The day I…was a stranger in Paraguay. Arrival in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.
A bit of a change from the normal here on this post. This is an article I wrote for a travel magazine once which was never published and until now hasn’t seen the light of day. This was my introduction into Paraguay, the day I…was a stranger in Paraguay! This article is reproduced here in it’s entirety so I make no apologies for the introduction!
The lonesome bus journey from Ciudad del Este to Asuncion made me chirpy in Paraguay.
Who am I? I am a travelling Northern Irishman with a passion for people, culture, places, beer and football. Sometimes all at the same time. And rarely without a sensible time frame. Which can at times be unhealthy. I first viewed the world from a football down in the local park, yet by the age of 16 I knew I wasn’t going to be a footballer, I only wanted to be a traveller. I know it’s not a profession, but it is an obsession. My ventures have taken me to various corners of the globe so far. From milking cows in rural Colombia to pouring beers in a local pub in Australia to attending Apple’s PR events in the UK to swimming in Antarctica, I’ve lived a few of my childhood dreams. I visited every continent by the age of 30, often changing countries more easily than changing underwear. Most of the time just for the sake of it, or the love of it. I write frequently and emotionally about my journeys on this round ball we live on. I mean we’re just people on a planet! Is there anything else to do? Travelling is my love affair. It comes with emotional and physical cargo. But I don’t do break ups.
Arrival at the non-descript, drab bus station in Asuncion. I was inspired.
When your wandering heart leads you to a derelict, non-descript, un-used bus station in the middle of nowhere on a quiet muddy Sunday night, you know something special is ahead. There I was, lonesome, lonely and alone all with their own individual meanings, in Paraguay. I was chirpy. Perhaps it was the lady in Ciudad del Este who poured me a cold lager while waiting for my bus. I needed that beer. Perhaps it was the crazy bus driver on the Brazil to Paraguay border. He was the one who veered into a ditch, shouted out obscenities to local police officers and yelled “Gringo” at me as I lumped my heavy bags off his bus, dumped shyly into a busy crowd. I was only trying to get my passport stamped on the border! Perhaps it was the lady who bashed into me while attempting to breastfeed her 2 year old son in broad daylight on the hectic streets of Ciudad Del Este. Nestled on the Brazilian border, this city incites no love affairs. Yet I can’t say anything bad about the place. Perhaps I didn’t know why I was chirpy.
Getting drunk in Asuncion, Paraguay and LOVING it.
What was my excuse for being alone in Paraguay anyway? I didn’t have one. I didn’t need one, and nor did I want one. I was just there “to see what was happening”. An e-mail confirmation I received in a hostel in Argentina had me intrigued by Asuncion. Asuncion, Paraguay’s well populated but bewilderingly unknown capital city lends itself to you with an odd kind of charm. What is it? It’s the fact that it’s not touristy. While your average backpacker heads for Rio or Buenos Aires, I picked Asuncion. You’ll never know what anywhere is like if you don’t go there. So with a backpack, a Spanish phrasebook and a hunger for culture, I arrived safely, happily and curiously in deepest, darkest Asuncion.
A rural bus journey was my introduction to Paraguay. A proud, adorable country.
My first views of the city were from a bumpy bus. We passed by markets of meat and fruit. Nobody was buying anything. The rain would explain it. The driver pumped up the music decibels much to the customers amusement. It was a dreary day in a dull environment yet the entire bus was in good spirits. I wondered what on earth they’d been drinking. A few stops later and I dragged my bags off the bus in the downtown. You could hear a pin drop. It was that quiet. A sleeping capital rather than a quiet one. That night in Asuncion, I was out in the local bars, finding out what the locals had been drinking. As one local told me “We are drinking from the fountain of youth. Welcome to Paraguay!” I wasn’t sure what startled me more – the meaning of his sentence or the fact he said it in perfect English. Either way I was in Paraguay. But I felt like I was no longer alone. The journey continues…
A night out in Asuncion with Pawel and Gregory my two new travel buddies!
A few of my videos from Paraguay, I’m longing to return to the country:
Border bus to Ciudad del Este:
Having a beer at Ciudad del Este bus station:
Amazing bus journey from Ciudad del Este to Asuncion in Paraguay: