• 15 January 2018

Paraguay a unique country in South America

Paraguay a unique country in South America

Paraguay a unique country in South America 1024 683 Gürkan Genç

When I came to the border gate on Brazil side, I got pity for Namık Abi (elder brother in Turkish). There was really a heavy traffic. Dude, he’ll stew in this dress. If you drive a motorcycle than you are in trouble, haha. Afterwards I learned that it took one and a half hour for Namık abi to pass the border which I passed only in 5 minutes. Anyway, I passed the border and there wasn’t any problem on Paraguayan side.

The name of the city near the border is Ciudad Del Este meaning the city on the east. That is, it doesn’t have a name. Someone said “Dude, there is a town there on the east, well you’ll go there” once and its name become “city on the east” in time. Dude, it is so crowded. This is the country where I can buy electronics the cheapest way in South America. Both sides are filled with electronics selling stores. You can find any brand you want. Well, all brands but what percentage of them are original? I was told that in Puerto Natales on Chilean Patagonia that I can find cheap electronic devices, it was the period when I had lost my electronic devices due to an accident. Well, they were cheap but all old models. In this city on the east you can find new models. Since I wasn’t going to buy any electronic devices or so, I entered a side street to escape the heavy traffic and headed towards south. I don’t have any plans for Paraguay as usual, I’ll ride up and down traversing the country zigzagging.

One thing that caught my attention was volleyball courts in every village house or park area. I haven’t seen this in the other South American countries before. If so many people were playing volleyball, I thought this country must be successful in volleyball sports. I researched on internet, it was not so. Generally, while women prefer to play volleyball in the courts, men throw the ball to the other side of the net by foot or head kick.

As all the other South American countries I have traveled in so far, also in this country Turkish TV-series are very popular. The people like those series and Turkish men a lot. There were girls running after me seeing my blond beard and blue eyes, breast hair, sweaty muscular body and tight buttocks…. TURCOO TURCOOO.. I’m just kidding, haha. People really like us in this country.

One day, I was on the road towards a small town. Music in full blast was coming from somewhere hidden. I turned my bicycle towards that direction. Turned out to be a picnic area! People were barbecuing, swimming in the river, playing volleyball. They got surprised seeing me. Afterwards, they gave me food and drinks. Nobody was speaking English and I only broken Spanish. Dude, communication at stone age level but no problem we got along well.

They said: “Don’t go, stay, you can camp here”, I said: “Why not”. They showed me the place, it was a stage. Haha, I was waiting for years for this moment to come. For the last 8 years I really had pitched my tent at interesting places but not on a stage. I spent the night on Ester and Roberto’s place. Besides this one occasion I stayed at gas stations till I came down to south. Almost all stations had WIFI and grocery.

I came to southern region and said: Let’s go to see the river bank between Argentine and Paraguay. The view made my jaw drop. The river bank was a real beach. Well, I must admit that I’d never read or heard from the travelers who visited this region the presence of such a place.

In this city called Encarnacion, there is a perfect beach. In the evening after 5 p.m. the beach becomes incredibly crowded. The temperature of the water is good to chill down. It is not very deep, rather shallow. The view is very nice. Due to sand, sun, aquatic environment, the prices are a bit above the Paraguayan normal prices. The lowest hostel prices are 14 USD. Well, I stayed at Maui Waui a cheap hostel but would not recommend it.  I must admit that it seems like the owner has opened this place just to have one-night stands with the customers. Also, the prices of rooms for 4 or 10 people are the same. Dude, other full of crap happened but anyway. Indeed, I was thinking to exit the first moment I entered the hostel, but someone came to me at the reception:

  • Hi abi (elderly brother in Turkish), are you Turk?
  • Wow! Who are you dude?

Because of this I decided to stay. His name was Faruk a geography teacher. Bag and baggage, he came to South America. Within the first hour he got off the plane his cell phone had been stolen. The only language he knew was English. So and so, he had managed to come to this place. In state of necessity, he learned Spanish. He was staying for free at the hostel and producing things like tables, wardrobes from old pallets. He was also a carpenter. So, I decided to stay at this hostel. After a couple of days, Namik abi sent a message: “I’m coming”. I arranged the berth bed below mine. Well, since Namik abi was coming I decided to stay for the carnival. Normally I wouldn’t stay but just to have some conversation. It turned out to be a good decision. When Namik abi arrived, we went to one of the restaurants at the beach for couple of nights and had long conversations.  At the other side of the river were tall buildings of Argentine. For long time I hadn’t seen such a view reminding me Istanbul. Also, Namik abi admitted: “You are right Gurkan, looks amazing”. It may not excite such a feeling in others, but we were for such a long time away from our country. We listened to Turkish music watching the view for a long time.

Many of the iconic spots in South America were never at the top of my where to go list. I never said “wow, I must definitely visit this place” for many iconic spots in Patagonia, carnival in Brazil, statue of Jesus or the famous beaches of Brazil. South America is for me Bolivia, Peru and the Incas. All the highest passes in the world were to be crossed by my iron horse and the territories of Incas were to be visited no matter where ever located. Just like I visited the antique cities in Turkey with the music I always listen riding on bike, I had to visit those places and to close my eyes to go back to that period. Therefore, carnivals are not an attraction for me. If I happen to coincide with a carnival, I go but don’t go to a famous touristic place just for a carnival. My choice would be rural roads and the villages those roads go to.

