Blessed by nature, Paraguay offers delights. Its colours, smells, and sounds are a feast for the senses.

Wild Boys in a Wonderful Land

'Within weeks, I was a happy barefoot six-year old, the red earth of Paraguay between my toes and the bit of a boy-gaucho's life between my teeth.' from Paraguay 200 Years of Independence in the Heart of South America

Pottering, pondering, and playing, in Paraguay

It´s fascinating to realize that you can cross continents in order to feel more at home.   It´s become clear to me that I go away not so much for adventure, which happens whether I like it or not, but in order to be and feel more at home, in this relatively new Paraguayan-Belen home or in my old English-Swindon one, in which roots go far deeper.  Nothing pleases me more than to write about daily life and nature here in Belen; and nothing thrills me more than to receive an email about ´ordinary ´ life in Swindon or at LSF. 

After the hectic first fortnight of this trip, I´m now happiest pottering in Paraguay, especially here round the little 30 x 60-metre, 75-tree, heavily bird-populated garden of Casita. Because it´s so paradisal, I like to work it in a similar state of (un)dress that it´s reckoned Adam worked his. But no apples or Eves here, just grapes and snakes. Today, with a pruning saw bought from a hole in the wall hardware shop in Belen, I cut down arm-thick branches from the thriving inga tree that threatens to overshadow both vine arbour and house.  Felt like wwoofing solo in sympathy with the working weekend at LSF.

Yesterday morning, after a night of thunder storms, tormentas they call them here, and despite uncertainty whether my dodgy left knee would let me mount, I got a horse, with the intention of enjoying nature and time alone.  My chief aim was to find fat-fingered guitarist gaucho Augustin, he of the handsome muscular horse-whispering son.  He lives way out in the campo where they make charcoal and solitude. Last saw him 7 years ago.

With dark clouds above and roads of red mud below, I set off across the river and headed in what I thought was the right direction. Soon, fat raindrops fell and there was swamp and water everywhere. After 2 and a half hours, I had sort of lost my bearings and was beginning to think I´d missed a turning, such as they are out here.

Apart from wading birds and grey Zebu cattle, the first sign of life I saw after three hours´riding was a solitary gaucho having trouble rounding up a dozen or so cows. As I could see what he was trying to do, separate them from some others and get them from the campo to a track, I rode over to offer assistance, which he appeared to accept by simply by moving to the left flank of the herd and leaving me to control the right but without a word.

After about 20 minutes, and once we´d got them back on track, we moved closer to one another and exchanged greetings. ´Mbayshapa. -  Y Pona.´ - This was my opportunity to ask where I was and where the home of Augustin was. 

Well, he did not know Augustin but tried a few other names and Concha was one I knew, nicknamed ´Pavo´, (Turkey) and he instantly told me that I was 8kms wrong; that´s two hours of solitary swampy horse-riding wrong. Argh.

This was not good news. My left leg was aching, my throat was dry, my stomach was empty and my lively jegua (bay mare) was pissed off and wanted to go home.  (Horses always want to go home.  Go out, wherever you like, and the horse will find its way back, at twice the speed.)

So I turned back, rode another two hours and, with dusk approaching, decided to cut my losses and head home, another 2-hour ride back to Belen, which, at that stage, felt like a long haul and something of a disappointment, virtually a whole day on horseback, prob 20 miles plus, without reaching planned destination, but at least I´d managed to get back sans mishap. 
The hot and stormy weather has led to millions of Paraguayan ant's performing their annual mating ritual. A couple of days ago, the city of Concepcion (size of Wootton Basset) was blacked out/blanketed for a few hours by trillions of flying ants. A good few thousand of them have decided to date and mate, on Casita´s front doorstep. This is what is happening, and, from what I have found out, the process is as follows.  When weather conditions are right, both queen and male ants grow wings, surface from little tunnels, and embark on a 'nuptial flight'.

Once some ants begin to fly, others detect their chemical smell and join them. When a queen has mated, she remains fertile for the rest of her life. She either niftily discards or bites off her wings and tries to find somewhere to begin a new nest. If successful, she lays eggs in her new hiding place. These eggs hatch into infertile female workers who will build her nest, forage for food, and guard their queen. Each day of their life, the queen gives them one piece of advice. Oh, no, sorry, that´s a different story . When mating is over, the males die. That´s their only job, done.So, on my front doorstep is a writhing mass of sexually inactive slowly dying males. What shall I do with them?   

Leaving behind the ants dying for sex, or because of it, I headed off the 20kms to Concepcion to play tennis at the invitation of Dr Medina (who has bought Mangoty, for those following the story . . ) on red clay courts in a small private largely-outdoor sports complex in the middle of a jungle where from tree tops peacocks cry, howling monkeys howl, and insects of all shapes, sizes, and wingspan flutter round the tennis court lights. We played at dusk and into darkness, the only time it´s cool enough. Ofttimes, as you´d hit a cross court, backhand, or volley, you´d feel the racket strings scrunch and slash through assorted little or even big winged creatures. Bizarre and distracting, if not distressing.   

Next day, with a sense of urgency strange for Paraguay but brought on, in my case, by my days in the north being numbered, I set out once again across the now drying campo, this time on a two-wheeled motorised steed, in one final attempt to find ample Augustin, the gaucho guitarist. Well, to cut a two-hour story short (you don´t want to hear about mud, moto cross, and more mud) I found him. As I came out of a small patch of woodland and onto open termite-hilled campo, there, flanked by two giant tataquas (earth oven charcoal burners) was Augustin´s ramshackle but oh-so-homely little ranchito (homestead) where he and his amply-smiling wife have produced and brought up ten children and are now surrounded by grand ones, plus black and white Muscovy ducks, assorted multi-coloured bantams, a few ragged geese, and half a dozen beautiful horses. They also have a campo-grazing prize-winning herd of traditional grey Zebu, such proud, nervous, yet settled creature, so suited to the campo setting.

