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Old 10-09-2012, 06:58 PM   #181
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Originally Posted by Mudclod View Post
I've gotta wonder how he came to leave his jacket way out there? ha!
It seems that he was hiking with two other people. They took a break for lunch and peeled off some layers. They then decided to jump across the canyon to get to the other side. Russell was the last to jump. He simply forgot to pick up his jacket. One side of the canyon was higher than the other side of the canyon so it was not hard jumping across and down. But, they could not figure how to go back.

Even when we arrived at the scene, Russell walked around for about 45 minutes trying to find a way across. I spotted the route that he eventually took to cross the canyon. I'm no mountain climber, but it seemed to be a reasonable approach. It worked out in the end.
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:02 PM   #182
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Originally Posted by Adv Grifter View Post
Wow! What a GREAT update Troy!
Your Saltena post brought back fine memories from 30 plus years ago when I spent 3 months in Bolivia. Saltenas were my staple meal back then.
Mostly only sold from street food carts and in Mercados at that time. I found them much better than Emanada's in Chile or Argentina. One of the best meals ... but of course once in Argentina you get Steak, Pizza and Salads .... and great Coffee everywhere.

CHEERS!
Good indeed. Now, I honestly think I prefer hot saltanas over steak or pizza.
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:04 PM   #183
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The Adventure Begins... 2012 Cologne, Germany motorcycle show highlights

See Video

Here is a short 3 minute video with highlights from the 2012 Cologne, Germany motorcycle show. They highlight three new adventure motorcycles from Suzuki, BMW and KTM. Check it out!
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Old 10-25-2012, 04:57 PM   #184
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The Adventure Begins... Exiting Bolivia...with Some Unexpected Stops


I had a great time in Sucre, but it was time to move on.

I was at point A (Sucre) and wanted to go to point B (El Chaco) in Paraguay. In general there is not much tourist information about Paraguay, and even less about El Chaco. El Chaco is a vast and isolated area in the north of Paraguay. I was not having much success finding reliable information about the border crossings, check points and roads to determine which would be the best route. There was even less information about places to stay, but I thought that I could figure that out once I arrived in Paraguay.

In Sucre, I asked a hotel owner and he did not know. I asked the tourist information office and they did not know. Finally, I stopped by the police station to find out which route the buses generally travel. I was told that one could cross in the north via Robore, but there was no check point. One could cross in the middle via Boyuibe, but there was no check point. The typical route that the buses take was via the city of Villamontes. It was the only route that had a reliable check point. This meant that I would have to travel south, then east, then north. Who's up for a little adventure?

And so I set off.

I rode through some majestic areas...mostly dirt roads... green mountains along the way.

After about 4 hours of riding, I came across this little obstacle.

I was not sure if the tree had fallen accidentally and the people were clearing the brush out of good will. Or if the man had cut down the tree for firewood and now was trying to clean up the mess. Either way, the tree was blocking the road and it was taking the group of three a long time to clear the obstacle. I was the only person on my side of the tree. There was a group of three or four cars on the other side of the tree. To hurry things along, I decided that I would help to clear the brush. I got off my bike and started moving the big branches. It turned out that my motorcycle gloves were functioning pretty nicely as work gloves. After about 30 minutes we had moved enough of the brush out of the way so that my motorcycle and other cars could pass. Funny thing, some of the drivers in the cars got out of their cars to watch, but none of the drivers helped to clear the tree.

I rode on.

I had starting riding at 8am in the morning and it was now about 7pm in the evening. It was starting to turn dark. It had been a full day of riding when I came upon a small village called Bourgue. At least I believe that was the name of the village. The village was so small that I have had trouble finding it on Google Maps. For some reason there was a check point. I pulled up to the check point and got off my bike. I asked the guard if there was any place in the village where I might be able to stay for the night and set up my tent. He directed me to next door to a little store with an enclosed yard. I walked around the corner to see what I could find out.

As in many small villages in Bolivia, the store was basically the front room of a house. There were a few odds and ends of basic neccesities...soap, matches, cooking oil. The owner appeared to be the lady of the house.

I was hungry, so I first glanced around to see if there was anything that looked appetizing. Glancing over the shelves there was not much - some chips, candy, canned food. The woman opened up a box and showed me a half butchered pig. I could tell that it was a pig because the head was still attached to the body. Looked interesting, but I said...no. She pointed to some eggs. I shook my head...no. Then she uncovered at a large bag filled with loaves of bread. I shook my head in approval. She also pointed at a can of sardines on the shelf. Bread and fish out of a can... it was starting to grow on me. I said that I would take three loaves of bread and a can of sardines. It seemed to make her happy that she was able to help me find something to eat.

