I live out in the Paraguayan countryside. It is a good place to live but from time to time I do like to see something different. For me that generally means seeing a bit of city life.
Being just 80 km away Asuncion is easy for me to reach. The trip inevitably involves large periods of time travelling on buses. That though in itself is a good way to see a bit of the country as it passes by.
A couple of times a year I treat myself to a night or two in a modern hotel. More often though a day trip is quite sufficient.
And so is was that earlier this week I filled my day travelling to and from Asuncion. All for a few hours of city life and a change of scenery.
Asuncion is not far from where I live in Piribebuy. However due to the slow speeds with which buses head towards it always a long day.
One way the journey could be made is by starting the day with the early morning bus from my country district into Piribebuy. Then from there getting a bus into Asuncion.
That though is quite restrictive. There is just one bus a day into Piribebuy and from there I might have a substantial wait for a bus to take me onwards to Asuncion. Furthermore I would have to seek out a taxi to get me home later in the day once I was back again in Piribebuy.
Instead I have learnt it is far better to travel up to where the road to Piribebuy branches off the main east west route across Paraguay and get a bus from there.
That then was how I made my journey.
It was still however a long day and an early start. I rose at 6.30 to be out of the door by 7.30. Then I travelled half an hour on my motorbike through Piribebuy and up to the main road.
Paraguay is currently on winter time and the clocks have moved back an hour. As such without a very early start I would have had very little time in Asuncion if I wanted to be back before dark.
Up at the junction with the main road (Ruta 2) there is a petrol station. There I could leave my bike all day and pick it up on the way back.
Rather than car parks petrol stations are often used in Paraguay as places to leave vehicles temporarily. They also offer free parking.
When I got there I could see that there were already many vehicles parked there, both cars and bikes, belonging to people who had continued onwards by bus.
I found a space amongst them and parked up. My crash helmet I simply hung on the handlebars and left. It did take quite a while to get used to the idea that I could leave my helmet hanging on the bike and still find it there when I returned. That though was certainly far better than carrying it around all day.
From there crossed the road to wait for a bus. The road lead to Asuncion so I could catch almost any bus as they would almost all be heading that way.
If a Piribebuy bus had arrived I would have caught that. One did not however appear and instead after waiting just a few minutes I boarded the first one that came along.
This one had started it’s journey in Caraguatay. That is somewhere I have been a few times. It is home to the Paraguayan Naval Museum at Vapor Cue.
It was an old bus and slowly made it’s way along with constant stop for passengers to get on and off. I sat back, got comfortable and into that state of mind that lets long, slow bus journeys drift away.
The bus slowly made it’s way towards Asuncion rattling all the way as it did. Then after 2 1/2 hours of stop start progress finally pulled into Asuncion bus terminal. There I left it to continue my journey into the city.
One more bus would be needed to get me to the shopping centre that was my destination. Standing at the bus stop there seemed to be very few around, so after waiting ten minutes I jumped on one that looked to be going in the right direction.
It did head the right way for a while before veering off to the side. A few blocks of that and it became clear it was not going where I wanted to go so I got off before I head headed too far in the wrong direction.
Looking around I did not recognise where I had arrived. However a check of Google Maps told me that I was only a couple of miles from where I wanted to be.
Not knowing what if any bus would take me that way I decided the best thing to do would be to simply walk. It was a hot sunny day but I do enjoy a brisk stroll.
The streets of Asuncion are laid out in a grid so route finding was no trouble. Walking along the shaded sides of the streets it was not long before the tall office blocks near the shopping centre rose into view.
I had finally reached my destination for the day.
Having to walk brought me there a little later than planned. It was in fact almost midday. So the first thing to do would be to have lunch.
The shopping centre I had come to was Shopping Mariscal. It is one of the large modern malls in the Villa Morra district about 6 km from Asuncion old town. It was one of the first large malls built in Asuncion and a few years ago was extended as part of a modernisation process.
