I cannot believe it is December. I have been on the road since August. The time has flown by as I made my way through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay.
I have been in the middle of some riots and experienced a tear gas attack upfront. Met a few scammers and got caught by a minor scam.
Overall I feel that the trip has mostly been trouble-free. Everyone says South America is one of the most dangerous places to travel in the world. That has not been my experience. Not yet, anyway.
On this trip, I have, for the most part, been staying in hostels. Up to this year, I had not stayed in a hostel since I was in my early twenties. I had mentioned to a Welsh friend when staying in Airbnbs you at times can get detached.
He suggested staying in hostels. I was not keen at first until I learned that many hostels have private rooms. So far, it has been a positive experience. Some have been better than others.
From what I have seen, hostels with bright common areas are the best. If the common area is well-done, people will gravitate there and socialise. If it is dark and unattractive people will avoid and keep to themselves.
I was initially worried about the safety of my stuff in a hostel. There seems to be a great bond between travellers and I have felt very secure in all the hostels I have been.
Toiletries are another matter. If you happen to leave your shampoo in the shower. you have less than sixty seconds to retrieve it before it is gone. The shampoo is not on the honour list.
I have said a few times now that travelling to some places in the world can be very cheap. As I am staying in hostels, I rarely pay more than ten euro a night for a private room.
When I eat lunch or dinner if I pay more then five euro I am splashing out. I love eating in the local markets in South America. Beer usually is my biggest weakness, but on this trip, I have drunk less beer than usual.
In high altitudes and high temperatures, I find I drink less. Maybe I am slowing down. The good thing about hostel life is people buy cheap beer in shops and get together in the common area. The craic can be better than any bar.
Some friends have said I am a bit mad travelling solo around South America at my age. If that is the case, I have seen a lot crazier. I would have to say I have met a lot of characters on my travel.
In the hostel I am in here in Asuncion Paraguay there is a guy from Zaragoza in Spain. He is travelling for years with little money. He does some work in hostels for his bed.
If he cannot find work and needs money for food, he has a friends system. He has a list of people that if they get a card from him, they need to put fifteen euro into his bank. I only ask on the rare time I have no food brother he said to me. I believe him. He is almost sixty.
I was sitting in a park this week here in Asuncion, and another Spanish guy from Seville came up to me. Do you want me to sing you a song he asked? Why not I replied.
He sang me two songs and I gave him a few euro. He told me he has been travelling for years working in hostels for his bed and singing for his food. He said he preferred singing directly to people than busking. He looked as happy as anyone I have met.
There are many people like those two I have met in my last three months.
When I travel, I am always surprised at how some Irish people have made their mark abroad. Why am I surprised? Because most of these people that I stumble across, I have never heard of before.
I had never heard of Elisa Lynch, but she is well known in South America. She was born in a town called Charleville in my own country of Cork in Ireland.
She has been accused of turning her Paraguayan lover into a bloodthirsty dictator, but to most people in Paraguay, she is a national hero.
Elisa was born in Charleville, a small town in Co Cork Ireland in 1833. She emigrated to France with her family at the age of ten as they escaped the Great Irish famine.
During her time in France, she married a French officer, but the marriage was annulled. In 1854 she met a visiting Paraguayan General called Francisco Lopez. They were attracted to each other immediately, and she returned to Paraguay with him.
Although they never married, they had six children. When Lopaz became President of Paraguay, Elisa was known to all in Paraguay as the first lady. In 1864 the most significant event in Paraguay’s history began.
When the war of the triple alliance finished six years later, it would have changed Paraguay forever. In 1864 Paraguay entered a war against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. In the beginning, the opposing armies were much the same strength. Eventually, over time, the resources of the other three countries won out.
The war was a disaster for Paraguay. It is estimated that up to 90% of the country’s male population died during the war.
Elisa Lynch was not a person to stay in the background. During the war, she played an active part at the Presidents side. Her enemies pushed propaganda, saying it was her that had wanted the war and she had turned her lover a ruthless dictator.
The truth is that Elisa stood by her lover and President to the bitter end and tried to help him and Paraguay as best she could.
She was present the day both her lover and fifteen-year-old son was killed by Brazilian soldiers. The invading armies had said they were going to bring civilisation to Paraguay. After her son refused to surrender, the Brazilians killed him.
As she held her dead son, she shouted is this the civilisation you have promised us. Later that day, she buried both her son and lover with her bare hands.
She was later returned to France, where she lived out the rest of her life.
In the 1960s her remains were returned to Paraguay where she was given a hero’s burial.
It is time now to leave Asuncion. I have become very lazy here. Everyone in the hostel is saying the same.
I am sure the heat is part of it. Maybe it is just as well as there is not a whole lot to do or see in Asuncion. The crazy thing is I have really enjoyed my stay here.
On Wednesday I head to Paraguay’s third city, Encarnacion. They say it is Paraguay’s tourist city. I have my doubts.
There were some people from there staying in the hostel. They were complaining about how busy and hectic Asuncion was. Asuncion is the sleepiest and quietest Capital city I have ever seen.
Join me on my journey.
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