On December 8, thousands of pilgrims gather at the Cathedral to be blessed by the Virgin of Caacupé. I happened to travel route 2 on December 7, 2003 and saw hundreds of people making their way on foot up the hill to pay homage. Last week I decided to do the same by bike.
Home is about 10 km outside the capital city of Asunción, in the outskirts of San Lorenzo. Here was the original plan: Route 2 to Caacupé and return.
40 km each way didn´t seem too bad. It was 4:30 and the sun sets at 5:30 so I figured an hour of riding in the dark on the return trip would be fine.
This is the intersection of Routes 1 and 2. Although a major intersection, the stop sign is a recent addition and I don´t know whether or not to take it seriously.
I turned right, passed through Capiata, and arrived at this intersection. 33 km remaining and the sun was quickly plummeting toward the horizon. I wanted to see the sunset, but I just wasn´t in the right place.
Next was Itaugua and then Ypacarai. So far, everything was quite familiar since I had traveled it all by bicycle. After Ypacarai was this toll station. I had no idea whether to put myself in line with the trucks or pass by on the right - that´s what motorcycles often do. I waited for another motorcycle to pass and show me what to do while I took the picture.
I didn´t even notice dogs until after the upload.
Five minutes and not a single moto. With the police after the toll booth on the right, I didn´t want to take a chance so I put myself in line. The street vendors immediately motioned to me that I was to bypass the whole thing. I proceeded as instructed and the police didn´t even look at me with my hi-vis vest, bright helmet, and headlight on.
Then it was up the 3mile long hill, passing everybody on the way. 45 mph is fast around here, apparently. I parked the bike on the edge of the well-lit city plaza, and walked two blocks to the catedral where the child vendors immediately approached and tried to sell me something. Most will walk away after ´gracias´ and a shake of the head.
One little 7-year old girl had a different approach. She gave me the gift of a rosary. When I refused, ´How can you refuse a gift? All I ask is that you buy one of the other rosaries I have here.´ I said ´gracias´ again and she got more whiney and more aggressive. Apparently the approach has worked before and it worked for me. I returned her rosary after I dug a couple of coins out of my pocket and gave her a gift of my own. She walked off to give another rosary to another tourist.
There was, of course, a mass in session and I snapped a pic of La Virgencita of Caacupé.
I figured it was time to eat something and an hamburguesa completa was calling my name. That´s a hamburger with a fried egg, fried ham, and whatever type of salsa you choose. It´s seriously good. Better with cheese. My wife makes them for me sometimes.
I figured that was it. I´d already sent a text to my wife telling her that I was leaving Caacupé and I´d be home in an hour, barring any misadventures. It didn´t turn out like I thought it would.