I then asked the lady if there was anyplace where I might be able to stay and set up my tent. She said that I could stay in her yard. I pointed to a clearing in the dirt yard and inquired if it would be a good location. She said that I was welcome to set up my tent under her porch. I accepted the offer and said thank you. I then moved my motorcycle inside the yard and started to set up camp.

By this time it was completely dark. There was no moon out. There were no lights in the village.

I guess that it was a bit unusual to have a traveler visiting this area... let alone a guy on a motorcycle. I mean, why would anyone stop in this small village that lied along a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

A crowd started to gather. There were old men, women, teens and some kids. It was hard to make out the expressions on the people's faces because it was so dark, but they seemed to be enjoying the experience of watching this extranjero (stranger) set up camp. Of course I got the usual questions... Where are you from? What are you doing here? Do you like Bolivia? Where are you going? How much did your motorcycle cost? How much did your tent cost? Are you Chinese?

When people ask me if I am Chinese I always share that I am ethnically Chinese, but that I was born in the United States... a Chino Americano. Some people get it, some people don't.

I asked the group, now numbering about 15 people, if they had even had ever seen an actual Chinese person. Most of the group said...no. There were three teens that raised their hands eagerly and said that they had seen Chinese people before. I asked them where. They said that they studied in Sucre and had seen Chinese tourists in the city. Cool, I pondered a bit.

I asked the group if they had ever eaten Chinese food. There was silence. Nobody responded. Then one lady asked me what was Chinese food. I tried my best to explain. I said that there are basic ingredients like chicken or beef, vegetables like carrots, onion, scallions, and that all the ingredients are cut up into small pieces then cooked together in a big pot called a wok. She said that it sounded like some of the food that they made. I said that the seasonings and flavors might be different. One lady was really curious and asked if I knew how to cook Chinese food. I said that I knew how to cook a few dishes. She asked if I could teach her. Without really thinking... I said yes.

Hmmmm... then I thought. Was she serious. I asked her if she was serious. She said that she really would like to learn. Hmmmm... I asked her... right now? She said that I could do it the following day. Well, I was not really planning to stay around this small town for much time. But, I was so overcome by the eagerness and openness of this small village that I said... okay.

I inquired if they had chicken... yes... rice... yes... onions... yes... carrots... yes... salt... yes... pepper... yes... oil... yes. And then I said we had all the ingredients, but usually I would use a sauce we call... soya (soy sauce). The lady said with great eagerness... we have soya! Wow, I knew that there were many places in Bolivia that had soy sauce, but I was surprised to that they would have it in this small village. We live in a global village.

We continued to talk while I set up my camp. But it was settled... I would teach the village how to prepare Chinese food the next day.

After setting up my camp, it was time to eat. The crowd sensed that I was about to eat, so it started to disperse. I proceeded to open the can of sardines and break the bread. There were still a few people hanging around watching me. I offered them some of my newly acquired sardines and bread. Two of the teens accepted my offer. So I shared my food and we had a nice little meal. I was glad that I had some people with which to share the sardines, because after a few bites, I knew that there was no way that I would be able to eat the whole can. Between the three of us, we eventually finished the food. Nothing went to waste.

Then it was time to go to sleep. I said good night to all my new friends and crawled into my tent.


The next morning I awoke. This is the house/store/yard where I had camped for the night.

I packed up my things and prepped my motorcycle.

Some of the townspeople were hanging around watching me. I asked them kind of half heartedly if they still wanted me to teach them how to cook Chinese food.

Yes! the ladies replied.

Okay, brunch would be served!

So I rattled off a list of the ingredients and asked them to compile them. I asked them how many people might be interested in cooking and eating. The one lady that was kind of the coordinator said... Oh, probably about 15.

Wow, 15 people. I have cooked for 8 to 10 people in my house before, but never 15. And I've always had all the proper ingredients, utensils and kitchen space. This was going to be interesting.

It took the group a little time to run around the village and gather all the ingredients. We moved to another house to do the cooking.

As I walked through the open courtyard and up to the house, I saw this scene. Two of the young girls had killed a chicken, boiled it to remove the feathers and were plucking the remaining feathers. It was probably the freshest chicken that I had ever cooked.

I then proceeded to show the group how to cut the vegetables and chicken into small pieces. They had all the basic ingredients and most of them had been grown right around the village. If you look closely you will even notice that they had a bottle of soy sauce. For some reason they had brought mayonnaise and catchup. I told them that those ingredients would not be necessary.

