Archive for the ‘Paraguay’ Category


Although Paraguay has huge amounts of land and a small population, most of the land is privately owned by few of the richer people. There are still a handful of national parks available to visit. I went and checked out the “famous” Cerro Cora. I was also able to camp there for free, and my understanding is that they even have beds for free if you go in groups.

Inside the park. It’s mainly dry chaco style vegetation, but still nice to walk around… in the 45 degree sunny weather! Bring lots of water!

STE_5961

STE_5963

STE_5967

STE_5971

I also checked out this other park but I can’t find the name of it. The road to get here is pretty challenging and you have to pay big bucks for EVERYTHING. Even camping was expensive and they didn’t even have a set spot to camp. I ended up camping by the guard’s habitations.

STE_5975

The commando team getting ready to go out on a 5 day mission in the forest. They go looking for poachers and drug growers.

STE_5978

Then there was Itaipu. It’s the second largest dam in the world when it comes to size and it stands in the first spot as to the energy generated. It is Paraguay’s pride, although they share the dam with Brazil. There is a lot of controversy around this dam as the GVT says that it produces a certain amount of energy for the Paraguayan people when in reality it seems that most of it is being sold to the other side of the border. Either way, corruption and propaganda aside, it was a really nice sight to see.

STE_5981

STE_5996

STE_5998

STE_6009

STE_6021

From the dam, I went into Ciudad del Este where they have a tonne of products duty free. The problem is that most of the products are total fakes. I even saw a perfect fake of the iPhone 4. What I was looking for were tires for the bike. Although there were a lot of people selling Pirellis, I couldn’t find the MT21s I was looking for. I spent all day, going through every store, having people call the stores around… etc. I ended up buying the MT60 rear for a decent price. The best place to buy your tires there for the best price is at the Pirelli dealership called Ferrari. Just ask around for Ferrari and people will point you to it really fast. No need to look around as the other guys buy the tires from Ferrari and then resell them at higher prices.

Around Ciudad del Este there are some waterfalls just a few km away. Went and checked those out too. I wanted to go see Iguazu but I only had a one entry visa so no way of crossing the border to Argentina yet.

STE_6043

STE_6051

Then I headed towards Missiones. The night was falling and I needed a place to crash. In a tire shop where I went to change both my tires, I met a guy in a small town. He said that there were a couple cheap hotels around but that we should go eat first. Sounded good to me. We went to a small restaurant and had a few beers and pizza. Then more people joined. At the end of the night, Carlos invited me to stay at his place where I could set-up my sleeping bag. He is on the right side of the picture. He’s a huge bike enthusiast as well and owns a couple of chopper style bikes. Thanks Carlos for the hospitality!

STE_6069

And then, missiones. Went and checked out the famous ruins.

STE_6077

STE_6079

STE_6085

STE_6092

STE_6098

STE_6105

Chairs were set-up in one of the rooms. I asked and was told that there was going to be a rock concert that night. They offered me to set-up camp for free and a free entry to the concert. Sweet deal!

STE_6115

Turns out that it wasn’t a rock concert but a chorus, classical music along with Opera at the end. It was a unique experience that I surely wasn’t expecting. Totally incredible!

STE_6119

STE_6122

STE_6124

The next day, I had a choice to make, go back and see everyone in Assumption or cross the border to Argentina. I still had a few Guaranni left but not enough to make it to the city, so I would have had to get some more out at a machine. That wouldn’t have been the problem, but I didn’t wanna have to deal with the corrupt police around Assumption again so I decided to cross to Argentina. The thing is that the police were generally nice to me in most of Paraguay, but around the capital, they become like sharks and a tourist bike filled with stuff looks like gold to them. Either way, I was going to miss Paraguay. Drinking Terere with it’s super chilled out people, adventuring on chaco dirt roads, and of course, my family from the botanical garden.

