June 13, 2008:

Foz del Iguazu, Paraguay, Northern Argentina and Peru....Part 1

The last 1½ months have been very cultural and quite an eye opener
for us. We traveled to Foz del Iguazu in Northeast Argentina, then
to Paraguay and from there visited the Nasca Lines, Machu Picchu,
Cusco, Puno and Lake Titicaca in Peru. Therefore, with so much to
tell this egroup will be a little lengthy.

As of the end of April we were still in the southern half of South
America... Mendoza, Argentina. Because of future time committments
we needed to fast forward our pace. We got on a bus in Mendoza and
after 36 hours we were in Puerto del Iguazu, the very northeast
corner of Argentina. Our goal was to see the waterfalls of Iguazu.
The volume of water isn't as great as Niagra Falls but the Foz del
Iguazu has a greater number of falls which really makes it a
spectacular sight. (see photos) The roaring falls were topped off
with a beautiful rainbow. They were incredible. While in Puerto
del Iguazu we were able to attend a Rotary meeting in which we were
the guest speakers. The Rotarians were very amazed with our
efforts and provided us with some good connections for down the road.

Our next destination was Paraguay. But first we had to cross into
Brazil for a few hours. We looked at the point where the 3
countries (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay) actually come together.
It seemed somewhat strange as we gazed at a country we knew well -
Argentina, a country we knew only for a short time - Brazil and a
country we knew little about - Paraguay. From that vantage point
the country differences became evident. Paraguay was going to be
the country that had the most poverty thus far. We were warned
that crossing the border into City of the East would be an eye
opener. It was exactly that.

Our border passing went well but, immediately we noticed the dirt
and poverty. It was like night and day. Jacky had a group of young
boys chasing her and yelling at her as we were climbing a hill into
the main business area. Our fear level was elevated as we had not
been in this environment before. We made it to a gas station that
had an armed guard. We felt somewhat safe then but we still never
took our eyes off of our stuff. We visited with some locals and
tried to discern the security precautions necessary for travel in
Paraguay. They indicated that the route to Asuncion was very
dangerous. They said we would be subject to highway robbery and
that there were no accommodations along the way. I guess we'll have
to rethink this option. I used my Rotary contacts and had a
Rotarian meet us at the gas station and help us find appropriate

While we were in City of the East we spent a day visiting the Itapu
Dam. This is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. The
majority of the electricity is sold to Brazil and is a very large
revenue source for Paraguay. This was very interesting to me and
something I really enjoyed.

Time to plan our route through Paraguay. We took advice and
information provided by the locals's under careful consideration and
decided to take the bus to Cacupe. Cacupe is a smaller city with a
beautiful Basilica. We attended church on Sunday and found
ourselves standing outside the church along with hundreds of other
people. Vendors were lined up along the roads and sidewalks since
6:00 am selling religous statutes and candles, bread, meat kebabs,
etc. It was alive. We learned that the route to Asuncion was well
traveled and that there were many places to stay. Our experience
proved this to be true. It was a nice bike ride and when we got to
the Asuncion area, I was again able to attend a Rotary meeting where
I met Oscar. Oscar is an English teacher and has his afternoons
free. We took the local bus into the heart of the city and he gave
us a very nice tour of Asuncion and the history behind it.

Paraguay is going through a significant governmental change at this
moment. The new leader, which will take over in August, was
previously a priest. They are hoping that he will help end the
corruption. Many positive things have already happened and from the
mid 1980's (when I was there last) it is easy to see that the
country is heading forward. Now there is electricity and the road
from City of the East to Asuncion is now paved vs the dirt road

We decided to take a ride in a small wooden boat across the
Paraguay River to cross into northern Argentina which borders
Paraguay on the west. We were able to put our bikes and bags
inside the boat and we sat on the benches with a few locals. The
boat ride saved us about 4 hours of riding in very heavy truck
traffic. We do not like heavy truck traffic. Once we crossed the
river we had a very hard time finding the Argentinean border. As we
listened to locals and went this way and that way we got quite an
eye full. We saw gasoline being sold black market style. There
were stands after stands of individuals selling jugs of gasoline.
You drive up and they pour the gasoline into your vehicles' tank.
They don't have gas stations in that area. We also observed a
pedestrian border crossing between Argentina and Paraguay where
there was a steady stream of people carrying enormous amounts of
goods on their backs into Paraguay. We learned that these products
were not allowed to cross the border. The trucks that cross the
border are monitored closely but not the pedestrians. The police
at the pedestrian border are paid to look the other way. We were
not allowed to cross the pedestrian border but still, after about 2
hours, did not know where to go. A local on a scooter saw our
frustration and told us to follow him. He took us down dirt paths
and soon we came to a river. He told us to cross the river in a
canoe and the border crossing would be right there. So we paid the
canoe owner a small fee, stood the bikes up in the canoe and away we
went. I somewhat felt like George Washington crossing the
Delaware. I had to stand and hold the bikes as we were rowed across
the Black River. Sometimes things get interesting. I guess this
falls into the adventure part of our trip.

