The Global Wheeling Americas expedition rolls into Paraguay and enters country number three on this two wheeled intercontinental bicycle ride for change.
Week nine boasts a rather chilling CO2 reading, mechanical nightmares in the infamous Chaco and the blog comes to you from one of the remotest locations on the expedition to date, Filadelfia!
Iguaza Falls would mark the end of a natural chapter to the expedition, leaving Brazil and its rather treacherous “BR” freeways behind me, I ventured west across the border into Paraguay.
Instantly blown away by this jovial, landlocked gem of a country, my biggest challenge heading towards the capital was wrapping my head around a new currency, Guaraní. Becoming a millionaire over night was rather impressive stuff but learning how to spend it would be a different story entirely.
A solid three day ride from the border town of Cuidad del Este to Asuncion, 350 km’s to the west. Up to my usual antics of waking at sunrise, cycling till sunset and crawling into some random bush to pitch the tent (humble hilton) for the night. At first glance Paraguay seemed too good to be true, people were friendly, and I was a millionaire…
By day two on Paraguayan soil it became rather clear that I was now dealing with an entirely different beast, heat! The day I rolled into the capital was 43 degrees and as jovial as it may be this country packs a serious punch in the climate department.
The capital Asuncion sits on the banks of the Paraguay River that divides the country into two halves, the Oriental in the east and the Chaco in the west. The latter of the two, home to less than 2% of the country’s population and the next phase of the expedition. The Chaco is notorious for sweltering heat and long distances between small villages, a true test for a man travelling solo on a bicycle.
I set up base camp in Asuncion for a couple of days sourcing information on the Chaco. The locals at Paraguay’s tourist information office highly recommending against anyone entering the Chaco alone or without a guide or vehicle support. Naturally the rebel inside me jumping with joy at the opportunity to pip myself against a new challenge, I’d conquered the Sahara, how hard could it be?
Mechanical headaches plagued the first 150 km’s into the Chaco, breaking my handlebar bag and losing two of my spare inner tubes due to faulty valves. Adding immense pressure as spares would only be available again once I reached Santa Cruz in Bolivia in 1400 km’s, a worrying thought considering the scarcity of infrastructure and water in the region. Refusing to go backwards, I muddled on armed with luck alone.
With daily temperatures well over 40 degrees and nowhere to hide, the Chaco demands 100% dedication to be able to conquer successfully and after ironing out some of the initial headaches with cable ties and duct tape I continued to venture north west. Coming across some rather peculiar wildlife en route the Chaco starts off extremely dense and lush and boasts an array of some outrageous animals from snakes and armadillos to large lizards and some unidentifiable bits and pieces I haven’t managed to wrap my head around just yet, see picture below and assist if you can !
I post this blog from roughly 500 km’s NW of the capital in Filadelfia, the largest town in the Paraguayan Chaco. Unfortunately it’s only going to get more dangerous from here as the road becomes gravel and unsealed whilst distances between villages grow even further as I continue towards the Bolivian border crossing.
And with 3504 carbon free km’s on the dial and the official CO2 reading having now broken half a ton (522 kg’s!) The expedition prepares to roll towards the Bolivian border. The dangers of snake bights or dehydration, two of my biggest worries as I continue into this sweltering desolate section of the expedition with less than optimal spares forced to camp in the wild.