Advertisements

Paraguay, North of Concepcion

Posted: February 19, 2012 in Paraguay

Once the bike was fixed, thanks to the guys at Metalcar, I headed back up north to check out the chaco in more detail. Of course, just a few km out of the city, I got pulled over by the transit cops. They said that I was going over 40 in the town and that they had a radar set-up. They were pulling over EVERYONE and the radar story was pure BS. While waiting and arguing with them on the side of the road, I noticed that they tried to pull over a Mercedes but the guys just flew past them and they did nothing about it. I only found out later that you can just keep going without stopping as these police are a total corrupt joke and they don’t even have guns. Either way, they took my paperwork and wouldn’t give it back till I would pay a fine. First they wanted around 250$, then I kept laughing at them and kept saying no and that I don’t have that kind of $, so they went down to 150$, then 100$ and finally I paid them 25$ to leave me alone. Either way, like I said in the post before, Paraguay has the nicest people I have met but the crappiest police.

So heading north. Went to Concepcion where I stayed at a nice little hostel on the side of the river and took the bike apart once again, but just the outside as it started choking on the way there. I think it was just bad gas, but I did reroute a couple of tubes, fixed a corroded wire in the wire harness that was hardly touching anymore, and added a missing breather tube to the carburetor. From Concepcion, I went up on the dirt roads shown on the map below. The map isn’t that accurate because in reality point B and C connect through a small dirt road.

Picture of the bike all done and ready to leave.

STE_5898

On the dirt roads north of Concepcion, I met this guy.

STE_5900

Sucks for him though, since he was going to be the guest of honor to dinner that night and there was monkey on the menu.

STE_5901

The roads looked something like this.

STE_5903

And the bridge… well… seen these in old western movies…

STE_5905

STE_5907

Super dry Chaco

STE_5908

STE_5914

STE_5917

You know how I said above that point B and C actually connect? In order to get on that road, you have to ask for a key from a post where they have a guard during the day. You can also camp at the post without any problems. Also, if it rained, don’t even think about taking this road. For me, it had rained just over 24 hours earlier and I waited those 24 hours in a town nearby. I soon realized that 24hours were not really enough as the first 7 km or so on the road were pure mud and puddles. I almost ended up in the ditch a few times trying to go through the puddles and having the bike just go sideways. After the first few km, the road became nice and sandy where I think that the wetter ground was actually in my favor.

STE_5920

I had to stop for about 10 of these gates, maybe more. Stop, open gate, get on bike ad ride it to the other side, get off the bike, run back and close gate, get back on bike.

STE_5923

Not too much traffic around here.

STE_5929

I had almost forgot that before getting through the first gate and this cool dirt road, I had broken off one of my foot-pegs. I was doing about 70-80km/h on a nice wide dirt road when I hit a rock with the skid plate, frame and the peg. The peg got broken off as if the bolts were made of plastic. I stopped the bike and went back looking for my peg. I rode without the right peg for most of the day as noone had a welding machine around to get the broken bolt pieces out. Finally, towards the end of the day, I found this mechanic in a small town. He welded the broken bolt pieces out within minutes.

STE_5932

He had quite an impressive tool collection, so I took advantage to change the sprocket which had more than half it’s teeth broken off.

STE_5936

I camped in a close by national park by the guard’s office… but there was no guard. There was this guy though keeping me company.

STE_5939

I had running water there so cooked up some rice.

STE_5940

STE_5943

Remember how I said that these roads were impossible in case of rain? This is what they look like still after 48 hours of heat and sun.

STE_5949

STE_5953

The roads described above took me about 4 days to do including the 24hrs I waited after the rain. Totally worth it!

Paraguay entrance and Assumption

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Paraguay

Like for most tourists, Paraguay wasn’t really on my list of countries to visit but I have to say that it would have been a real shame to leave it out of the list. It just so happened that while in Bolivia, I looked at the map and Paraguay was really close by, therefore I decided to run by and check it out. Paraguay has the nicest and most laid back people I have seen up to now along with the most corrupt police force… more on that later.

Here are pictures of the border crossing and the road. They are working paving the main road, but till then… it’s blocked off in most places. I still ran most of the miles on this.

STE_5697

Funny thing is, the road is still not opened, but the pavement looks like it’s been there for a few years. I guess that things are done in Paraguay timing.

