PARAGUAY: 29.07. - 03.08.2007

Route: Ciudad del Este, Bella Vista, Encarnacion

Distanz: 300 Km     Höhenmeter: 3030m

Preface: Although we stayed just a couple of days in Paraguay we enjoyed our visit very much. There is nothing really special to see in Paraguay and also the landscape in the southeast was not really special, but the people here were extraordinary friendly! In the beginnign we were a bit sceptic about Paraguay (our guidebook wasn't to positive about Paraguay), but this chaged quickly,  thanks to the friendly people. We again learned, that you schould only believe your own experience. To be on the save side we once slept next to a police checkpoint and once at a petrol station, but this was probably a bit overcautious. We especially enjoyed the fact that the farmers didn't fence in everything, which gave us the feeling of more freedom compared to Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.

Route: Ciudad del Este, Bella Vista, Encarnacion

Distance: 300 Km     Ascent: 3030m


Ciudad del Este: Ciudad del Este is a heaven for everybody who loves shoppiing (especially for consumer electronics) and for everybody else ist's quite a nightmare! Half ot the town is a big maizelike mess of streetstalls, small confusing shopping malls, street vendors, money changers, ... and we fell a little bit like being back in Asia. For taxreasons electronic goods are pretty cheap here, and so there are busloads of tourists from Brasil and Argetnina here to purchase one of the bargains. We arrived on Sunday evening, and asking a policeman for an office where we could change some money, he just calls the next street moneychanger who are around in abundance. We don't feel really good about this and decide to wait until Monday for the banks to open. We planned to purchase a GPS for safer navigaion throug the mountaisn of Bolivia, but as we've been warned that many of the electronic good are faked (they look fine from outside, but they don't work), we decide to keep on travelling "old style" with a compass.

Radio Interview: We are just about to roll into Thomas Romero Pereira, when two guys on their small motorbikes, who appear to be reporters from a radiostation, are stopping us. Normally the interviews here in Southamerika are are pretty short and superficial, but this time they ask us nerarly every detail of our trip. We are questioned for about 30 minutes until the guys are finally satisfied. The way how they make the interviews is quite interesting, because I heard the questions of the moderator from the radiostation via a normal radio (plugged into my ear). While one radiostation is using a moblieform to transmitt my answers to the radiostation the other one is using a walky talky. Finally we hit the road again, but when we stopped to do some shopping, the owner of a motorbike shop came out to give us two mate cups as a prestent (hehadheardteh interview). And even 10 Km further south people who have heard the interview stopped us to take a photo.
Poor huts: As quite often in poorer countires the gap between the rich and the poor is also quite big in Paraguay. Very seldom on our whole trip, and certainly not in Southamerica so far,  have we seen so many big  luxury cars (like Mercedes) as here in Paraguay. But on the other hand we also haven't seen for a loong loong time this kind of poor huts which are only covered by a piece of plastic. The people here get their water out of a whole in the ground and the only thing we saw in abundance where children who, unfortunately will probably haveto face the same hard life as their parents
Mate Trees: The Mate tea is made out of the leafes of a tree with the botanical name Ilex Paraguayensis . Because it's easier to harvest the trees a cut like bushes. The first harvest is possible after 7 years. Instead of just picking the leafes the whole branch is riped of the tree, but later, when the leaves are dry and cut to pieces, all the big wooden parts are removed.
Mate Transporter: A whole truck of mate leafes on its way to the fabrik.
Mate Pajarito: In Bella Vista we visited a company producing Yerba Mate and we were quite surprised to learn thad the company was owned and run by German decendends. That way we were luky to get a tour through the company in German. Although the Mate is not fermented it has more coffein than tea although less than coffe. Besides the traditional powder, the Mate is nowadays also available in teabags or even as an instant powder. Unfortunately the Instant Mate destroys the social aspect of drinking Mate. Normally the Mate is prepared in one cup and shared with everybody around. We especially enjoyed very much the social aspect of drinking Mate: everybody sits together and while the Mate is making it's round, there is heaps of time to talk to each other. It's a time not only to share some tea but also a time to share ones experiences and even ones sorrows. Drinking Mate is something unusual in our busy times, but probably the better solution than running to a Psychiater.with every small problem.
Sleepinga a petrol station: After we had finished our tour through the Mate company it was already too late to keep on cycling and so we asked at the petrol station in Bella Vista if we cold pitch up our tent here. We got a nice spot behind the station and while preparing our dinner the children of a nearby bakery come to bring us some Chipa (a cheese filled bread). We had a niece conversation with the kids and before leaving  they took a photo of us with their mobilephone. Half an hour later they returned with more Chipas and a print out of the photo!

Jesuits in Southamerica: In 1609 the first Jesuits arrived in Southamerica and constructed their first Missions in Brasil. 1627 they were attacked by slavehunters and so 10000 Jesuits fled southwards with all their belongings on boats down the river Parana. Finally the setteled down again on the Rio Parana 700 Km downstream. Today it's possible to visit the ruins of their missions in Paraguay, Brasil and Argerntina. The Jesuits were stricly organized and lived from farming. They were so successfull, that they became pretty powerfull which made them many enemies from the Spanisch Crown to the wealthy landowners. After the Spanish had finally setteled the dispute about the frontiers with Portugal in Southamerica, all Jesuites were expelled from Southamerica on order of King Carlos III. 2000 were shipped to Italy, but there was no information in our guidebook what happened to the rest! The propperty of the Jesuits was sold in auktions and their scools were taken over from the Franziskaner and Dominikaner.

Jesuit Mission Trinidad: We visited the remains of a former Mission in the South of Paraguay, and although pretty much destroyed it is still possible to recognize their former grace. Thr Mission is now a UNESCO world heritage site, but unfortunately nothing is done to protect the ruins. The mission was origianlly constructed in 1706 and at least the church is now partially reconstructed. But except for the original floor and the pulpit there is not much more to admire. Probably some of the sorrunding villages have been constructed with the missing stones
Departure: We already have our departure stamp when one of the border officals tells us, that we are not allowed to cross the bridge to Argentina with our bicycles. The official is pretty unfriendly (so far the only unfriendly person in Paraguay) an adds: "If you thing you can cross the bridge, just try it!" Finally a young man is comming for our aid and brings me to the post of the Argentine Gendameria which is around the corner. The friendly Argentinian official radios his collegues on the other side of the bridge and confirms, that we are not allowed to cross the bridge on our bikes (athough he personally believes as well that this is ridiculus).Finally he is coming with us and stops a truck for us. We and our bikes are loaded onto the truck, but the truckdrive must have seen too much Formula1, because due to his agressive driving we nearly fell twice from the truck on the first 200m, but fortunately we cross the birdge savely.



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