In Paraguay the towns and the road networks have grown organically rather than to any pre agreed plan. The electric network has spread out in much the same fashion.
It has only been in fairly recent times that connections to the electric grid spread out across the country. When it did the reach of the grid spread with great speed. This ensured that things could not happen in an organised way.
As the great metal pylons reached out over Paraguay from the hydro electric plant at Itapu the first places to receive electricity were the towns.
Rows of post carried the wires from the cross country pylons into the town centers. From there the infrastructure spread out along every town street.
As the towns and their houses existed long before the arrival of electricity the connections were not an integral part of the house building process.
It all happened before I came to Paraguay but I do suspect the connecting and wiring up of houses and businesses was done on a property by property basis. Some may well have thought at first that after all the years without there was no need to rush into this new life style.
As such the towns were connected up to the grid bit by bit over a period of time.
This has left its mark to this day in the way that wires spread out from the towns posts. In every town there is a spiders web of cables spreading out from each post to the nearby buildings.
In part this may have been caused by an underestimate of the amount of properties that needed connecting up from each point.
More than this though is that once one property was connected to the grid more and more followed. Connected at different times with differing cables and by differing workers.
Dozens of wires now head off in every direction. Some intertwined and some crossed by wires heading in different directions.
Even now when another connection is required a further cable is simply run across to the post amongst all the others. From the ground telling which wire heads where is often almost impossible.
The system though on the whole does work fine. So there is no incentive to take it all down and reconnect everything in a more orderly fashion.
Outside the town centers cables run out for many miles to the remotest of settlements. These used to all be held up by trunks of a local tree which grows straight and strong. However as wood is weakened by the elements over the years these are being replaced by stronger concrete posts.
Normally half or even a third of the posts are replaced by concrete as that gives everything sufficient stability. This carry the cables along all the country roads and off down the side tracks to all the scattered homes.
Not only has man benefited from all these straight posts appearing across the landscape so has the alonzo or oven bird.
It is a bird that likes to make it home near people and to place its round clay nest high up upon something. All these posts make perfect nesting sights and a nest on the top of one is a common sight.
As the over head cables pass houses they are to connected up to the grid. First by a cable to an electric meter by the front gate and then by further wiring on to the house.
Depending on how far back the house is set a single connection from the meter may be enough to reach the house of the cable may need to be supported by additional posts.
From the street to the meter is responsibility of the electric company so the connection is made in a fairly standardized form.
Onwards from there though is the responsibility of the home owner. So every house is unique depending on the electrician used and the materials available.
The posts may be as solid as anything out in the street or they may be precarious and looking apt to fall at any moment.
Despite all this though the system does function well and everyone has electricity for most of the time.
It is though the nature of the system that when the electric does go off it goes off over a considerable area and for varying lengths of time.
A power cut could be caused by anything from a falling tree and a tripped switch in a fuse box.
The nature of scattered settlements are such that for workers to repair any problem they may have to travel a fair distance to get to the source of the power outage and may well have several similar issues to deal with over a wide area. So the lights will come back on but that could take several hours. Or longer if there is a storm blowing.
A further reason for the electric going off is it being turned off centrally to protect the infrastructure.
A large electric storm full of charge and discharging lightning with great force can do a lot of damage to overhead power lines. To stop them getting stuck and to avoid pylons being brought down whole areas are unplugged from the grid as the larger storms pass by.
Whole counties of possibly even the whole country will then be plunged into darkness. I like everyone keep a supply of candles to hand for when the lights go off.
Once the storm has passed the electric is slowly turned on area by area. Any sections damaged by the likes of falling trees will be highlighted and can be repaired.
If a vast area is unplugged it may be a day or more before everyone is reconnected.
This then is the way of the power grid in Paraguay. Not the most organized, not the most resilient but on the whole perfectly serviceable. It does reach out to the remotest places and all the while improvements are being made.
I keep my candles to hand and remember to unplug things as protection against the power surges of the lights going off and on.