Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Sept 12-15, 2000: Asuncion, Paraguay
Monday, Sept. 25, 2000 in Sucre, Bolivia.
Sucre for a few days...then Potosi and Uyuni if possible. Blockades and political situation here make things difficult, I may need to fly out of the country...if anyone is about to travel to Bolivia...delay your trip for the moment.
September 12, 2000 (Tuesday)-
Kissed Luciana goodbye in the morning as she went to work at 6am for another 24 hour shift. Felt very sad that I would not see her again for another month and a half...but knew it was necessary...neither of us wanted me to have any regrets about my travels...so I needed to hit the road and log some more miles...back on the road again.
Finished watching a movie, called The Hospital with George C. Scott...not the best movie I've ever seen, but not the worst either by any means. I sent a couple of e-mails to the parents so they would have some faint trail of where I was in the world...smile. Also wrote a couple of notes to Luciana who I will miss terribly.
Said goodbye to Fabiana and Ricardo, strapped on the backpack, and headed out. Caught a bus to the metro...took the metro to the large bus station called Tiete and started to look for a way to head for Paraguay. I had thought about going back to Foz do Iguazu and staying at my favorite hostel (Hostel Paudimar in Foz), but decided I'd do well to not settle into old habits and to try something new...so I bought a ticket for Cuidad del Este, Paraguay. Now, you may not know it, but this is not so far from Foz...actually just across the border (river), but it is still a place I have not visited.
It was noon and the bus left Sao Paulo at 6pm...so I had some time to kill...good thing I had brought some good books. I started to read the Brazilian classic book, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by famed Brazilian author Jorge Amado. I had wanted to read it for over 8 months now, but had not been able to find a copy in English. But, I had just found and bought a copy a few days earlier on Avenida Paulista. I had just seen the movie (as I mentioned in my last journal) after buying the book but before reading it. Note: The movie is set in Illheus, but is shot in the lovely town of Paraty which I had visited with my friend Andrea in January. Anyway, I had looked forward to reading this book for a long time and finally had the perfect opportunity...bus stations and bus riding.
I started reading waiting for the bus departure and continued after I was onboard and headed towards the Paraguayan border, and until I fell asleep onboard.
September 13, 2000 (Wednesday)-
Woke on the Sao Paulo to Cuidad del Este bus. Continued to read Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado...a real page turner! Finished the book just before the border with Paraguay. I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. Full of passion, charm and wit...the book tells the tale of a simple girl from the farm country coming to the ¨big town¨ of Illheus and ends up as a renowned cook in the town that is being shaped by the booming cacao industry...and her innocent and unconscious fight to remain a simple country girl.
Anyway, we changed busses in Foz do Iguazu before continuing on to Cuidad del Este, Paraguay. At the border, we got out to have our passports stamped by Brazilian customs on one end of the bridge then by Paraguayan customs on the other end of the bridge...I guess the bridge itself is some sort of non-territorial jurisdiction. Anyway, I got back onboard the bus figuring that it would go to a bus station in Cuidad del Este...
And I waited for the station...and waited...and waited...now, I had heard that the station was outside the city center a little ways...but soon I suspected that we weren't really going to the station...but rather, continuing onwards to the bus´ ultimate destination, Asuncion, Paraguay.
Well, I had kind of thought this might happen, and just left it up to fate. Cuidad del Este is known as a cheap marketplace border town that caters to the Argentinean and Brazilian crowds that flock across the bridge to buy cheaper goods...it is considered a shoppers paradise or hell depending on your viewpoint. Anyway, I figured I could miss this destination without much of a second thought...not to mention that getting the additional ride to Asuncion was saving me 20 Reals if I had paid to go to Asuncion. NOTE TO TRAVELERS: I have found it common that the busses in Brazil charge for tickets based on mileage to each of the towns on the route...thus the farthest town is the most expensive...but I have NEVER had a bus attendant check a bus ticket after I boarded...I do not know the penalties if caught paying for a short destination and riding until the farthest destination...but the excuse of ¨I slept through my stop¨ is certainly plausible...and I've heard of many people saving traveling money by paying for the short trip and taking the long ride...good luck to you if you try it...I did not mean to us it to get me to Asuncion...but I'm not complaining either.
