Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay are given an allowance to buy bicycles. Peace Corps gives you enough money to buy your bike, helmet, and the remainder can be used for repairs and maintenance. As soon as our allowance came in, Ben and I went shopping! I bought a pink Caloi with a basket and Ben bought a red Polo. The number one rule about bikes is that you have to wear a helmet every time you ride. Since no one in Paraguay wears helmets, even when riding motos, we get plenty of stares from the community as we peddle by.
Soon after buying our bikes, we decided to go on an adventure. The Parana River passes about 15 Km south of Coronel Bogado, and somewhere in that area there is a little "beach" or "playa" where you can swim. Ben said, "Sarah, today we are going to find the beach!" We filled our water bottles and began our trek south. It was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was up and the sky was blue with not a single cloud in sight. The dirt road was long and so straight that we could see for miles. We peddled along passing mostly cattle fields with only a few houses here and there. As we rode farther south, we noticed fewer and fewer houses. We also began to notice the lack of shade, the heat of the sun, and the sweat dripping down our backs.
Finally, we came across a little wooden sign pointing in the direction of the "playa." We like signs, because not only does that mean we are going in the right direction, but it means we must be getting close! We eagerly peddled down the slightly rockier road. After about a mile, we came across another "playa" sign. Good! That means we must be almost there! As we continued riding south for awhile longer, we started to get a little bit worried. We began asking the few and far between people we passed along the way, "how much farther until the playa?" Every single one of them, no matter how far we had traveled said, "dos kilometros."
By this time we felt we were too far to turn back without seeing the river. We had to keep going. We turned off the main road onto a slightly smaller dirt road. Passing through a herd of cows, we road a little faster now because the land began to slope downward. We passed by a few houses and a little cemetery. Still there was no river in sight. We decided to turn back and ask a family that was drinking terere in their patio. They told us that the beach wasn't far, just 1 kilometro down the road. Well that sounded good so we took the bait and continued on. We asked a woman, who walking along the path, for a second opinion. She told us that the road to the "playa" was next the cemetery that we'd passed earlier. Although we were irritated that we'd been going in the wrong direction, we were happy to finally have a landmark to guide us there.
We road back uphill and found the cemetery lying between two dirt paths. Both paths ended at gated property lines. Dead-ends. Here we were 12 Km into the middle of nowhere, exhausted from the heat and exercise, water bottles completely dry, with no chance of enjoying the cool refreshing waters of the Rio Parana. Defeated, we started the wearisome journey back home. Although we never did find the "beach" that day, I still hold on to the thought that if we'd just gone a little bit farther, we would have seen those blue waves sparkling in the sun. We would have kicked off our shoes and joyfully plunged into the cool clear water...
Our Story: After meeting in graduate school at UGA, we were married in 2011 in Marietta, Georgia. A year later, we joined the Peace Corps as environmental conservation volunteers and embarked on our adventure in Paraguay!
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are ours personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.