Our journey can only start once we are reunited with the motorbike, so with pressed jaws, a backpack on my back and one in front, we set off in a city bus to the main bus station in Asunción. After a dull seven hour ride we are back in the capital of the Chaco, Filadelfia.
I feel a sense of not having achieved where I am now. Coming to Filadelfia twice before felt as a great thing, having cycled through harsh surroundings. Back than, I honored this town as a savior, like a thirst quenching water. By bus it is nothing. It’s annoying even. It’s not traveling! It is just lazying around. But I took into account, back in Spain, that our trip would only start once out of Paraguay by motorbike.
Seing back our Kenton motorbike, we realize how much bags we have, and how small the vehicle actually is. Since Geo bought the Chinese motorbike for himself, before we met, it is not meant to be a vehicle for two people including luggage, hauling not only far away distances but great altitudes too. We have to carry spare parts, water, extra jerrycans of gasoline, food, our tents and winter equipment. All our stuff is brought back to a minimum, yet extra racks have to be mounted to carry our gear. To have the option of extra racks attached is very unusual in Paraguay, no one knows how to bend steel into a particular shape, except here in the Mennonite community: Wiens.
So, before we can take off, I need to have some more patience. Though, the imaginary leash around my neck shuts tighter the longer we are not really moving. The few rides on the motorbike flurries up what once was and what will be and what I still have to wait for. At times it gets so boring, that I have to fight inside not to act like the kid I feel. But we need to wait, to have the carta verde ready, a sort of mandatory insurance for the vehicle.
Geo and I want to move! To know what this continent holds, is to become instantly impatient. This is Geo his second time around, but since he met me, he never saw more than Paraguay. This is our mutual discovery by motorbike in South America beyond Paraguay.
Filadelfia, however, is a nice town. It is the capital of the Chaco, where a large portion of the Mennonites life, flourish and only move forward.
We both feel at home and glad to be back. The boredom, nothingness and quietness are in fact soothing. Walking around we see no Halloween nonsense nor skulls, no dragons, no toy firearms (since Mennonites are pacifistic) and no graffiti. The supermarket plays no music, no one openly smokes cigarettes and it is quiet at 22.00. Fashion is no issue here. Make-up, tattoos and piercings neither. My beautiful ugly fashionable barefeet sandals I’d better not taken with me.
We are back in a sort of Germany from the ‘50. It looks old-fashioned and calm, but undercurrents play. When the pioneers came to Paraguay, they were anointed a patch of land, only to share with the native Indians, and under one promise: to make it profitable. They did, with assistance they imported steam engines, peanut press, cotton machines and much more, to produce dry bush land into something one may expect from Europeans. Machines, in my opinion, is reason for future trouble. The Amish never got into machines, since that does not go hand in hand with a Godly fashion. So, with machines came internet, and youngsters automatically arrive at rubbish (such as porn). Machines and economic growth brings inevitably stuff purists can do without. Now some of the priests are priest only on a Sunday, and the rest of the week the priest is not so much into God, as he needs to do business.
We camp in the garden of Marilyn and Gerd’s house in Filadelfia. The most interesting feature is the frog at night-time. The least exciting is lacking an own kitchen, or perhaps and own patch of land, since I am longing so much to be out in nature.
Temperatures rise to 45 degrees. I tag along with Geo’s running errands for the motorbike and try to seek quietness and rest. Although nearly everything is boring, I have not a moment of restful contemplation. In a moment of rebellion, someone needs to take a lead, and we move. Geo could not have agreed more and so we move to Gerd and Marilyn’s farm, Iparoma.
It is here where I met Geo while we were both Work-Away guests.
Instantly relief! Finally total quietness. Alone, while Geo runs from office to garage, making most of the opening hours to get things done. This quietness, in nature, though on a very big ranch, is pure balm to the soul. Gerd’s gaucho has left the premises and I take over his house, an indigenous style house with all the amenities one needs. Oh boy! Am I happy!
This is how I want to live, when I am not traveling. The ground is packed mud. There’s a fire pitch. A well. When I am settled in, a beautiful cat comes purring around me. Heavenly goodness, can it get better?
It feels good to walk on soil, the orchestra of birds around me, the known and even the unknown, the outhouse.
‘You really have an obsession with toilets’, Geo says. I am simply elated with an outhouse. Not the endless flush of water, the never ceasing cleaning of the ceramic pot, the smelly synthetic products to clean it. Camping, or living rather, and being away from conventional structures, makes me instantly leap with joy, intestines included. Constipation flushes as soon as I can sit in an outhouse! The joys of life!
I want to stay longer in this indigenous house, though I never enter the actual house. But traveling does not allow that. And I think that is the power of traveling, to let boredom and known not have a chance to rise.
Besides, to be back at the farm is -as it always seems to be- an illusion. It is not how it was 2 years before, only memories are left. All the rest has changed. For the better or the worse, I can not tell. I am not a Work-Away guest this time, solely a squatter. And that feels not too good. Time to leave.
A whole new experience comes to light with sitting immobile on the back of a motorbike. Our first travels together I did while I was tired of cycling, but now I am lacking physical movements big time.
However unbelievable, sitting on the back of a motorcycle is not less tiresome than riding a bicycle. To drive the same stretch, first on the bicycle and now on the motorbike, is a not to comprehend truth. How could I cycle these distances? I only now see how others must have seen me. ‘Are you crazy?’ and ‘Why?’ are very normal questions from my new point of view. Of course, the answer is, riding a bicycle makes a body and mind very strong. Constant activity provides more energy, especially when all is new and good still.
Distances in the Dry Chaco are long and utterly boring. What Geo drives in two days, I did in 6 stages. Ratio 1:6 nights along the road.
I suffered saddle soreness while cycling, and this issue still exist. We are driving many hours, 250 kilometers a day, only to get out of Paraguay. Geo and I are done with Paraguay, we have driven already a 10.000 kilometers a few years ago. Another issue is fear. I fear we fall, as we did so often on the earth tracks. Falling from a motorbike is painful, especially when not anticipated. I am totally depended on Geo, on his ability to stay upright, his chosen speed and his decision making.
I was always looking down on motor-riders, thinking: ‘What could possibly be so difficult about your trip? You just sit!’ or ‘Hard? Are you joking? You got a machine under your bum who does all the work for you!’ or ‘How very unadventurous to sit on a motorbike, especially for the poor lady in the back.’ Again, I realize how biased, prejudiced, contemptuously… and proud, I was.
A bicycle is not to compare with a motorbike. Just as maneuvering a 4 wheel vehicle through a desert not with walking through a forest. Just as the lifestyle of a scrap collector is not to compare with the style of living to a multi millionaire; both experience stress. Both got to endure hardships. All perspectives changes, depending the angle you look at it. A cyclist sees and experiences the world different than a motorcyclist.
I miss the freedom on a bicycle, to get off when I see a beautiful cactus or a flattened piece of roadkill. I lack the independence. I miss the boost it gives, until I realize it is partly an ego boost. When I come to see that the motorbike is one of the very few, if not only, modes of transport for this part of the world I can enjoy together with my husband, quite a few perspectives changes.
I still have the buzzing, sticking flies to every part of uncovered skin when we stop for a camp spot. I still have the comforting lack of so-called comfort and the terrible bad food. I also strongly feel that I do not want to cycle again, that mode of discovering is somehow over. I have many ‘things’ still, including a loving husband with whom to share it all! I think we need to find our ‘sweet spot’ together, and that journey starts in Bolivia…
November 2019. Route: Filadelfia – Mariscal Estigarribia – La Patria – Infante Rivarola
Here is a link to Geo his blogpost, German only.