Also, a number of times they asked me if we would need any potatoes. I said... no. Potatoes are a staple food in Bolivia and are eaten with just about every meal. There are hundreds of varieties of potatoes that are grown in the country. Unfortunately, for this recipe we would not be using any potatoes.

After a little time, we had all the food prepped and we were ready to begin cooking.

I had never cooked Chinese food over an open fire. It was definitely a new experience. The heat was intense. I found it difficult to get close enough to the fire to stir fry the ingredients. Eventually, I turned over the responsibility of stirring the dish to one of the ladies.

In the end, it all worked out. We made a big pot full of chicken fried rice. I think that there were about 10 people that showed up to eat. They all said that they really enjoyed it. I do not know if they really enjoyed it or if they were just being polite. But... in the end... all the food was finished.

Here is the core group of women that I taught how to cook the meal. People that I have encountered along my way have been so willing to share their culture with me, it was nice to share a little bit of my culture with this community.

It was time to leave... so I said my good-byes.

I headed down the road.

I followed a dirt road, which followed alongside a river. I had been riding over a lot of rough roads in Bolivia. I heard a little rattling noise coming from my bike. I stopped to inspect it. I noticed that a spot weld that connects my rear rack and case to my motorcycle frame had separated. It was not a crucial mechanical weld, but it did support the weight of my rear case.

In the next town I passed called Monteagudo I sought out a soldidura (welder). I found this one man shop and explained the issue. He said that he could help me.

I backed my motorcycle into the shop. The welder went to work. The work was complete within 5 minutes. Simple roadside repair in Bolivia. It cost me $15 Bolivianos (US$2).

I rode on...traveled for about an hour... until I came across this fallen tree.

At this spot there was a crew with some heavy equipment moving the brush. It was all cleared in about 5 minutes.

I rode on for another 3 or 4 hours to a town called Camiri where I stayed the night. I found an inexpensive hotel... ate a decent meal... and rested.

In the morning, I left Camiri and traveled for about 2 hours south to the town of Villamontes. In Villamontes I stopped for lunch.

With a full stomach, I headed east to the border of Paraguay.
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Old 10-25-2012, 08:52 PM   #185
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What an adventure! I am always amazed at the cultural interactions one can have when riding a motorcycle.
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Old 11-08-2012, 06:41 PM   #186
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What an adventure! I am always amazed at the cultural interactions one can have when riding a motorcycle.
Opportunities around every corner.
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Old 11-08-2012, 06:43 PM   #187
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The Adventure Begins... El Chaco, Paraguay...Lots to See in the Middle of Nowhere


From the town of Villamontes, Bolivia I traveled east along a dirt road. There was absolutely no traffic for miles and miles.

In the middle of nowhere I came across some motivational signs.

Sigue Adelante (Keep moving forward)

Another one.

Un Poco Mas (A little more)

Another one.

Llegaste! (You've arrived!) I was not exactly sure where I had arrived. There still was nothing around.

At another place along the road I came across this tree.

Someone had some paint and had some fun.

I continued on down the road to the border and finally arrived at the Bolivian immigration office.

It was a pretty small open air office. I was the only person crossing the border. Checking out of Bolivia was a snap... it took all of 2 minutes.

I rode a little further down the road to the integrated Bolivian/Paraguayan aduanas (customs) office. It was about 3pm and the office appeared deserted. I looked around a bit and found a travel trailer. I could see that someone was inside laying on a bed. I called to summon the person. Out of the trailer emerged the Bolivian immigration officer in a tank top, bermuda shorts and flip flops. I assumed that this was a pretty laid back post. He reviewed my documents and checked me out of the country. I then asked if he knew where the Paraguayan official might be. He pointed to a small house around the corner. I walked around the corner and up to the house and called out. Out of the house emerged the immigration officer. He was dressed casually, wearing a pull over shirt and jeans. He asked me to fill out a form and shortly thereafter he provided me my temporary driving permit for Paraguay. This was perhaps the most casual and remote customs office that I have passed through on my journey. Pretty nice.

The Paraguayan immigration office was not in the same area. From what I could gather I would need to travel about 90 miles (150 km) to a city called Mariscal to pass through immigration.

I rode on...

A little further down the road I came across a Paraguayan military checkpoint. There was one car behind me. The military officer asked for my passport and documents. I handed him my passport and temporary driving permit. The officer also gathered the same documents from the car behind me. He took both sets of our documents inside his office. A few minutes later he emerged from the office. He proceeded directly to the car behind me, returned their documents and waived them through.

I thought... uh oh... it was a bit odd that he would first give the car behind me their documents and waive them through. I was in the middle of nowhere... with nobody around. I had an intuition as to what was about to occur.