STE_5701

And then the Chaco! 100s of KM of straight road, with Savanna looking scenery all around.

STE_5703

The first night, I set up camp here at this police check-stop. It was the only place for about 150km from the Bolivian border. The Paraguay immigration was still over 100km away.

STE_5709

As you probably read a few months ago, things didn’t really go as planned. Going through the super dusty dirt roads of the chaco, with no oil in the air filter, dust got in and ate up my piston rings. I posted about this here. Big thanks again to the guys at Metal Car and Kawasaki for helping me out with this!

I spent 3 weeks in the municipal campground in Assumption and that was a great experience. The municipal campground is at the heart of the botanical garden, making it probably the best place in the city to spend the night. Everyone in the campground became like my family in the 3 weeks there.

Some pictures of the gardens and my family there…

STE_5715

STE_5894

STE_5757

STE_5756

STE_5761

STE_5764

STE_5769

STE_5771

STE_5772

STE_5773

STE_5774

STE_5775

STE_5777

STE_5780

STE_5781

STE_5782

STE_5783

STE_5784

STE_5786

While in Assumption, I rode around in the Collectivo Busses

STE_5787

Took a boat

STE_5789

STE_5792

Checked out the harbour

STE_5794

STE_5807

And been all over downtown, including many visits to the big market they have there.

STE_5808

Meanwhile, after about 2 weeks of camping alone in the gardens, this gentleman showed up on his 4X4 motorhome. He’s been traveling around the world for 10 years in this.

STE_5817

A few days later, these 2 also showed up. Aless & Celine from Switzerland in the VW van, and Sebastien & Maude from France in the Range Rover.

STE_5819

STE_5869

Days went by something like this. BBQ meat, aka Assado, is a big thing in the south, especially in Paraguay. Ate a lot of it there.

STE_5875

Drinking Terere. I ended up buying my own thermos after a couple of days along with my own terere cup, although mine weren’t as fancy as the ones in the picture.

STE_5759

BTW, not sure if you recognized the asian guy on the left? Over a year before, I met Yosh right before the border crossing with Mexico and then we rode all of the Baja together. Afterwards, I had lost touch with him as he stayed in Mexico for 6 months to work. Turns out that he flew by me at some point as he did all of Central America in about 2 weeks time and out of all the places, I met him again in Paraguay.

His way of saying hi to everyone… it’s a Japanese thing… 😉

STE_5886


I haven’t posted anything on the blog for a while since I have been having problems with the macbook. Turns out it was an easier fix than I thought.

Here’s the story…

Towards the end of Peru, from the vibration on the bike, one of my regular RAM slots broke and the computer kept freezing up all the time even if I would move it even 1mm. Something fractured in the slot. I found out about a month later that it was the actual memory slot that was bad after Sebastien lent me a small screw driver and I took the whole laptop apart in Assumcion Paraguay. For over a month I kept doing hard resets from the power button, sometimes 3-5 times an hour. Then, from all the hard booting, I guess the PRAM got corrupted but I was sure it was an OS problem because of the symptoms. The laptop would take about 10 minutes to turn on and it was practically impossible to do any hard tasks such as editing pictures. It took me about 2-3 months to find a copy of the Snow Leopard OS from a guy that had it on an external HDD. Then I had to find some dual layer DVDs which took another 2 weeks or so to get my hands on in Chile. Then I didn’t have electricity for about 10 days as I camped on beaches and sides of the road. By the time I got here, Bariloche, southern part of Argentina, the 2 blank DVDs were already scratched from the vibration but I was able to write the OS on one of them. Took for ever to even reinstall the OS as it kept freezing. I’ve been here for 2 days now and since it’s cold and raining I decided to try and fix the computer and finally got it running after resetting the PRam after trying everything else. I’m still only running 1GB of ram instead of 2GB since one of the slots is fractured, but I should be able to edit pictures in Aperture slowly and get this blog back up and running. In Buenos Aires I might try and find a 2GB chip but for this old thing it might be hard. If any of you have a 2GB DDR2 SDram chip that you don’t need, I take donations! 😀

So if anyone else is having similar problems where the computer takes for ever to boot up and seems to just stall for no reason, here is the PRAM procedure described on APPLE’s website.

