I have found myself the wrong place to camp, resulting in an adventure though. After two nights of camping peacefully and baking bread, which I described into detail in this post, a surprise came at my tent door. Being back in Paraguay feels remarkable pleasant and the boredom of the Brazilian and Argentinean roads has been exchanged for Paraguayan people I find different, remarkable good-humored.
Sounds of nature may be like washing machines, dentist tools, men whistling in praise, chain saws even, but knowing they are not is enough, precious instead.
Having found myself a lovely, secluded and very atmospheric spot to camp, far off the main road and surrounded by pasture lands, I am rained in. I take advantage of the new rainy day off, as I slept badly that night: cows running past in large groups, their stomachs making loud shaking sounds. Bulls sniffle hard and horses galloping past did not exactly add to a calm balmy night in my sturdy abode.
The spot I’d chosen lays in a dip, a very noticeable, evident depression I had overlooked. That the ground I pitched my tent on was actually typical river ground, I had overlooked too.
That the rainy weather has caused lots of trouble, floods and closures of land in Argentina and Uruguay should have rung a bell. I am aware of the fact that a new night with rain might flood my spot but I hope this will happen after I leave. A sort of naive, dreamy character trait of me.
I go to bed lighthearted, the water level has already gone down with 50 centimeter, I am hopeful, tomorrow I can just walk out of here exactly as how I walked in.
Dreaming about tiny piglet, turning from one hurtful hipbone to the other less painful, I feel there’s water underneath my tent. Not just a bit, more resembling a water bed. Within less than a second I am fully awake. And instantly I start to pack! Upon opening my tent I am surrounded by mud-brown water. It’s flushing hard, raindrops continue to fall.
With bare feet, in my underwear and tank-top I rush about: within 10 minutes all is packed into the two back panniers. All the stuff in the vestibule is afloat, including the expensive Optimus stove. Barefooted I rush around, trapping into a torn while millions of mosquitoes stick to my wet skin. My sandals are already drifting, I catch one and manage to place all the stuff on a heap of earlier flooded twigs and branches.
It’s incredible how quick the mind works, and how smart it acts when it is needed. There is no time to ponder or doubt; action is required because the water level moves up in quick time: if I am not fast I lose stuff.
In fact, I work perfectly methodically, didn’t know I had it in me. I even sing all the while, slapping insects off of me.
The tent I loosen as last, hanging it on a sturdy branch. Placing the panniers in a tree. Losing a few pegs.
When all is in panniers and off the ground I have only lost 1 sandal and 1 bombilla, my favorite from Uruguay. I scrape the ground to find my bombilla and hear a voice saying: ‘Stop it Cindy, it’s just an iron straw, a metal straw to sip your Paraguayan tea, move out of here!’
Instantly I take the shortest route to drier land, opposite me, about 30 meters of water with a couple of deeper sections, crotch deep. Easy to pee while rushing about. I have trown my other sandal in the flow and am wearing my leather boots, the little open wounds from scratching the millions of mosquito bites with sand and Velcro, are rubbing, they hurt with each step. Though I can’t help feeling a bit like Chris Mc.Candless.
In 4 delivers all my stuff is on the other side. I am still about 300 meters away from the road and closed gate, but I can see the gate. With the bicycle as my next item to bring to dry ground, I set off. All land surrounding me is covered with water, all I am standing on is a slight elevation and I know this will not last long. Optimistic as always, I start. To end up entangled with waterlilies and endless straws underneath the surface of an actual pool.
I am aware of the absurdity of my situation, walking in underwear with not much elasticity left, leather boots and the slopes of decreased breast visible in the only garment I wear. All around me water is flowing, faster in deeper places. I am on the look-out for sudden crocodiles and snakes, you just never really know; that has been certainly true for today’s.
When I hit a bank, I slip. I fall when I step on sudden unevenness. Luckily not long ago I have patched up the 7 holes in the Ortlieb’s, and everything is secured with either plastic bags, Ziploc’s and hard-plastic boxes. The bags float when I fall, and I smile because I feel I am on a real adventure. I haven’t even had breakfast but my mood is in excellent state.
4 rounds of 300 meter, probably much more, closer to a 600 meter, has all my stuff at the fence, which is also partly under water. Past prickly plants, invisible trenches, branches, trees, over stones and currents. I waded through parts of thigh-deep water, each time carrying 10 kilograms, sloshing my legs against the currents. I do feel part of the G.I. Joe Adventure team.
Once over the fence, on the track, the beach-alike sand is loose, water flows on both sides and I walk the 2 kilometers to the asphalted route. By now, I am cold and I change my wet shirt for a rain jacket. Donned in a legging and soaked leather boots I have decided to head back to town.
It’s a huge thing for me, to go back. Even if that is only 4 kilometers. The thing is, I try to be self-reliant: I have done my laundry in a stream, I have taken a full body shower in that same stream, which was about a meter higher the next day, and flooded the day I got swept out. My food supply was perfectly adjusted to a 2 days/3 nights stay. I kept everything dry and got rested well. I am ready to move on towards Asunción, if not I need breakfast.
I am not sure whether my stove is working when it was doused under water for who know how long? There is no sunshine to dry my stuff on the road and the prospect to camp the following night with a tent rolled up in water is a bit demotivating. I feel a crybaby when I think of a hot shower and a place to dry my gear. I over think the two options over a few cups of Paraguayan coffee (Nescafe that is).
I eat two lomito’s, dry white bread with chewy cow meat, over think a bit more, ask for prices to stay the night, telling myself that this gathering of information is just curiosity. Then, of course, I see myself checking in… in a hotel next door where I check and repair all my gear, wash the tent and charge all electronics.
After more than one night, closer to three, as comfort is so soothing, I cycle on. On roads not crowded but narrow nevertheless. I am tired of looking through my rear view mirror to see what’s behind me, and I have to, will I not be shaved off the road. The southern access road to Asunción is very narrow and buses can not simply swift from one lane to another, as the road is packed, that much I learned in Nigeria when I was knocked off the bicycle.
The weather is building up to a hot summer and this happens with so much humidity that I look longingly at the locals, sipping téréré under their shady mango trees. I feel insane to cycle, as if I am on a quest. A personal one which I can’t remember the reason for?
Cloudy skies I now greet in a hearty welcome, that is, only when they bring rain. Rain promises coolness, also soppy fields and a bonus of mosquitoes.
My super comfortable Keen sandals are no more. Pastureland rain has flooded my sandals away. Cycling with slippers is hurting myself.
Repairing two punctures results in a third one when I misplace the inner tire, after 1.5 hours of trying and fitting and beating mosquitoes, sweat pouring out of me, I notice the Chinese inner tube can’t hold any more air. It’s life is done. As well as the cheese I got in my panniers to prepare the very late evening meal.
A 4 days sun-fried Paraguayan cheese with rice is making me sick and again I have to seek refuge at a hotel the next day.
Rest does the tummy good, next day I sail into Asunción, one of the easiest capitals to cycle into. Although I was done with more secondary though busy roads, trying to avoid the capital, I decided to go right into it, and be done with all roads that I do not like to cycle on!
Planning, something I don’t make use of, makes sense. I would not have been in the winter in Patagonia, neither would I have been in Chaco in summer, where I am heading to for the second time around. Planning would also have robbed me from the most interesting inner journeys as well as people I met and places I have been to, Patagonia and Chaco included.
Paraguay is a country resembling a tiny bit of India and even a slight bit of some West African countries. Yet the people are initially reserved, they may watch me in total non-understanding. I can’t even comprehend why I cycle these roads, there is really no point in cycling when there are cars, I feel. When people ask my motive, I can’t answer anymore.