The officer approached me. With a friendly demeanor, he struck up a conversation. He started asking me about where I had traveled, where I was going, about my motorcycle. I answered all his question with a smile on my face and brief responses. He eventually came around to the question... do you have a gift for the military? Hmmm... a gift. I smiled and said that I really did not have anything that I did not need. It was the truth... I travel light. I said all that I had with me were my clothes and tools for my motorcycle. He smiled and inquired... nothing. I said with a smile... nothing. He looked me over and spotted a carabiner hanging on my pants. He said... how about that. I said... I need this to keep my keys. He smiled. With that I cranked on my motorcycle and said... estamos bien? He waved me on.

I rode on...

It started to turn dark. I arrived in a small town called San Pedro. It was basically an intersection with a few houses scattered about... and there was a police checkpoint.

Before the policeman could signal me to pull over. I signaled with my indicator lights and pulled up right in front of the officer. I turned off my engine, got off my bike and took off my helmet. I think that it surprised him to see a extranjero (foreigner). That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to manage the situation. Then I asked him if there was a hotel in the area. He said... no... not one where you would want to stay. I understood what he intended... the only hotel in this small town was a pay by the hour hotel. He asked me where I was going... I told him that I was going to the Parque Agripino Encino. He said that it was not too far down the road... maybe 10 miles (15 km) and to the right. He said go straight, then when you see the sign, turn right. We continued our conversation for a while. I asked him if the road was in good condition. He said that the road turned to dirt in about 100 yards (100 meters), but the dirt was compacted and in good condition. He said that the park was only about 30 to 45 minutes away.

Generally, in all the countries that I have visited, I have found the immigration, customs, police and military to be very helpful. I have never been taken advantage of. A lot of travelers and adventure motorcyclists complain about corrupt officials, but I have had nothing but positive experiences. I think that it helps to speak the language. Also, I think that it helps to control the situation and direct the conversation by asking them for assistance. It creates a situation in which they are in the role of a service provider. I have used this technique many times and it always seems to work out well.

I decided that I would ride on in the dark... on the dirt road... to find the park... to camp.

Before I set off into the wild, I stopped at the only open store/restaurant/bar in town. The proprietor said that she did not have any hot food, just dry goods. I looked over the shelves and picked up some water, crackers, a can of tuna and some oranges. The oranges were a score. This would be my food for the coming days.

With supplies in hand and a vague idea of where to go... I rode on... into the unknown.

I eventually came up to a sign that said Agripino Encio 80_ and a road on the right. It was just as the police officer had indicated. It was dark, but it appeared that there was a space after the numbers 80. It looked like a number or letter had been removed. I did not know how to interpret it. I just figured that I would ride down the road a little and soon find the park. I turned right and headed down the road.

I rode on. I started to have doubts. Did the sign indicate 80 meters or 800 meters or 8 kilometers or 80 kilometers. I did not see anything that resembled a park entrance at around 80 meters or 800 meters. But, why would they use 800 meters instead of 0.8 kilometers. The main road was hard packed dirt, but this side road was loose sand.

It was dark... it was late... it was sandy... it was the middle of El Chaco. My odometer displays miles not kilometers, so I convert everything in my head. My odometer indicated that I had ridden 214 miles since I last filled my tank with gas. Under good conditions, I could obtain 250 miles with a full tank of gas. Which meant ideally, I had about 35 miles of gas in my tank and 15 miles of gas in my spare tank. I decided that I would ride for 8 km, then turn back.

I knew that I had already traveled 15 km to the sign... 15 km plus 8 km would be 23 km. 23 km is equal to about 15 miles. Following? Thus, I could ride up to 15 miles, then turn around and ride 15 miles back if needed. That would equal 30 miles. Got it? Then, I would need to find a gas station to fill up with gas. I was doing this math in my mind while I was riding in the dark. I started to second guess myself. I ran the numbers again in my mind... yes... I should be okay.

I discovered that in El Chaco one can see a number of nocturnal animals while riding in the middle of nowhere. I saw some lizards, rodents, armadillos, foxes, an owl and some kind of pig like animal. I saw one small black cat. I thought that it was just a feral or domestic cat, but I later would learn that it might have been a Jaguarundi. Of course, I could not capture any of these animals in photos. As soon as I could see them in my headlight, they would dart back into the darkness.

I rode on... until I crossed 8 km... still no park. It had been tricky riding in the sand. I was tired. It was late. I had been riding all day and did not feel like riding further. I decided that I would find a place along the road and camp.

I found a spot along the road, set up my tent, and ate dinner... crackers and tuna and oranges. The road was only about 12 feet across (4 meters). I was a little concerned that a passing car or truck might hit me. I set up my motorcycle so that the reflectors on the body of my motorcycle would hopefully catch the eye of any driver.

