Asunción is a strange kind of capital, but then Paraguay is a strange sort of country. Arriving in after a comfortable six hour coach journey where I managed to snatch the top floor front seat on the coach, something akin to getting the front seats on the DLR. To make another London comparison, walking the streets of central Asuncion on a saturday and sunday feels very much like walking around the city of London on the same days. Switch the towering modernity for decaying colonialism and London planes for swaying palms and you get the feeling. That’s a terrible analogy but the feeling of a city deserted, albeit temporarily, holds true. When lack of diversity results in swathes of cities, from Aunsuncion to Manilla, ending up as ghost towns two days out of seven, surely we are doing something wrong.
In truth I was only here for passage back to Argentina and the Andean plains but nonetheless there is enough to hold your interest for a day or two. Having overestimated the amount of Paraguayan currency I would need, and the exchange rate back into Argentinian pesos laughable, I was on a mission to spend my half a million Guarani. Easier said than done in a city that resembled a scene from the walking dead and in a country where you could live like Pablo Escobar for the day and still have change out of a £20 note.
I wandered around all day, bought some souvenirs, mainly my calabaza for drinking maté, or terrere as it’s called here. A green herbal tea that is synonymous with Argentina/Uruguay/Paraguay (although the temperature varies) despite all its colonial decimation, a heartening reminder of the regions indigenous traditions. This is furthered strengthened by Paraguay being the only country in the region to have its indigenous tongue as an official language, with almost everyone you meet being able to speak both Guarani and Spanish. Unfortunately though, Paraguay is also famous for its corruption, which becomes all too apparent when walking along the waterfront of the capital. Striking government palaces with immaculate lawns shielded with barbed wire from the tent villages springing up in front of the cities main cathedral. At least here the poverty is centre stage and unavoidable, perhaps if the homeless citizens of London were allowed to congregate and live aside St. Pauls the government would get its act together and deliver some solutions. I spent some time walking around and watching the local kids who are clearly showing signs of mal-nutrition, playing a game of football/volleyball with impressive control. One thing that should be noted about Asunción is its abundance of excellent street art on almost every corner, kudos to the cities artists for making the most of those decaying tower blocks.
After my last sunset in Paraguay among the locals at the beach I’m heading back to the north east of Argentina to get back on two wheels.
Untill then, Hasta luego.
Thievery Corporation – All that we perceive