to find the migracion office easy, but locating the aduana required the help of an official leading us up the hill at the back to the office. 
With all paperwork in tow we navigated through the crazy tax free shopping area bumping into a few motorbike taxis and dodging the parking attendees running at you to get your attention.  We had decided to move through Paraguay quite quickly not diverting down to Encarnacion, so our first stop in Paraguay was with Walter who we had met at the HU meeting.  The main road was pleasant enough, and we passed mostly agricultural land with a few towns along the way. 
It was great to see Walter again and his hostal “El Quincho Pora” in the town of Oviedo is a fantastic stop over for overlanders. We spent the evening exchanging travel stories and drinking some beer, and were enthralled listening to Walters travels through the Amazonia in his custom citroen which he installed another engine into to transform it into a 4x4 !
Nick and Walter checking directions !

Walters custom citroen 4x4

Amazinian grapefruit, MASIVE !!

Nick and Walter the legend !
 We said our goodbyes to Walter and headed off to the capital city  Asuncion.  The traffic started about 20km outside of town, stop start seemed to go on forever, and we were lucky to by chance pass the Honda dealership where we stopped in looking for air filters.  Unfortunately they did not have and recommended we try in the town of Loma Plata on our way to Bolivia. After driving around for hours looking for the hostal recommended by Walter with no luck we found a nice little place to stay for the night with a small sign outside “Pension Familiar”.  It was only when we logged onto their internet that we found that it was actually the place we had been looking for: Pension da Silva!! That evening we took a walk around town and passed what we think was the presidential palace with some amazing lights, there are a lot of historical buildings in Asuncion and the town has a lot of character. While walking around town the next day we saw a leather shop that had some sheep skins for sale and we were sold !! No more sore backsides for sure, we spent the afternoon cutting and mounting our sheep skins onto the bikes and hoping that the rain would pass!
 The straight drive across Paraguay was at times quiet hypnotic and the lack of hills and corners quite something after the mountainous stretches we had done in Brazil.  It was getting late so we were looking for a place to camp along side the road but everywhere we stopped was infested with mosquitos due to the swamp lands of the Chaco so we decided to push onto Lomo Plata.  Arriving on a Sunday afternoon the town was quiet, and we located the Honda shop to visit in the morning.  We found a nice little hospedaje for the night which had aircon a relief because it was boiling hot even in the evenings, and opening a window wasn’t possible with the amount of mosquitoes in town too!
First thing in the morning we headed off to the Honda shop to get our air filters, and the gentleman informed us they did not have any… we started to think it was cause the bikes are very new and no one has done the mileage we have done yet !! Any how he made some calls and in 15 minutes our new air filters arrived for us !!
 So we headed off on the trans chaco route to Bolivia. We had been warned that the road gets rather bad with “some” pot holes WELL some of these pot holes were big enough to loose a small truck in I tell you !! It was an interesting drive dodging pot holes hitting soft sand and trying to aim for the little bits of tarmac that were left on the road !! We filled up with fuel, exchanged money with a local trucker at a petrol station and went to migracion in Mariscal where we got stamped out of Paraguay.  Then we carried on along the Trans Chaco pot hole mine field !.

one of the smaller potholes !!

Fuel station !

ah we miss the KLR's !!!

The drive was pretty slow so we arrived at the customs for the bikes in the dark.  Using a torch to shine on the computers we got all the paper work done so the bikes were cleared out of Paraguay and into Bolivia.  However, migracion for Bolivia was another 180km further down the road, so we camped the night outside customs.  We met a very friendly Colombian chap who was backpacking with his friends from Colombia to Argentina.  They had unfortunately missed the migracion out of Bolivia, and had been trying for the past 2 days to get a lift back to the migracion.  Poor guys had to somehow hitch 360km (the return trip) just for a stamp in their passport.  Lucky we had done our research and made sure we were stamped out of Paraguay at Mariscal, otherwise we would have been in the same position. Tomorrow we enter Bolivia…

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