I slept.

At about 1am in the morning I heard an approaching car. I turned on my flashlight which illuminated my tent. It kind of worked like a giant glow balloon. The truck slowed down and passed by safely. That would be the only traffic for the entire night.

The next morning I woke up at about 6 am. This was my campsite.

I looked to the east and saw a wonderful sunrise.

I stood still... watched... listened... and breathed.
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Old 11-09-2012, 03:13 PM   #188
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The Adventure Begins... Parque Nacional Teniente Agripino Enciso, Paraguay


After a night of roadside camping and the sun rising over my shoulder, I rode back down the dirt road retracing my tracks.

I made it back to the main road. I found the intersection where I had turned... and the sign for Parque Agripino Encino. And, I even found the park.

It appears that the sign was placed to mark the turn into the park. However, the entrance was 80 meters straight and then to the right. I thought to myself... why would they place the sign right before the dirt road... it was a mystery to me. When I arrived at the park I asked the park ranger this very question. He said that a number of people make the same mistake and turn right at the road. I asked why they do not move the sign to the other side of the intersection... it would solve the problem. He just shrugged his shoulders.

Happy that I had finally reached the park and officially in El Chaco, I went for a walk around the area.

What I discovered was that El Chaco does not have a lot of striking scenery like the Andes or extreme scenery like the Patagonia or wildlife like the Amazon.

But, there was a lot of very subtle elements to the area that made me pause. I had to look closely.

I would not call this beautiful, but interesting.

Cacti were common.

And uncommonly unique in their own way.

Some little things that I have never seen before.

Like this crazy tree with a thousand spikes up its trunk.

Like this tree with bark like curly locks.

And a birds nest made of thistles and thorns amongst the arms of a cactus.

Ahhhh... El Chaco...Paraguay.
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Old 11-09-2012, 07:02 PM   #189
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More great reporting Troy!
Great diplomacy technique. Man, that's some rugged country.
Rubber side down!

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Old 12-05-2012, 09:33 PM   #190
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The Adventure Begins... Filadelphia and Loma Plata, Paraguay... Habla Alemán?


From El Chaco I rode south.

The dirt road eventually turned into an asphalt road.

In the town of Mariscal stopped and checked in with the Paraguayan Migration (Immigration) to get my passport stamped. No worries, it was a quick and easy process.

As I was exiting the town I passed by this sign. Being from Texas, I had to check this out.

I located the restaurant and decide to take a break for lunch.

On the inside, the restaurant had this sign. The image on the left is the logo of my alma mater... The University of Texas at Austin. The image on the right is a classic logo of the Marlboro Man.

I met the owners of the restaurant. It turns out the owners were not from Texas at all. It was a married couple, the man was German and the woman was Thai. I asked them how they came up with the name and theme for the restaurant. They said that they used to live in Filadelphia, a town down the road, and bought the restaurant from another family. They moved the restaurant to Mariscal because they felt that there was to much competition in Filadelphia. Fair enough, I asked them what they had on the menu that was from Texas. The lady said that they hamburgers and spaghetti. Well, it was not quite the authentic Texas culinary experience that I was hoping for, but I wished them well.

I was actually traveling to the town of Filadelphia and the Mennonite colonies.

Filadelfia is the capital of Boquerón Department in the El Chaco. It is the centre of the Fernheim Colony. It is about a 5 hour drive from the capital of Asunción. The town of Filadelphia and this part of El Chaco had an interesting history.

Filadelfia was founded in 1930 by Mennonites who fled from the Soviet Union because of religious persecution. The journey to Paraguay was extremely difficult. Their destination, set aside by Paraguayan government decree, was completely undeveloped. Travel was exhausting: a steamboat was taken up the Paraguay River to Puerto Casado, from where a narrow gauge railway went 150 km (93 mi) west into the Chaco bush. From there it was a few more long days of travel by oxcart to their settlement area. Over decades, the Mennonites turned a dry and thistle covered area into fertile farmland.

The economic base of Fernheim is agriculture and processing of agricultural products. The most important products are cotton, peanuts, beef, milk and dairy products.

Filadelfia lay near the front of the Chaco War, but was little affected due to the pacifist beliefs and customs of the Mennonites.

Today the town has a city hall, museum, a library, a radio station and other structures. The colony's villages lie around Filadelfia, as do several native reserves, home to much of the area's native population, from the Chulupí, Lengua, Toba-Pilaga, Sanapaná and Ayoreo groups.

