Date of entry: 23 September 2018
Day 589: Adiós Argentina! Hola Paraguay! Country 28
Formosa, Argentina to Asuncion, Paraguay
Distance: 163 km (skate 55 km Hitchhike 108 km)
Cumulative distance: 19,701.3 km
Perked up to leave town, all set to enjoy insects and oven heat, in a sarcastic tone. My pushie suddenly became almost dead weight to push even though the road is paved. Is it my 15 litres water bank that was so heavy to push? I looked down to the left. Puncture! My left wheel suffered a puncture. Stopped by the roadside to replace the tube. My Schwab marathon wheel had never suffered a puncture since I bought them in Miami. This is the first time it ever happened. I always wondered when will I get a puncture. Now I know the answer. My last puncture was in Baja California Mexico, eons ago. Removed everything from my backpack to search for my wheel fixing equipments, spare tube, tire lever and pump. They were buried deep beneath the abyss since I never use them for long time. Fortunately I haven’t forgotten my ability to replace the inner tube. Barely left town when the puncture occurred. Returned back to town to replenish my spare inner tube. After several hardware shops, found a rare 16 inch tube. I pondered is it the leaning weight from slanted left side of pushie that caused the tube to burst as I inspected the tire, there seem it didn’t have any thorns. If so, I am in big trouble. Will have to constantly replace my tube and possible signs that pushie will crumple before the end of my trip.
Passed by the bus terminal, that is the sign. I have enough of this region. Burning hot, monotonous, boring landscape and the irritating insects. Only the friendly and generous people here make this place even tolerable. It is time to skip this place and grab a bus to Formosa.
At the bus terminal, a Colombian couple in bicycle alighted from the bus. Andres and his girlfriend had enough of the region as well. Heat and all. At least I don’t have to feel any guilt or shame in taking bus. Even cyclists couldn’t take this region. They were the rare cyclists I met in this region, cos cyclists would head straight to Patagonia rather than Chaco. Since they will be traveling up to Bolivia, I handed them my 100 Bolivianos, equivalent to 12 USD, as outside Bolivia, nobody accepted or changed them, no point hoarding it. Might as well give it to them for future use. It is time I do the giving.
Formosa is the capital of its name’s province. For the first time, I visited Carrefour, French chain Supermarket in South America. Bought more insect repellent, which is vital to my survival in humid Chaco region.
Scheduled 2 days to Paraguay, my 28th country. 135 km to Asuncion, capital of Paraguay. Planned to skate as far as I can for today, and finish the remaining the next day. My hotel breakfast in Formosa was pathetic. To think I paid 800 pesos for a room. Simply biscuits and tea. I could have woken up earlier to have my peanut butter sandwich instead of having to wait till 7.30 am for breakfast.
Set off at 8.30 am. Being Sunday, I had an easy exit out of Formosa. Went on highway 81 till the police checkpoint after 11 km. Police inspected my passport and bought it with him to the office for whatever reason. I sat down at the checkpoint waiting for my passport and chatted with other officers. 15 minutes later, I was cleared to continue. Left highway 81 to get on highway 11 to Paraguay. As usual, heat and direct headwind. Should have stuck to skating to my original route to Paraguay, at least I would only have crosswind. But I am glad to have headwind as it acts as a giant fan to cool me in 40 degree Celsius.
Settled under a giant tree for shade and cooked my simple quick instant noodles. Have to select my sitting ground cautiously cos I could be sitting on cactus. Jumped to the sky when I miss a spot and sat on prickly cactus.
After lunch, my nightmare began. The road works ripped off the top layer of asphalt, leaving me to rippled road. Skating rippled road was torturous, coupled with searing heart and headwind. For next 20 km, skated in this condition for 7-8 kmh. Imagine almost 3 hours of grinding on this road. I view it as playing MMORPG. You know where you have to grind the boring segment by killing hordes of monsters to level up and get to the interesting segment. Similar, after having fun in Altiplano, now I have to grind through Chaco region to get to my next interesting part, Iguazu water falls in Brazil. It is going to be a long grinding process.
Going at this rate, arriving in Paraguay next day seemed doubtful. I don’t know how long this rippled road condition goes for. I took my hourly snack break at 55 km. While eating, I thumbed up for a hitch whenever there was an occasional vehicle driving past. When all hope seemed lost, no cars was stopping for me. I sought to continue skating after finishing my snack. A white pickup like angels in chariot coming from opposite direction. The pickup did a U-turn. I asked Anicita and Marty if they could give me a lift to Paraguay. First time, I thumb up for a ride since ages. I couldn’t recall when I last thumbed up to Hitchhike. Usually, the drivers simply offered me a ride. Happened that Anicita, Marty from Argentina and their Ecuadorian friend, Peronika were traveling to Paraguay and beyond. Marty helped me to load up my pushie at the back. Off we go! Anicita happened to work as civil engineer. The highway 11 was scheduled for repavement, explaining why I had such horrendous condition. Highway 81 was recently completed after 2 years of works. I get to enjoy the smoother 81. To re-pave highway 11 will take another 2 years. I cannot hang around for 2 years for this road. Fortunately, I met the trios.
Decided to join them to Asuncion all the way, giving me another day of rest in Asuncion. Regained my original schedule after losing 5 days to illness. Back on my original schedule to arrive in Brazil before October. At the border, ran into hiccup. The Paraguayan immigration officers claimed I needed a visa to enter. My Singapore passport, the world’s most powerful passport. I did my research prior, Singapore don’t need a visa to enter Paraguay. They couldn’t find the information on their computer. Anicita tethered her hotspot for me to show the visa information on my mobile. They insisted on checking. Today was a Sunday, calling their supervisor on weekend was impossible. Anicita pressured them into trying. Usually, situation at the border happened cos no one know where in the world is Singapore. Usually, am very chilled waiting. Today i was accompanied by friends. The wait was too long, I asked Anicita and Marty to drop me here at the border as I don’t want to delay their time waiting for me. But they refused to give up on me. After eternity, Paraguayan officers received their answer, yes I can enter Paraguay, country 28.
Continued to Asuncion. They dropped me off at hostel normada. Before leaving, the couple handed me 200 Argentina pesos and 14000, Paraguay currency. I really loved Argentinians, they were generous in their hearts. Can’t wait to return to Argentina which I will. Will zig zag in and out of Argentina, crossing several borders to get to my final destination Usuhuia.