Upon arrival in Asuncion, I changed some money and used a bus to head to town. Checked into a hotel...went out and saw the city (in about 2 hours), walked around looking for interesting sights...returned to my hotel disappointed. Sleep.
September 14, 2000 (Thursday)-
Got up, had breakfast at the hotel, packed and headed to the bus station. I figured that I had basically seen enough of Paraguay to decide that I should go to Bolivia. Paraguay is simply not much to see or, as goes the expression, "Nothing to write home about."
At the bus station, I bought a ticket for the 6pm bus to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Then I stored my bag at the bus station while I took a local bus to the one thing that Paraguay DOES have going for it...the beautiful sewing designs and patterns made in the nearby town of Itagua.
In Itagua, they make those little "doylie" (sp?) like things that are beautiful lace/patterned table covers and the like...hard to explain, but they are really nice. Anyway, it is what is handmade and very well done here in Paraguay...and further...it is small and easy to pack in a backpack or to mail...smile...so I was sold on the concept. I went to many stores and shopped around for awhile...
Returned to Asuncion bus station, only to find that my bus to Santa Cruz was delayed by a day due to rains in the Chaco Region of Paraguay...
Met Richard/UK at bus station. We took the bus back to the city center and went to a hotel and checked in...went had dinner.
Back to the hotel and met Christy/UK (who Richard had met previously) who was sick...agreed to go out later after she napped. Richard and I headed to the Internet Cafe...I told him to bring his guitar. Used the internet for awhile. After we were done, we started talking to the lady running the place and a couple of her friends. One of the guys was a singer-musician. They asked Richard to play a couple of songs. Richard obliged the request, and then the Paraguayan guy sang a few songs as well...it was great.
Returned to the hotel and picked up Christy and we headed out to the Britannia Pub. It was the 10th anniversary of the Pub and lots of people were in costume for the event. We settled in and had some drinks food and conversation...a very nice evening. Later we went to another club and played cut-throat pool. Headed back to the hotel and crashed.
September 15, 2000 (Friday):
Woke...showered...packed...used the internet...walked around with Richard and visited all the ¨Highlights¨ of Asuncion in about half an hour. Again visited the Heroes Memorial (which is patterned after Napoleon's Tomb in Les Invaledes in Paris), Legislature, and Palacio Nacional. We had lunch at an INCREDIBLE old style diner which had a long curving counter that seated probably 50 people with the waitresses serving soup to everyone! I had the awesome fish soup and Richard had the spectacular chicken soup...truly heightened our appreciation of Paraguay considerably. That was topped with a delicious bowl of strawberries covered with sugar and cream...mmmmmm. Absolutely stuffed, we staggered back to the hotel. Richard grabbed his bag and took a bus to the airport for his flight to Santa Cruz. I wandered around Asuncion a little more and used the internet before heading to the Bus Station for my bus to Santa Cruz (much slower but much cheaper than an airplane).
At the bus station, I presented myself to my bus company and then we (the passengers) were told to follow one of the employees. We walked about 3 blocks away from the bus terminal to find our bus awaiting. Hmmmm...I think I know now why we had to walk away from the bus terminal...the bus probably wouldn't have been allowed on the lot! It was in a sad state of bad-repair. It was missing it's entire front bumper, air-conditioning, any semblance of cleanliness, bathroom, or any hint of comfort. The only thing going for the trip was that there were only 15 passengers for this journey so there were lots of empty seats. They worked on the engine for about 45 minutes while we waited and the bus reeked of gasoline as we were told that our departure time had arrived!
As I boarded, one of the employees said that if I needed to go to the bathroom just ask the driver and he would stop...not exactly luxury...but an adventure none-the-less. I had been advised to have some water with me incase the bus broke down in the Chaco Region (dry-scrub region of Paraguay and Bolivia)...so I bought a 2 gallon jug of water for the trip. As I mentioned, the floor needed cleaning, but I had not expected to contribute my 2 gallons of water before we left town to the job! The bus´ shocks, or rather lack of shocks, magnified every bump and turn as we were departing town. Somewhere along the way, my jug of water became dislodged from the overhead compartment and crashed to the floor and broke open...ahhhh...it was going to be a great trip! Everyone picked their stuff off the floor...and we headed out of town...towards Bolivia...hoping that our bus would make it.
Doug - The Texas Nomad