The hospital

The pharmacy

The elementary school

A park and playground

The houses tended to be rather large, to accommodate the families with numerous children, but were simple and utilitarian in design.

The center point for the whole town and community was the large and modern cooperative supermarket. It was like a compact Walmart selling everything from groceries to auto parts to agricultural products.

The colonial museam

An old clock housed at the museum.

An antique coffee grinder.

A telephone from the era.

I visited another town of the Mennonite colonies called Loma Plata. It was the first colony of Canadian immigrants in the region and was founded in 1927. It is an important urban and administrative center for the Cooperatives Menno. It is the base of the huge dairy cooperative known as Trebol. Supposedly this area produces something like 80% of the agricultural exports for the country of Paraguay.

There was another colonial museum in the town of Loma Plata.

A monument dedicated the founding of the colony

A museum with displays about the founding and struggle to develop the city.

A rustic colonial style house.

A basic horse drawn wagon form the good old days.

Rudimentary plows and farm instruments used by settlers.

One of the great things about the accommodation in the Mennonite colonies was they tended to serve nice German style buffet breakfasts.

Prior to visiting these Mennonite colonies I thought that the population would be 80% Indigenous and 20% German Mennonite. However, the population breakdown was probably a reverse of these percentages - with the larger percentage of the population being Mennonite.
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:40 PM   #191
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The Adventure Begins... Central Chaco Lagoons...From a Bird's Eye Perspective.


I traveled south through an area known as the Central Chaco Lagoons.

Higher rainfall combined with improperly drained lowland soils lead to a somewhat swampy plain, sometimes known as Chaco Húmedo or Humid Chaco, with a more open savanna vegetation consisting of palm trees, quebracho trees and tropical high grass areas with a wealth of insects.

The area was rich with various types of birdlife. It was difficult to get close enough to the birds to take good photos. As soon as I stopped my motorcycle, the birds would fly to another location.

For serious bird watchers, in El Chaco, one can find Black-legged Seriema, Black-bodied Woodpecker, Chaco Owl, Quebracho Crested Tinamou, Crested Gallito and Spot-winged Falconet.

It looked like the surrounding environment was the perfect habitat for insects, reptiles and fish that could serve as a food source for all the birds. I just found it interesting how many different types of birds I saw within a short distance of riding.
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:46 PM   #192
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The Adventure Begins... Concepcion... A Port Town Along The River Paraguay


I visited the town of Concepcion that lies along the Paraguay River.

Concepción is a city in northern Paraguay and capital of the Concepción Department. Throughout the town there were examples of colonial style architecture such as this government building.

Founded by a Spanish Governor, named Agustín Fernado de Pinedo, the town prospered in the early years of the 20th century, as a centre for the north of the country, exploiting the new wealth of the Gran Chaco, and a river port. On a number of the street corners there were large houses that at one time were occupied by the wealthy merchant families.

Today, Concepcion is a bustling little town with an active market.

The town was also a centre for the Paraguayan Civil War of 1947. I visited the Museo Municipal (Municipal Museum) which contained items from the Civil War and Chaco War.

There were various maps on display that demonstrated the territory and the changes in the territory before and after the wars.

There were also some artifacts from the indigenous groups that have lived around the area.

Concepcion is located along the Paraguay River. There were barges moving up and down the river carrying all types of goods. I took a walk along the river and saw a barge being unloaded by the dock workers. The workers one by one were carrying large bags of goods on their shoulders from the boat across a plank to a cargo truck on the shore. It was a rudimentary manner of moving the goods, but for me it made a nice visual image.

After walking around the town, I enjoyed a meal of chicken and yuca in a small restaurant. The food was okay, but what I found interesting was that the owner of the restaurant simply parked his motorcycle inside the dining area of the restaurant. Got to love it.

I thought that I would show a little love to my motorcycle. Emi was dirty from riding all the dirt roads in El Chaco, so I decided to have her cleaned up at a local car wash.

It seemed like everyone in Concepcion commuted by motorcycle. The majority of the motorcycles that I saw on the road were small, either 125cc or 250cc, motos made in China. This motorcycle store was receiving and unloading a new shipment of motos.

I saw this new three wheel sport utility moto that I thought was nice.

And the old school version. There were a number of horse drawn wagons in Concepcion used for transporting goods and people.
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:59 PM   #193
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The Adventure Begins... La Laguna Blanca... Red Sand to White Sand

While I was in Bolivia I heard from another traveler that there was a nice nature area to visit in Paraguay called La Laguna Blanca. I made a mental note and promised myself that if I was near the area I would try to visit it. While in Concepcion I tried to look for information about La Laguna Blanca. I asked a few locals, but they had not heard of the area. I searched online and found a little information.

