Jackel
Jackel
Palm trees in the fall time in Zurich
Palm trees in the fall time in Zurich
Roughly 1300 miles of this.  That is Boston to Miami.
Roughly 1300 miles of this. That is Boston to Miami.

Yesterday was exciting.  We checked out of our apartment in Buenos Aires.  It was a bit strange to go from having a nice comfortable apartment to being nomads again in just a matter of minutes.  That is the way it is though, the trip must go on!  I will post more about our month in Buenos Aires in the coming days.

Our plan was to fly LAN Argentina last night from Buenos Aires to Comodoro Rivadavia – a three hour flight to the south.  We jumped on the 160 colectivo from Plaza Italia, snagged some seats and enjoyed the short ride over the Jorge Newbury Aeroparque.  We were greeted at the airport by a half dozen or so media trucks.  That is never a good sign!  Inside we found lines of passengers that would even make the TSA jealous.

News crews at the airport!
News crews at the airport!

A LAN employee informed us that the Buenos Aires airports (both AEP and EZE) were shutdown due to an air traffic control problem.  We had heard rumors of there being a strike planned for that day but apparently this was unrelated.  They said it was some sort of technical issue and that it may not be resolved for a day or more.  We were supposed to depart around 11pm but we were told to expect a cancellation.

After our flight last night, we had a hotel reservation in Comodoro Rivadavia followed by a rental car reservation, followed by a booking at Bahía Bustamonte (much more on this later!), followed by a bus, etc…  In other words, we had a long chain of bookings that had just been derailed.  We opted to abandon the flight and switch to a bus then try to push everything else back by a day.

It took us about an hour to call hotels, change the rental car reservation, book bus tickets, etc.  I worked through some of the issues on my laptop and Amy worked some of the others on the phone.  When it was all said and done we had tickets in hand for a bus departure later that evening.  I have yet to get a straight answer out of LAN but I believe we will be able to refund our tickets from lsat night.

We departed Retiro station at 8:30 PM and made only one stop during the first twelve hours of the trip. A hot meal was served a couple of hours after departure and breakfast around 9AM the next morning.  At about the 13.5 hour mark while crossing a flat eastern Montana-like savanna we had a blow out.  Nothing too exciting just a few seconds of buzzing, then a bang and a short while later we came to a stop.  Thirty minutes later we were back on the road.

The first blowout on my RTW trip. Oh goodie!
The first blowout on my RTW trip. Oh goodie!

As I write this we are in the 24th hour of the trip.  Due to a few other delays here in there we are still about four hours from reaching Comodoro.  I just finished my fourth consecutive bus meal (roughly equivalent to a airline coach meal) and I am really longing to get off this thing.  The good news is that the gaggle of cackling old ladies as well as a crying baby disembarked a couple stops back.  Hopefully we are only one or two dubbed movies away from arrival!

Update: We made it!  27 hours and 8 minutes to cover just short of 1300 miles.

MET: 25 hours, 22 minutes.  Are we there yet? Nope.
MET: 25 hours, 22 minutes. Are we there yet? Nope.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Where we had the flat.
Where we had the flat.

Aisle surfing like a boss.  This bus was easy, there was added headroom so that I could standup straight! Possible downside: skull getting crushed when the bus rolls over.
Aisle surfing like a boss. This bus was easy, there was added headroom so that I could standup straight! Possible downside: skull getting crushed when the bus rolls over.

Ok, I will admit it.  Figuring out how to get from place to place during my trips is one of my favorite travel chores.  Usually it is pretty simple since the guidebooks lay out most of the details.  The process becomes a little more interesting when you have to go from one middle-of-nowhere place to another middle-of-nowhere place.

It took us a couple hours to get to San Ber which lies to the east of Asución and it is quite a ways from Route 1, Paraguay’s main north-south highway.  Ybycuí is in roughly in same direction but a few more hours down the road.  We didn’t really want to backtrack all the way to Asunción so we decided to ride one of the local buses (which doubles as a school bus!) back to Route 1 and then attempt to flag down an Ybycuí-bound bus.

In Paraguay, there aren’t fixed bus stops.  Instead the protocol is to simply stand somewhere along their route and flail your arms as necessary until they stop.  This makes them very convenient but it also means they stop about every quarter mile to load and discharge passengers!

Getting out of San Ber was a piece of cake.  The wait was no more than 15 minutes for an Asunción-bound local bus(which double as school buses!).  Based on the crude map in our guidebook we knew that we had to ride as far as San Lorenzo as that is the town where the highway splits off to head south towards Ybycuí.  Figuring out where to get off was a bit of a guessing game but the driver helped us out.