Of all the large malls in the area it is my favourite. I find it has a much better mix of stores than the others. Here everything from high street to boutique can be found.
One part of the renovations was the building of a new more spacious food court. It is much better than the old slightly cramped one, but as it is in the new part of the shopping complex I had to walk all the way through the centre to get to it.
The walk was though worth while and I had a dozen assorted dining options in front of me. Browsing through them all I chose Chinese as that is something I am never going to get out in Piribebuy.
As I relaxed over lunch I planned the rest of the day. I would not have much time here so none could be wasted.
Fed and ready to go I headed off to the shops.
There are a couple of department stores but on the whole the centre is filled by smaller shops. It does not take too long to do a circuit visiting all that seem of interest. Furthermore other than the food halls the shopping centres never appear to be very busy. No need to worry about crowds and queues.
After about an hour I had done that little bit of shopping and seen all I needed to. I had come to the city more for a day out than a shopping expedition.
There was just one more thing I wanted to do before starting on the journey back home.
That was to make another circuit of the centre to film a bit of video to add to my YouTube channel. That is also in the name of Simons Paraguay if you would like to visit it.
Everything done I sat down with a couple of empanadas and a bottle of coke before returning once more to the buses.
Refreshed and ready to carry on I jumped on a city bus to take me back to the bus terminal from where another would take me home.
In the terminal there seemed to be a lack of buses. Not knowing how long I would have to wait for the right one I hopped on one that was just leaving on it’s way to Caacupe. That would at least get me most of the way and I could then change buses there.
Once again the bus made slow progress. It crawled along in search of passengers until we had cleared the Asuncion suburbs.
I made sure I was travelling before the rush hour. Once that starts the streets jam up and everything moves even slower.
So drifting off into that state where time just floats by I watched as the various country towns slowly drifted by.
A couple of hours after leaving the bus terminal I was approaching Caacupe and it was time to spring back into action.
As we passed the first big bus stop in Caacupe I got off to look for a bus that could carry me onwards. I would be able to catch any bus that passed me by as between Caacupe and the Piribebuy junction there was nowhere that one could turn off and head elsewhere.
I did not have to wait long. Just a few vehicles behind was a bus heading to Valenzuela. That is somewhere I have only been once before. To a rodeo many years ago.
I made myself comfortable on the bus and had soon covered the final 10 km to the petrol station where I had left my bike earlier in the day.
As I knew it would be it was still there. Then as dusk slowly turned to dark I rode back home pleased with how well my day out had gone.
It was almost dark by the time I finally pulled up outside my house and the time said 6 pm. For me there is no such thing as a quick visit to the shops.
Having only drunk a couple of bottles of coke during the day I was extremely thirsty by the time I got home.
To cure that an hour of ice cold terere listening to the radio rounded off my day nicely.
Hard to believe it has been 1 year since my 14 wonderful days in Paraguay. I think of that time so fondly, that hardly a day goes by without some positive thought.
I could NOT imagine doing what you do by bus. I travelled those same roads to places like Vapor Cue, Caacupe, Piribebuy, and Paraguari by Hyundai SUV (diesel). I’m a bit sad thinking about the road you take south of Ruta 2 to get to Piribebuy. Takes you past the Fortin Rum Distillery. Which I couldn’t tour but did stop by the side of the road and snap some pictures!
Though my mall experience in Asuncion was Shopping del Sol. And was it crowded that day in April. A Sunday. Food court was packed. Had some ice cream.
A whole year has passed then since you had the opportunity to visit Paraguay.
It is quite an experience travelling on distances on buses. Never quick or comfortable, but I long ago got used to it. Now O just relax and let the hours and miles slowly roll by.
As for Fortin, often I pass by there but getting to visit it from nearby is not made easy. They do have tours, but all start and finish in Asuncion adding to the time and cost with additional stops at places like restaurants in San Bernadino and the little museum in Piribebuy.