The google map was not too helpful. I was in Concepcion (point A) and wanted to go to Laguna Blanca (point B). It indicated that there was no road reaching La Laguna Blanca from highway 3.

I searched around a little bit more online and found these written directions... "From the crossroad at Santa Rosa del Aguaray take a 27 kilometers long pebbled road towards East. In dry weather the trip can be made in car; otherwise it should be made in high-clearance vehicles." Hmmm... I thought that Emi, my motorcycle, could be considered a high-clearance vehicle... she has a suspension with10 inches of clearance.


I also found this map from the Rancho Laguna Blanca website. I was pretty sure that the map was not to scale, but it had some nice landmarks (puentes, agua, porton) for reference.

So with these three pieces of information I would try to triangulate my way to La Laguan Blanca. And, if some of you are wondering, my GPS was useless when I tried to locate La Laguna Blanca.

Just as the google map indicated, there was an asphalt highway from Concepcion to the town of Santa Rosa. I stocked up on some groceries at one of the local stores. I had trouble finding the crossroad that would lead to the pebbled road, so I stopped and asked a couple of people for directions.

When I ask for directions I always like to ask at least two different people... just to confirm. The first person that I asked gave me some hand signals and directions. The second person that I asked was a motorcyclist. He gave me some hand signals and directions and said that he was heading in the same direction. So off we went.

The pebbled road was actually more of a dirt and sand road. The sand was a rich red color...quite stunning next to the green vegetation of the countryside. It had been raining over the past few days, so the road was not in the best of conditions. Most of the puddles were only an inch deep, but some of the puddles were a foot deep. I tried to ride around most of the big puddles. Just as the written directions had indicated... "for high-clearance vehicles".

And, just as the graphical map indicated, I would pass over a number of bridges. The bridge in this photo was in relatively good condition compared to some of the other bridges. I rode quickly over the bridges so that I would not fall through the cracks.

I eventually came across a sign and intersection. I actually passed this intersection at first and had to double back after riding a few miles.

I rode down this winding dirt road and would disappear into the forest.

The narrow path that led through the forest was fun. It was muddy and filled with puddles, but Emi seemed to handle it well.

At one point along this path, I came across a gate. See the yellow things along the side of the road.

There were hundreds of yellow butterflies waiting by the gate to welcome me into the park. They fluttered by in salute.

I eventually arrived at La Laguna Blanca. From red sand to white sand.

This beach umbrella and lounge chairs were beckoning me.

I found a place to park my bike, set up camp, ate dinner and watched the sun disappear on the horizon.

The next morning I was greeted by this little guy. He was the pet of the park ranger. After I fed him some of my food he would follow me everywhere.

I met some other travels at the park. They were a friendly group of South Africans. After being in Paraguay for about two weeks, these were the first international travelers that I had met. We went on a few nature hikes and shared a few meals.

Over the next few days I would explore the area around the laguna. It did rain on and off.

The water of the laguna was very clear. It was a bit cold at first, but nice to swim in. I tried my luck at fishing, but was unsuccessful.

The area around the laguna consisted mainly of low lying forests and scrubs. There was not anything in the surroundings that grabbed my attention and that I would call super amazing.

But in the details there was a beauty that I would call graceful.

The texture of the fungus on a tree limb.

The intricate abstract design of a termite mound.

The rustic patterns of tree bark.

The delicate layers of fungus...

Fungus...

And more fungus... among us.

I could look to the sky and see birds soaring above me.

I could look to the ground and find an hormiga (ant) the size of a bottle cap.

There were tracks of animals with hoofs like small deer.

There were markings from animals with claws like raccoons or anteaters.

And there were traces of animals like this... with big paws the size of a fist... perhaps from a puma or jaguar.

In this area, metaphorically there appeared to be many things hidden under layers and layers. I felt as if I was just scratching the surface. I spent three days camping in La Laguna Blanca. It was a solitary place... a peaceful place... a reflective place. However, I needed to move on.

I waited for a moment when the rain would subside, then departed La Laguna Blanca. I left the white sand for the red sand. I would make my way back down the muddy road.

The road was in worse condition that when I had traveled it previously. Progress was slow.

A funny thing happened.

I stopped at this point to take a photo of the muddy road and this particular puddle. To me the puddle appeared to be pretty deep. There was no room on the right nor left side to ride around the obsticle. Just after I took this photo a small truck pulled up behind me. The driver stopped briefly and glanced at me to see why I was waiting by the side of the road. He took a quick look at the puddle and then accelerated. He passed halfway across the puddle, but on the outbound side of the puddle his truck bogged down. The level of the water was probably knee high. He had lost his traction and was spinning his wheels. The truck was only 2 wheel drive and not 4 wheel drive. The water was deeper than the axles of the truck. Water soon started entering the interior of the cabin. He glanced back at me with a puzzled look. He kept his foot on the accelerator, but he kept digging his wheels deeper into the mud. He opened up his window and called out to me. He asked me if I would push him through the puddle. I wanted to help the guy, but I was not looking forward to it.

