Asuncion, Paraguay 18 Oct 06
Odometer 32,077 m 51,623 km

One day’s ride southwest of Ciudad del Este lies the beautiful colonial capital of Paraguay: Asuncion. Only two countries in South America are without oceanfront property: Paraguay and Bolivia. But Paraguay has the advantage of two enormous rivers, the Rio Parana and the Rio Paraguay, both large enough to transport goods to the sea. Asuncion lies immediately adjacent to the latter.

Paraguayans have a reputation for being especially warm and inviting. I certainly found this to be true. Upon departing Ciudad del Este, Julio and Raul called ahead to their motorcycle buddies in Asuncion to advise them of my arrival by early afternoon. They were interested in meeting the crazy
gringo who rode his bike all the way to South America.
Heavy rain and extreme wind added 2-1/2 hours to my trip. In spite of my tardy arrival, however, the entire group hung out and waited by the roadside, not one of them on bikes because of the rain, and flagged me down as I entered the city. I was dumbstruck by their patience, kindness, interest in my trek, and willingness to help.

After my roadside reunion with Asuncion’s Nomadas, I proceeded to look up my virtual friend Patricio. We only knew each other via email, but I was anxious to meet him in person and hear of his own adventure-motorcycle tours. He and his family were kind enough to put me up.

Over the next couple of days, Patricio, Tito and Sergio showed me the city and the surrounding area. Tito took me to the central plaza, Paraguay’s oldest church, his sugar cane plantation, and one of only two lakes found in the entire country, all while eating
typico food and talking politics.

Finally, when it was time again to head south, Tito and Sergio volunteered to jump on their bikes and escort me to the Argentine border. Several hours were spent battling immigration and customs, as Argentina has new, stricter laws governing insurance. When I was unable to produce proof of international coverage for El Viento, I was allowed in country only long enough to purchase a policy in the nearby town of Chlorinda.

But, as luck would have it, the only two insurance venders in Chlorinda informed me that their policies could only be sold to Argentines and Paraguayans. Since me and my motorcycle were from the United States--we were

Advancing into Argentina without insurance would be a guaranteed disaster. There are numerous checkpoints all along my route and every conceivable alternate. The police force there is notoriously corrupt, even by Latin American standards, so even if they allowed me to pass, they would only do so after extracting a heavy “toll.”

I had to go back.
My Image
Patricio with his bike, in Asuncion.
Returning to Paraguay was a painful decision. Crossing borders is a maddening experience best left to once a day. It involves hours of standing in lines, keeping an eye on your gear, negotiating with sometimes suspicious immigration officers, explaining all of your U.S. documents proving ownership of your vehicle, changing your money from one currency to another, enduring the insufferable heat, etc.

Tito had patiently waited on the Paraguayan side after having some lunch to see if I was successfully on my way. When they finally released me back to whence I came, Tito was mindful of Julio’s now famous greeting in Ciudad del Este the night we crossed over the
Friendship Bridge from Brazil, saying, “Bienvenidos a Paraguay. Otra vez! (Welcome to Paraguay. Again!)”

I returned to spend another night in Asuncion making calls and running from office to office trying to obtain some sort of insurance policy. Striking out with the legal method, Patricio’s sister helped me create some official-looking insurance documents from the U.S. Though no American company will actually insure a vehicle south of the border, with my Mac, a scanner and Photoshop, anything is possible.
Patricio's sister helps Jeremiah create "international insurance," on the fly.
The next day I returned to Argentina via an alternate border crossing. I didn’t want to avail my fake documents to the same officials who had grilled me the day before! So, instead of crossing the Rio Paraguay over the same bridge, I slinked under the radar aboard a small ferry--the less conspicuous my entry, the better.

Stamp. Staple. Stamp, stamp. Signature. Stamp. Photocopy. Stamp. Next?

I was on my way.

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