A small amount of your computer’s memory, called “parameter random-access memory” or PRAM, stores certain settings in a location that Mac OS X can access quickly. The particular settings that are stored depend on your type of Mac and the types of devices connected to it. The settings include your designated startup disk, display resolution, speaker volume, and other information.

To reset your computer’s PRAM:
Shut down the computer.

Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command, Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in step 4.

Turn on the computer.

Immediately press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys. You must press this key combination before the gray screen appears.

Continue holding the keys down until the computer restarts, and you hear the startup sound for the second time.

Release the keys.


I would like to say HUGE thanks to Kawasaki and Metalcar Paraguay for helping me with the repair of my KLR 650! They have got me back on the road here in Paraguay after an adventure ride on the Paraguay’s Chaco with a piston ring problem. It seems that dust got into the motor in large quantities and ate it up. This was my first big repair of the trip and if Kawasaki along with Metalcar wouldn’t have helped, it would have been also my biggest expense so far on the bike.

So where to start the story? I guess the best place would be at the border between Bolivia and Paraguay. There is a long dusty dirt road of about 100km. I had fun on that road using the bike at it’s maximum potential at it’s current weight of 280-300kg and made it to the border… well, the first part of it which is the Bolivian immigration. Then, had to ride another 60km or so to the Aduana where I had to wait a bit. While waiting, I decided to check the oil level on the KLR. I tilt the bike to straight position and nothing shows up! I thought the oil would be just under the normal level and since I had a half a litre with me, I poured it all in there. Tilt the bike straight again and… NOTHING shows! Talk about getting scared at the border! I thought that it still couldn’t be that low but there was no oil available for another 120 or so km. I have never had it this low before though. No choice but to ride 120km on whatever was in there. There was almost no smoke coming out so I thought I should be ok. I got to that police point and with the litle money I had, I bought a litre of engine oil. Poured it into the bike and… still nothing showing! Now I was starting to get REALLY worried. So I bought another litre and only had 5000 Guarany (about 1.10$) left after buying the 2 litres of oil. I had to pour 0.5 more litres into the bike till it was at level. So if we do some quick math, at the border where I checked the level, I should have had about half a litre or so of oil out of 2.5L in the bike.

I camped at the police station next to the gas station from where I bought the oil and the next day I was back on the road with the bike full of oil. I had about 120km to go till the immigration office which is more than 200km from the border. I had enough gas in the bike and my jerry cans left to make it there and even further. On the road to the immigration, I had a flat front tire. Parked in the shade, patched the tube, put the wheel back just to realize that I pinched the tube while installing the tire so had to do it all over again. Meanwhile, I looked at the oil level and realized that I was in deep trouble as it was lower than the glass on the bike. Added the other half a litre and it helped a bit. I could see some oil level, but realized that I was eating about a litre of oil per 100km. I get to the town before the immigration and see a bike shop there that sells oil. I look in my wallet and still have 5000 guarrany, a couple of dollars and some bolivianos. After calculating, I was still short by 5000 G (just over 1$) but the guy was really nice and sold me the oil anyway wishing me good luck. The Aduana was closer than the immigration so I stop in to do the paperwork on the bike. They give me 90 days and cost is 0$. I get to the immigration and the guy there is super nice and says it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. I am thinking NICE, another easy border crossing. When he types in my nationality, Canada, the computer doesn’t agree too well and asks for an embassy visa. It turns out that us Canadians need a visa in Paraguay. So he tells me that I have to go back to Bolivia to the Paraguay embassy in Santa Cruz. I explain to him that my bike wont make it. He talks to other people there who talk to other people and finally come back and offer to give me a 72hr transit visa. This means that I have to make it in 72hrs to Assuncion, 600 or so km away and cross over to Argentina where there is an embassy 3km from the border. It’s my best choice. So I thank him for his help and decide to try and make it with the bike. Meanwhile, in my folder with my paperwork, I find just over 100$ that I had put in there for emergencies.