I knew that it would be a wet and muddy proposition. I was already dirty on the outside of my riding gear from riding through the mud, but I did not want to get my boots, socks and pants completely immersed in the water and mud.

I paused to think for a moment... then acted. I quickly dismounted my motorcycle and stripped off my riding gear... jacket, pants, boots and socks. I rolled up my pants and waded through the water and mud. I started to push the truck while the man accelerated. We were not very successful. After about a minute... his truck stalled. Water had entered either the exhaust or engine. Water had entered the cabin. He was stuck. He climbed out of his truck, waded through the water and settled on the dry ground. We looked at each other for a moment in despair.

We chatted for a while. He thanked me for trying to help. He called someone on his phone for assistance. He said that they would come by later. I asked him if he would be okay if I continued on my journey. He said that he would be okay.

I did notice that he was packing an automatic pistol, something like a Glock 9. I felt like he would be okay on his own.

To give myself the best chance of riding through the puddle, I first waded through the water to find a high spot. The best route that I could find was still about a foot under water and with loose mud.

I put back on my riding gear, started up my motorcycle and said a little prayer.

I twisted Emi's throttle... she bolted forward... slush... slush... slush... back wheel moving... back wheel spinning... play with the clutch... a little more throttle... slush... slush...slush... keep the front wheel strait... back wheel sliding... play with the clutch... a little more throttle...slush... slush...slush... varooooom! Out of the puddle. And that is why Emi is so amazing.

The adventure begins... when the road ends!

I looked back at the stranded truck driver. He waived at me. I waived back. I rode on.

After an hour or so of some more puddle jumping I made my way back to the asphalt highway. I was glad to see it.


I would travel west on the highway toward the city of Asuncion. Rain clouds were forming on the horizon, so I pulled over to put on my rain gear. As I looked back I saw something coming toward me. I turned and snapped this photo. A horse and wagon on the highway next to my horse and wagon... Emi.
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:08 PM   #194
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The Adventure Begins... Asuncion

I traveled to the city of Asuncion.

I took a walk around the town and checked out...

The Street Art of Asuncion.

The Museo de Barro.

A Walk Around the Town.

And picked up some New Tires.

Click on the links for the full story.
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:18 PM   #195
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The Adventure Begins... Jesuit Missions of Jesus de Tavarangue and Trinidad

I rode south to the town of Encarnacion.

Just outside of Encarnacion are the ruins of the Jesuit Missions of Jesus de Tavarangue and Trinidad. They were religious missions that were founded by the Jesuit missionaries during the colonization of South America in the 17th century. The missions were created in 1609 and developed for 150 years. Both areas were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993. The Jesuit Missions of Paraguay are considered some of the most impressive creations of the religious work of the Jesuits, and are testimony of the historical richness of the country.

First up... Jesus de Tavarangue. The church of Reducción de Jesús (Jesus’ Mission) was in the process of being built when the Jesuits were expelled from the Río de la Plata Province. It would have been one of the biggest churches of that time, with a central structure of 70 by 24 metres (230 by 79 ft). The structure's design was based on the Church of Loyola, in Italy. The three doors of access, located in the front, created impressive entryways. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1993. It is considered one of the most important edifications of the 30 Jesuits towns in the region. The stone pulpit, the friezes of angels, the rose shaped carved stone in the lintels in the doors and the bell tower stand out in its architecture. The ruins of these missions show a way of life and education marked by its own and singular style.


See more

I left the Jesus Mission and headed down the road. Along the way I passed by this cemetary.


I came across this farm and thought the juxtaposition of the farm house, tree and longhorn were perfect. If the longhorn would just look my way...

It would be perfect.

He decided to appease me.

Second up... Trinidad. The Santísima Trinidad del Paraná Mission is considered the biggest of all the missions. Natives came from the missions of San Carlos (now in the territory of Argentina) in 1712. This mission has the biggest temple among all the Jesuit Missions, with an altar carved out of a single piece of stone. Some of the stone carvings within the mission illustrate the persecution of the natives at that time. It has a central square, the town’s place of meeting. Located in the old sacristy, are many sculptures and a scale model of the mission. These ruins are in the process of being restored.

The principle inhabits are now termites.


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source: Wikipedia
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