In short, we couldn’t attend the carnival in that town. While the weather was mostly sunny during the week, that day of it rained all the day through and in the end the carnival was cancelled.  We really wanted to watch a carnival with Namik abi. It was postponed to the next week, but it had also rained that weekend. This carnival is held every second week of January in Encarnacion in Paraguay and it is hard to find a place in the hostels during that time.

My friend Anabell leaving in Encarnacion took me to the Trinidad ruins 50 km to the north of the city. Indeed, I thought to visit the ruins on the way coming to the town, but she told me that we would go there together. Who is Anabell? While riding towards Encarnacion she and her family saw me on the road and wanted me to invite for a dinner arriving in the city. I said: “I would be glad”.  I met the whole family at the dinner having a nice conversation and the next day we went to visit the Trinidad ruins.

These were the first historical ruins in South America which I visited in situ. A church built by the Jesuits belonging to Spanish Church at 1600s. The Spanish had massacred the indigenous in Argentine, Uruguay and Chile where it is hard to find natives.

Indigenous people are living only in Chiloe Island and nearby small islands in Chile but low in population. The number of people speaking the native language is very low in those countries I just have mentioned above. But at all official correspondences in Paraguay Guarini language is used and majority of the people speak this language but the rich. When you chat with the people in this country, they mention proudly: “I’m Guarani”. Well, I didn’t observe this in the other South American countries I’ve traveled in so far (Chile, Argentine, Uruguay, Brazil). I have traveled in all corners of Paraguay zigzagging all over the country; everybody says: “I’m Guarani” and speak this language.

Well, those Jesuits had established the mission (reduction) arriving in this region. This region of Paraguay was outside the main colonial area of the Spanish and therefore they didn’t pay much attention to this region. In those missions established during 1600-1750 at least 3000 indigenous were educated at one time. They learned tradecraft and Christianity. Whereas, the Spanish during the colonial era either massacred or enslaved the natives in other areas of South America. While natives had been sent as slaves to Europe, things happened in a different way in this area. It could be due to the mines and agricultural fields in this region which required a large amount of muscle force. Within 100 years the people in this region achieved a high level in terms of knowledge, education and tradecrafts and with the high level of productivity the income of the mission had increased tremendously in this region. At the beginning of 18th century the Spanish king ordered the missions to be abandoned within a time frame. The missions decreased gradually their educations till the mid of 18th century. At the beginning of 19th century the people leaving in nearby villages displaced the cut stones from this huge area for constructing their own houses. In time the wooden parts decayed, and the churches have become ruins. This is the short history of this area. The politics followed in this region formed the basis for the use of the native language as the official language of Paraguay spoken by people presently.

In the regions or at the settlements of Germans who immigrated during 1880s and after First World War, there are only few people speaking the Guarani language. The situation of German immigrants living in this northern region is even more interesting. Those Germans first had immigrated to Russia during the era of Catherina to perform their religions but after communism they were among the worst treated people and at the end have settled in the north of Paraguay. The elderly people still speak a kind of broken German but among the new generation only few people speak German. I suppose this is related to the lack of interest in learning their mother tongue. I didn’t go to the north but was informed about this by a German traveler who visited this region whom I met at the hostel I was staying (I forgot her name).

While traveling north towards the capital city, it is possible to see missions and churches still in charge. I strolled around in those little towns in the night, they are very safe. Even, one night while looking for a restaurant, I ate the meat barbecued on the middle of the street.

Well, talking about meat, Argentine and Uruguay are ambitious in terms of quality meat in the region. But the meat I ate in Paraguay throughout my travel was incredibly delicious. Also, Paraguay is quite good in terms of meet, if gourmets would visit this country, they might admit that the meat is much more delicious compared to that in Argentine or Uruguay.

By the way, Selcuk from Turkey who was establishing chicken farms in Paraguay for long a time invited me to the village he was living in. He wasn’t there at the time I arrived in the village, but I could stay and rest in his place for two nights. He caught me on the road just before arriving in the capital city and had a small talk.

While riding towards the capital city I received a massage: “Abi, I’m Semih, 20 years old. I’m staying at Eric’s apartment from Couchsurfing in Asuncion, he is also a member of Warmshowers. I would like to meet you if you’ll come over”. I had organized a place to stay in Asuncion but changed my mind and went to meet Eric and Semih. Semih was the youngest Turkish traveler I met so far. Just after graduation he started to travel in South America and is going to travel for the next few years.

Asuncion the capital city of Paraguay is somewhat different than the capitals of Chile and Uruguay. Throughout the country it is possible to see wood and tin houses/shelters where the poor live in certain areas. In the capital there are 1 or 2 persons shelters built right in front of the governmental buildings. This was an astonishing scene, but I didn’t take any photos of the people not to bother the people. Only after forbidding the Americans and Europeans to use the resources of the country unlimitedly, Paraguay will be able to overcome these problems. It is not normal for a country of 7 million population exporting that much of meat and not able to feed and support for its citizens.

From the capital city to the Argentinean border there is a direct ferryboat service but located at the south of the city. On the northwest side of the city there is another port, Asuncion Port. Well, I have added on Ioverlander app.  this place a bit to the west of this port. From this port you can cross to Chaco town at the other side. Doing so I escaped a truck traffic for about 42 km. The city on the Argentinean side is Clorinda.

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