Tuesday night we four ragged travelers rolled into dusty, 38°C Loma Plata, the capital of Menno Colony in northern Paraguay. Four days in the Chaco had done a number on us; we were sunburnt, bug-bitten, grimy, dusty, hungry, and drinking the final drops of our water. With daylight running out, we connected with our host in Loma Plata, Tina Krahn, who directed us to her house. There she opened the floodgates of abundance: showers, shelter, water, lasagna, asado (barbeque), bread, melon, pickles, sauerkraut, milk, mandioca, and more water. In all our days bicycle touring, we have never experienced such a dramatic shift from dehydrated squalor to refreshing comfort.
Our first day on the Ruta Trans-Chaco was fairly easy; from the Schmidt’s household we already had a head start at km 13. At km 47 we stopped in to check out the cheesemaking and agricultural projects of Leah and John Eads, who welcomed us with a big late morning breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs. Their family of four, including Amos (5) and Clara (3), is at the tail end of a year-long position at the Colegio Agricultura San Fransisco, a self-sufficient agricultural school funded by the incomes of multiple micro-businesses. Our route continued on smooth highway in the palm savannah portion of the Chaco. Around 4:30pm we rolled into a gas station at km 106. Since it is “winter” it gets dark at 5pm. We pitched our tarptent, and had a dinner of underdone beans and overdone rice.
While breaking camp, we discovered that our filtration system is very slow and it took 1.5 hours to drip into all our bottles and reservoirs. This meant a much later start to the morning, but we felt fresh and hit the pavement. Characteristics of our many hours of riding include:
-Drafting in a tight line of 4; saving energy through the wind tunnel created by the person who “pulls” in the front for 4-5 km.
-Eating energy bars, often while riding. Here we send a big shout out to Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford over at Clif Bar, who very generously helped us out with some of their wonderful energy products.
-Taking standing “rectal” breaks every 15 minutes for prostate health.
-Yelling “Truck back!” to indicate an approaching truck.
-Waving at many people who give us encouragement: “Fuerza, Fuerza!”
-Observing the multiple shrines along the highway.
-Drinking approximately 5 liters of water per person per day.
At km 210 in the village of Montelindo, we found a wonderful hospedaje owned by Marcos, who patiently talked to us in slow Spanish in the dark hours of the night. He graciously agreed to let us sleep under the overhang on his porch.
After an early morning departure of 6:45am, we proceeded to bike 145 km. It was a difficult day, as the headwind was increasing and the quality of the roads worsened. We dodged potholes in our ducks-in-a-row formation and rode so zealously that we steamed past a larger village at 3:45pm, with an hour of daylight left to arrive at the next village. That village never came, and we were forced to camp in the bush. The entire night we were plaugued by mosquitos, thorns, and dreams/visions of the snakes and jaguars we had heard about from the Chaco Mennonites.
Another early departure saw us into a forceful headwind and unforgiving heat. Our water reserves were running low so we had a mid-morning filtration session at a grocery store. The final 15 km into Loma Plata became so great a fatigue that Michael and Matthew hitched a ride on a truck into town, and Abe and Levi biked the rest of the way. All were safe and sound.
on behalf of Matthew, Michael, and Abe