Being back in Argentina was a good feeling. We knew the rules, the
money and the customs. We were in the northern part and things
seemed to be good. We soon learned that Northern Argentina was
referred to as Chaco. Chaco is a flat unchanging semi wetland,
mixed with small trees and cattle. After two days of perfectly
flat, straight roads and towns every 40 to 100 kilometers, we were
wishing for a slight hill or even a farm house or two. Our diet
returned to carne and pasta, very common in Argentina. Our nights
were not restful. Fiestas start at 11 p.m. and go until 6 a.m..
The music radiates throughout the whole town. While in the city of
Fontana we went to sleep at 9:30 p.m. only to be kept awake because
of an all night fiesta. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and decided to
catch the tail end of the party. If you can't beat them you might
as well join them. Life is really different in Argentina.

Our friend, Jeff Freidhof, was planning on meeting us in Peru. We
were moving toward Tacna, Peru to make our connection with him. He
had to move his plans up, so again we fast forwarded by bus to
Peru. We crossed into Chile for the 5th time. This time at the
border crossing we were at 13,000 feet of elevation. Many people on
the bus were light headed and even a few passed out because of the
thin air. Jacky and I felt a little bit of the effects of the
elevation. Our bus ride passed through the salt flats of Argentina,
but the area was primarily a cold, high desert with no towns. It
actually was not very conducive for cycling.

Crossing the border into Peru required 7 different stamps on our
immigration papers. Our bicycles in Peru are treated differently
than in Chile. Chile does not consider them as a vehicle and in
Peru we almost needed to have our sales receipts to get them into
the country. I was afraid that God was going to have stamp our
papers to get into Peru.

After reaching Peru we spent two days in the city of Tacna. It has
a beautiful square and cathedral but the surrounding buildings and
neighborhoods were not so nice looking. Most of the houses do not
have their upper level completed so nothing has a finished look.
Many of the roads in the neighborhoods and in the hills are steep,
dirt and impassable by cars. We were told to watch our things
closely in this city. The risk of petty theft became apparent by
the large number of police officers that roamed the square and

We spent a day at the Nasca lines in Nasca. We won't go into the
history of these lines but I recommend you research them on the
internet. They are about 1000 years old and truly unbelievable. We
were able to get an aerial view of the trapezoids and the various
figures when we took an hour long flight. Our camera did not do the
pictures justice so we will not be posting them on the website but
you will want to view them on the internet. They are simply
amazing. How could they get those lines so laser straight? How
they came to be and what they mean is still not 100% understood but
it is believed that they were important for appeasing the rain and
sun gods.

Off to Cuzco. Crossing the Andes was inevitable. Our days were
filled with riding and just trying to make progress. We left
Abancay and after 4 hours of climbing we reached the pass at a
height of 3950 meters (13,000 ft). It was cold and beautiful as we
could see the glacier filled mountains in the foreground. Our
descent into Churuasi only took 1 hour. We found out the effects
of elevation sickness at this time. Jacky was very ill. She had
total body aches, headaches and nausea. We spent the next day
resting and drinking the tea that cures Sorache (elevation
sickness). Things were getting very reasonable now for cost. Our
food was costing about $1.00 per meal and rooms ranged from $4.00 -
$12.00 per night. Although having a hot shower would be nice...it
was rare!. We did have one room that was only $4.00. It was our
only option in the city of Anta. The bathroom was really scary.
As a hunter and outdoorsman, I would have rather gone in the woods.

We arrived in the city of Anta on Sunday afternoon. Sunday is
market day, the city was alive with people and traffic. Market day
is a very interesting day with all the people, trucks and taxis.
Trucks are jammed full of people buying and selling the various
goods. One truck must have had 60 people standing in the back. The
taxis and Toyota buses were also crammed full with people laying
across each other in the vehicles. What a sight to see. I don't
think they have a seatbelt law. Also in Anta, we had our first
Chicha. This is a natural corn beer that is sold everywhere and
loved by the locals. We almost had a Chicha on us as a bar brawl
broke out. The owner and another lady started yelling at each
other. Soon Chicha was flying through the air, legs were
kicking, fists were flying, hair was being pulled and one of the
women was thrown to the floor. Even in Peru two women wanting one
man make a recipe for a barroom brawl.

We have been experiencing incredible culture and enjoying every
minute of it.

We made it to Cuzco and awaited Jeff's arrival on May 30th. The
second part of this egroup will continue from there and be sent
within the next week. We are having technical difficulties with the
computer. Ward has already written the second half twice only to
have the computer lose it or shut off on him both times.

Take care my amigos/amigas. We will be leaving Puno, Peru tomorrow
and heading to Bolivia.

Jacky and Ward