The keeper of our guesthouse in San Ber told us that we had to “walk one block over” in San Lorenzo to find the Ybycuí buses.  As it turned out, it was actually a few blocks away but Amy was able to ask a few locals to get more precise directions.  Before we knew it we were standing with a bunch of Paraguayans eagerly awaiting their buses to the countryside.

It wasn’t more than 15 minutes until an ancient Mercedes bus rolled up to take is to Ybycuí.  Public transportation in Paraguay is great!

Our ride to Ybycuí
Our ride to Ybycuí

Naturally, each and every seat was occupied when we boarded so we had to surf the aisle for a while.  Amy got one after about 20 minutes and I scored one about an hour into the 4 hour ride to Ybycuí.  Riding in the aisle isn’t terrible (especially given the condition of some of the “seats”) but it is annoying when all the chipá/banana/sock vendors push their way past you and your backpack so that they can attempt to make one last sale in the back of the bus.

By the time we got to Ybycuí few people remained and we jumped off with very little fanfare on a dusty corner in what we hoped was the center of town.  Our guidebook claimed that there was one hotel in town and some other blogger wrote about a hospedaje.  As luck would have it, the bus dropped us directly in front of both of them!  Of course, we didn’t know that until we made a fool of ourselves by asking a nearby shopkeeper for directions. :)

The town of Ybycuí was very quiet.  Most of the businesses are located along the town’s one main street.  There were plenty of shops selling clothing, a few groceries stores and even two internet cafes although the town was notably lacking in restaurants.  I don’t remember seeing a single restaurant during our two-day stay.  The only prepared food that we were able to find was from a lady selling grilled meat along the side of the road.  It was there that I got to try my first sopa paraguaya along with some meat-on-a-stick.  Sopa paraguaya is basically cornbread with onions and, optionally, cheese and meat.

Obtaining some street meat. Dogs filled with hope.
Obtaining some street meat. Dogs filled with hope.
Meat on a stick and sopa paraguaya
Meat on a stick and sopa paraguaya


One of the  few eating establishments open in downtown  Asunción on the weekennd.One of the few eating establishments open in downtown Asunción on the weekennd.
One of the few eating establishments open in downtown Asunción on the weekennd.

Above you can see the very first place where we dined in Asunción, the capital city of Paraguay: an Esso station.  Exciting, eh?  We arrived on a Saturday afternoon from the States and, as promised, the city center is more or less dead on the weekends.  For the most part it is just you, the mosquitoes, a handful of stray dogs and endless rows of heavily-fortified storefronts (closed, of course).

After our initial failure at finding food, the clerk at the hotel clued us in to a mall of sorts with a supermarket that was a few blocks away.  We picked up some fresh fruit, crackers and other snacks and then headed back to the hotel since it was getting dark.  Sunday was equally quiet although we did track down local restaurant called Lido Bar which was open for lunch.

My first real meal in Paraguay: Ñoquís (gnocci) with tomato sauce and cheese and a fresh OJ on the side.My first real meal in Paraguay: Ñoquís (gnocci) with tomato sauce and cheese and a fresh OJ on the side.
My first real meal in Paraguay: Ñoquís (gnocci) with tomato sauce and cheese and a fresh OJ on the side.

On Monday, we awoke to an entirely different city.  Stores were open, people were rushing to work, and vendors were on the street peddling everything sunglasses to Tereré.  Sightseeing in Asunción doesn’t take too long and we were able to walk to most of the sights in the downtown area in one morning: a government palace, a few parks, a train station and a couple museums.

Later in the afternoon we jumped on a colectivo (city bus) and headed to one of the city markets.  I say “jump” because you quite literally jump on and off the buses while they are rolling!  Of course, the real fun is watching the driver weave his way through the congested streets at an easy 40MPH.  The market itself was the usual developing-country mix of cheap clothing, fresh food products and housewares.  Certainly an interesting destination.  I even got my first taste of chipá…more on that tomorrow.

Palacio de  Gobierno, Asuncion, Paraguay
Palacio de Gobierno, Asuncion, Paraguay
Asunción skyline
Asunción skyline
A busy street near Mercado 4 in Asuncion
A busy street near Mercado 4 in Asuncion
All city buses are driving with reckless abandon.  I'm certain these guys could give Indian bus drivers a run for their money!
All city buses are driving with reckless abandon. I’m certain these guys could give Indian bus drivers a run for their money!
...and horses having a snack right in the middle of it all.
…and horses having a snack right in the middle of it all.

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