December 27, 2014
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
Paraguay is one of the smaller countries in South America. The capital of Paraguay is Asuncion which is located near the western border of the country. It is a small region but is home to the vast majority of Paraguays population. To the Northwest of Asuncion is a different story however, this region is known as Chaco and is a hot, arid land. In contrast, the eastern portion of Paraguay is full of agricultural lands.
The Pack Track entered Paraguay on boxing day with the intention to stop in Asuncion for a couple of days before continuing on to Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires for New Years Eve. From the Brazilian border to Asuncion is around 300km, so comfortably a day's travel. We made a booking at a hostel in Asuncion and left our hotel in Foz do Iguazu at a reasonable 10am.
The border crossing at Ciudad del Este was straight forward, a couple of stamps for us, nothing for the bikes or Weeti. We were through in about 15 minutes and back on the road. Our first stop was an ATM to withdraw some local money and then back on the road, it would be nice to be having lunch in Asuncion we thought as we departed.
Reaching Asuncion before lunch was ambitious and our stomachs told us well beforehand that we needed to stop. We'd rode through many little towns and made the decision at about the halfway point to stop at the next restaurant to get something to eat. We found a Brazilian style buffet with plenty of options and reasonably priced.
Back on the road and we ran into some rain passing through a town. It didn't warrant stopping but clearly was the tail-end of a much heavier shower. The traffic was moving unusually slow through the town, the results of a super slow moving truck. Riding in Latin America had resulted in some bad riding habits so Stuart, riding in front, decided he'd overtake along the paved shoulder. As he overtook the truck on the shoulder, a car overtook on the otherside. Janell saw this and warned Stuart through the comms. Taking this into account, Stuart was very cautious as he merged in front of the truck, making sure there was a large gap between him and the truck as well as being conscious of the car. Checking his mirrors there was plenty of room so began the manoeuvre. What he hadn't realised was the shoulder lane dropped over an inch from the road so there was a large bump to overcome on the wet and slippery surface, a combination of rain water and oil. Furthermore, Stuart had been having problems with his front tyre and the pressure was constantly dropping, so would easily have been around 20 P.S.I. at the time. All of these factors together led to a disaster. Stuart hit the bump, the front tyre bounced up and with the bike leaning and the acceleration being applied slipped out of control and onto its side. Stuart, Weeti and the bike slid across the lane and into the oncoming traffic. The car and truck behind slammed on their brakes and came to a rapid stop. The oncoming traffic did likewise and Janell couldn't get off her bike quick enough to run and make sure Stuart, Weeti and the bike were OK.
Stuart was very much in a daze when he came too, not sure what had happened but knew the bike was down and the engine still running, he reached over and turned off the ignition. He sat up and looked to Weeti, she was in her Pillion Pooch and seemed perfectly unaffected by the fall. Before he could put much thought into the situation, a couple of people grabbed him by the arms and pulled him to his feet. Janell arrived and asked if he was OK and then checked Weeti, unclipped her from the bike and gave her to Stuart to hold on the side of the road. Two bystanders and Janell got the bike up and dragged it off the road. With the clutch lever broken and the bike stuck in gear it really did need to be dragged.
Other then the clutch lever, bent handlebars and some scratched paintwork, the bike was fine. Janell rode back to the nearest town to try and locate a new clutch lever. Where do you even start in an unfamiliar country with her very poor Spanish? She found a tyre repair shop with two elderly men sitting outside. She stopped out front and approached the friendly men to explain the predicament and ask for advice. To her surprise, she was standing next-door to a motorbike parts shop which the men politely pointed out. The owner of the shop was very helpful and found a lever to suit, then found a mechanic to go out to the broken bike and fit it on the side of the road. The mechanic made the necessary repairs so Stuart could ride back to his workshop. After all the work was complete, the mechanic charged less then $10 for the labour and the shop owner insisted on giving us the lever free of charge. We were so very grateful for their help and the repair was perfect.
It would have been nice to just stop at the town and stay in the nearest hotel, but we had made a booking in Asuncion so we continued, riding the remaining 100km to Asuncion. So at a much reduced pace, we finished what we had intended to do that day and got to Asuncion with plenty of sunlight. Once we were unpacked we went looking for the nearest bar to have a couple of beers and unwind after an extraordinary day.
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