It had been quite a while since I last visited Asuncion. 18 months or more. The last time I was there was upon my return from England after my last visit.
A few months after that Covid arrived and restrictions were put in place. Even through those have on the whole been lifted I had still not returned to the capital.
Until yesterday that I was. Well overdue a day out.
It was an early start to the day. A trip to Asuncion always is as it inevitably involves many hours sitting on buses.
At 8 o’clock I left home and headed towards Piribebuy on the first leg of the journey.
As I approached Piribebuy I saw a bus just about to pull out of the bus depot and begin its trip towards Asuncion.
I was travelling faster on my bike than the bus could go. Still however I had to get into town, park the bike and then get to the bus stop before the bus did.
So hurried into town. Dropped my bike off at the petrol station and then took a brisk walk across the plaza. The bus taking a leisurely loop around town did not turn up for a few minutes.
Then I was on my way to Asuncion.
The bus was very much as it had always been. Seats all filled and passengers standing along the aisle between them. The only difference between now and then was all the facemasks.
It has always been a slow trip into Asuncion. That had not changed. Despite it being just 80km the bus with all its stopping and meeting traffic took two and a half hours to get to the Asuncion bus terminal.
There I had to deal with the one thing that had changed since my last visit. All buses in Greater Asuncion now accept only pre paid electronic cards. So I had to get hold of one.
Surprisingly it turned out that the only place to purchase one was in the bank that has a little office in the terminal. I was simple enough and soon I was heading out to try the thing out on a city bus.
No doubt drivers have had many passengers like me, not knowing how to use the new cards. Worked it out in the end and soon arrived outside one of the citys modern shopping malls.
Checking the time I saw it was almost midday. It had taken me nearly four hours to get there, and so would take as long to get back.
All that was forgotten for the moment. I had in front of me the opportunity to spend a few hours wandering round a shopping center. Window shopping with a bit of real shopping mixed in with it. Oh, what a treat!
The variety of things available and their quality is so much better than back in Piribebuy. Even here though there are limitations and finding the right thing often involves searching through a number of shops. Sometimes several times.
Being midweek though the shops were not very busy and in one department store I was even able to employ one of the shop assistants as my personal shopper to help me find what I was looking for.
In addition to the shopping eating is always good in the shopping malls. They all have large food courts with a wide range of restaurants.
For me I made my usual choice. Chinese food. With extra chilies to make it a bit more interesting. Even found some chop sticks to play with.
After eating well I continued aiming to explore every corner of the shopping center. None of them are really that big so it does not take too long.
Along with that a few more purchases. I did have to keep in mind though that everything I bought would have to squeeze into my little backpack. Later I would be needing to carry them home on my motorbike.
It was a very enjoyable day out. Inevitably over too soon.
A just 3 o’clock I was on my way again on a city bus back to the bus terminal. Just three hours of shopping sandwiched between two long slow bus rides.
As it was by half past three I was back on a bus heading back towards Piribebuy and home.
Buses out of Asuncion always take a while to get through the suburbs. The roads are not designed for so much traffic and everything crawls along.
The people who benefit most out of this are the sellers who jump on and off buses everytime they slow to a halt. These people sell anything that will make a little money. Anything that can be carried in one hand.
As the bus tried to work its way though San Lorenzo they mounted the bus in great numbers. A seemingly endless stream. On offer were fruits, vegetables, things for mobile phones and even toothpaste. I resisted all of these but did buy a few cakes.
Eventually the bus was free of the grip of Asuncion and headed out into the countryside.
The slow, stop start journey meant that it was dusk when we reached Caacupe and dark by the time the bus finally reached Piribebuy.
Before heading home I stopped off in the plaza for a cold drink. Several hours in the heat on a bus wearing a facemask does make you just a little bit thirsty.
That done I picked up my bike and headed home at last.
Once clear of town I had the road to myself and apart from the cats eyes to show me the way all was darkness.
I arrived home safely though. It was by then six thirty. So a visit to the shops had been a ten and a half hour round trip.
A long day but a very enjoyable one.