I exchanged the 100$ for guarranies at the gas station there and bought 4L of oil along with a bottle of water. I was hungry but didn’t wanna waste $ on food. There were no bank machines for a few hundred km and had to calculate my gas and oil well.

Back on the road, now I had oil, some gas and a LONG strip of straight paved road leading me to Assuncion. On the way, I stopped at a store and bought one more litre of oil, some bananas and some bread. The bike had started smoking just before the immigration and it was smoking more and more. I started to add about 1.5L of oil every 100km. The money I exchanged lasted me till Assuncion as I found some gas stations along the way further south that accepted credit card. In the 600 or so km, the bike had eaten about 10L of oil. Once in assuncion, the bike was running already on really low compression and stalling in idle. I had to make a choice to leave the bike there and take a bus to the border or ride the bike another 40 km and then another 40 to come back. Since I didn’t know how long it would take for the visa and if there would be any complications, I decided that I wouldn’t leave the bike in a country I might not be able to come back to.

I got the visa in Clorinda, Argentina within a day. It took only 2 hrs for the visa but I had to spend the night there since I needed 2 passport photos and all photography stores were closed between noon and 4pm while the embassy closed at 3pm. But anyway, the next day I made it back to Assuncion and although the bike was breathing heavily, it wasn’t giving up. Along the way, I met a mechanic and told him about the last 3 days. He said that I was lucky to have a Kawasaki cause most local bikes wouldn’t have made the 800+km with the piston rings in this condition.

In Assuncion, I went and set-up camp at the Botanical garden where they have the municipal camping. Inside the garden, in front of the Museum a gentleman approached me and asked me if I needed any parts for my bike cause there is a Kawasaki dealership in town called Metalcar. I had heard about it the day before when I entered the city and asked around. He said he knew the owner and called to have someone come and get me. Once I set-up camp, I didn’t want to wait and went to Metalcar as fast as possible.

At the service department, I was approached by the Manager, Jose. We talked a bit about my trip and about the problems with the bike. Jose was super nice and welcoming. He also made space right away for the bike and had it washed. I explained to him that I was traveling on a really tight budget and he offered right away to see if he could help me with that so he wrote an e-mail to his contact at Kawasaki explaining my problem and my trip.

Here in the story start the pictures. Sorry for the lower than usual quality, but my black macbook is on it’s last minutes as well and I can’t edit the pictures for now.

My welcome team at Metalcar. Jose is on the right.

STE_5717

After a couple of days, this is what the bike looked like…

STE_5730

Hard to see, but there was a huge gap on the piston rings!

STE_5720

I don’t think this picture needs explanation… 😀

STE_5723

STE_5724

My love’s guts all out…

STE_5726

When I went back to see the bike a few days later, Jose and Felipe invited me for a ride in the Kawi car. They had to go test out a Jetski by the lake in a really nice small town close by.

STE_5731

Jose and Felipe. We had some local doughnut like sweets, but I forgot what they are called. REALLY GOOD!

STE_5744

Unloading the Jetski

STE_5746

Jose testing it out on the lake.

STE_5751

The days were passing and I was enjoying the city of Assuncion.

STE_5812

Finally all parts were in. Brand new 0.5mm larger piston with piston rings. The cylinder was also bored out by 0.5mm at a local shop.

STE_5814

STE_5816

A few days later, this is what the bike looked like! What a great feeling!

STE_5830

Even though the bike was ready, Jose said to wait for a bit as he had sent out a list with the parts and labor to Kawasaki and to see what they would say. The next day, he called me to inform me that Kawasaki was sponsoring me on this work and had covered all parts and labor on the list. I only had to pay for the cylinder reboring which was done by a different shop. I couldn’t believe it! What a great surprise! I have my first big sponsors! 🙂

STE_5837

STE_5851

Big thanks again to EVERYONE!

STE_5863

I will post more pictures of Paraguay and from where I left off my blog but for now that’s almost impossible with the current condition of my Macbook. Soon enough though, I promise! 🙂