Many of the roads in Paraguay are earthen roads. These orange stripes seek out even the remotest habitations in the country.
The majority of the main roads are now paved. These join the towns and villages of the land together and give an urban feel to town centers.
The paved roads however form merely the core of the Paraguayan road network. Almost all the minor routes that lead away from them are unpaved. On the whole simple dirt tracks cut from the heavy orange clay soils that cover most of Paraguay.
These earthen roads may be intended only for pedestrians and ox carts or may be solid enough to deal with the regular passing of trucks and buses.
The track along which i live is one of the latter. A wide orange roadway suitable at most times for almost any vehicle.
It is slightly unusual in that running though a valley it connects with the paved road at both ends. Many tracks wind their way across the countryside passing smaller and smaller settlements until they finally fade into nothingless.
This double access to the paved roads means the track must remain wide enough for all vehicles along its length. It also contributes to it receiving more traffic and therefore more wear.
When first repaired the road surface is smooth and easily travelled. Vehicles and the elements do though begin to degrade the road surface almost as soon as the repairs are finished.
The mayor cause of damage to the road surface is water. Heavy rains quickly overwhelm an drainage ditches. The rainwater either flows onto the road if it is the lowest point of runs across it if gravity can take it further.
The first results in deep muddy ditches forming along the road and the second in numerous channels being cut across it by the flowing water.
In both cases soil is moved by the water leaving behind either holes and ditches or a deeply rutted road surface.
Both of these are made worse by traffic, especially heavy vehicles, passing before the water has drained away and the road surface hardened once more. A lorry that gets stuck in a ditch can destroy a whole section of road whilst trying to free itself.
The deterioration of the road though is not sudden. If it were it would be impossible to keep all but the most important routes open. Instead each deluge slowly washes away a little bit more of the track until it eventually becomes almost impassable.
Once these factors, water and traffic, have done their worst the usable section of the road surface becomes smaller and smaller.
A degree of skill is required driving along a road once it is in this condition.Any traveller will be confronted by deep depressions where rain water has pooled, exposed rocks on inclines where the top soil has washed away and stretches of soft deep sand.
The upkeep of these tracks is the responsibility of the local councils.They have many tracks as well as bridges to care for and only a very limited number of machines to do the job.
As such everyone must wait their turn in the queue. Understandably this is a long queue and a track will be almost impassable before the manpower is available to work on it.
Last week it was finally the turn of the track which passes my house to be given a new smooth surface. The delay had been slightly longer than intended as the earth moving tractor needed for the job had broken down and could go nowhere until it to had been repaired.
Once it did arrive it set to work straight away. Starting at the entrance from the paved road and carrying on until eventual reaching the exit at the other end.
The repairs took several days as the great earth moving tractor worked its way down the track going back and forth over sections several times before moving on to the next. However all that was actually done was to scrape off the current road surface and then make the new surface slightly lower down. With each repair the track slowly sinks deeper and deeper.
The great plough on the front of the tractor shifts soil out of the way. It generally ends up piled up at the edge of the road where there is always a danger that it will block of natural drainage points and cause the road to fill with muddy water after the next storm.
Roads are not closed while they are worked on. So me and anyone else wanting to travel down them must picked their way through the soft soils that resemble a ploughed field whilst the work is done and around the tractor whilst is goes about its business.
Eventually the tractor will reach the far end of the track and head off to its next job. The road is then considered finished and no further repairs will be seen for a long while.
Many years ago the tractor was followed by a road roller that compressed everything down. Now that is left to passing traffic.
I travelled along the track and into town shortly after the work had finished. On the surface there was a layer of dust like sand that blew up in great clouds whenever a vehicle passed. And no doubt floated in the air behind me for anyone that was following.
The surface has now been firmed down. Last night there was some heavy rain and so there will now be no more dust blowing around. It was fortunate that the first heavy rain after the repairs occurred at night. That ensured it would not be destroyed by heavy vehicles before it had had time to compress.
Now for the next few months, providing there are not too many powerful storms, the road will be a pleasure to travel down.
For a few weeks before it starts to wear away it will be a smooth as the paved road.
Then bit by bit the road surface will disappear and the cycle will begin a new.
Have you traveled the roads south of Pilar to Humaita and then south of Humaita down to Paso de Patria in Neembucu? They don’t look paved so I’m assuming they are this type of clay/dirt road. I’m going to all three places. By 4×4. (See it has rained the past 5 days in Asuncion! Praying it lets up when I’m in the far SW.)
I’ve not had a chance to get down there. The roads will be earthen and in varying states of repair. Also low lying areas could be a little muddy. You should though be fine in a 4×4