And there, under an old grapefruit tree, sitting on a log made for sitting on, chewing tobacco and sipping terere from a cow´s horn ´cup´ was Augustin, bombachad (baggy-trousered) but barefoot, a tad less rotund than 7 years ago but still with hands like leather, fingers like lapacho tree roots, and a grin that went from ear to ear.  He spat out his tobacco and gave me un abrazo (an embrace) that well and truly stuck our sweat together. - We sat down to charlar un poco (have a little chat) his Spanish being mostly Guarani and laughter and my Guarani being mostly Spanish and gestures. Of course, all the while, we sipped ice-cold terere from the weathered cow´s horn and occasionally I´d get a taste of his chewed tobacco. 

What´s the reason for making such an effort to see this old guy, I hear you say? Well, even though we (all people) are special, wonderful, and, in some way, a gift of and to life, there is something I find extra-wonderful about Augustin. Though rough, tough, and hewn from life on the campo, he makes me feel good inside; he feels like a real lover of the life he has found himself in, without longing for greener pastures, truly loving his ranchito, his family, his cows, and his guitar; and he makes me appreciate a life, that I already liked a lot, a whole lot more. I´m not sure exactly what he does to ´make the world a better place´ but he certainly feels, to me, like a gift to it.  (Am sure that each of us knows other ´hidden´ unheralded people like this.) 

Sunday was a sad day. It was time to say goodbye to Casita and Belen. The night before, I had supper at El Roble, Peter & Andressa´s LSF-style home that is a watering hole and feeding up place for weary backpackers. There were half a dozen there who spoke of their travels, ´doing South America´. - Kindly Christain, the German worker, took me home through the starlit night, and at dawn on Sunday, I slipped quietly out of Casita, with only one look back, and let strong Muller drive me the 10kms to the main road, to wait for a bus to Asuncion.  That´s like waiting for a bus from Edinburgh to London.  It came; I sat in it; it sped along and lurched occasionally, and I looked out the window, to maintain a horizon, for 600kms.

That evening, back in a bright white air-conned little hotel in Asuncion, cooling off and cleaning myself up ready for imminent departure back to England, I got a call (the mobile phone is everything here, whether you are in the city or campo) from a nice and young-sounding man who said this.  ´My name is Matt and I am looking for anyone who may have known my grandfather, who lived with a Christian community in Paraguay in the 1940s and 50s. I have been told you may be able to help me.´  -    Well, I did my best by booking a taxing, buying some beer, and taking him to terrific Tina´s house, she who knows all things Bruderhof/Community past and Paraguay past and present. With brother John´s help, we were able to put young Matt on the right track, which happened to be a railway track, because his grandad also worked on the Paraguayan railways and had told him stories of the sparks belching out of wood fires in steam trains setting fire to the campo along the railway lines in Paraguay.    

OK. It´s time to turn my nose north, for Brazil, the Atlantic, and England.  It turns out, I´m on the same flights back as the British Ambassador to Paraguay. We aim to meet between connections. Hope there´s no highjacking . . .

Looking forward once again to seeing all good people and things splendid in Swindon and at Lower Shaw Farm.

Hasta la vista amigos y amigas.

Bye bye little English fireworks, hello lovely big ones in Paraguay


Mid-evening on 5th November, TAM Airlines´ Boeing 777, lifted into the night sky over Heathrow and, very soon, down below, the fireworks were tiny twinkles, little more than spent sparklers, and as nothing compared to the ´box of jewels´ that ordinary towns, traffic, and the urban sprawl makes over southern England.

As we headed out 30,000 feet up over the Bay of Biscay, I could not open my plastic sachet of ´refreshing tissues´ and nor could the woman next to me, who, until that point had managed everything fine, including reading light, audio earphones, and mini pack of Jacob´s table crackers. We had to call the air stewardess, who solved our problem with one of her long finger nails.

When I woke up, we´d crossed the Atlantic.

In Sao Paolo, I listened to European travelers get cross with what they called ´appalling signage´ and watched others flatten themselves against sloping high-backed chairs signed ´Massages ´ and be pummeled by strong-shouldered white-coated women. 

Queuing for TAM Mercosur Flight PZ707 for Ciudad del Este and Asuncion was interesting if not alarming. People rush and crush to get on when all seats are allocated anyway.   

Touchdown in Paraguay´s capital Asuncion was as exciting as ever and being bear-hugged by taxi-driving friend Hugo a tradition to like. He had instructions to bypass the hotel and take me to a surprise location. These were instructions it proved wise to follow because this is what we found.

Below the great branches of a spreading mango tree, a feast was laid out, a treat to behold. 

Harpist of international renown, Rito Pedersen had invited a handful of musicians and fine and friendly folk to eat Surubi (river fish) make music and other good sounds in preparation for Richard Durrant´s ( see ) latest tour of Paraguay.   We ate, we drank, we sweated, we talked, we listened, we sweated, we laughed, we played, we sang, and sweated some more.  

Next day, I enjoyed the extremes in Paraguay´s capital Asuncion.  Street vendor lunch of guiso (meat mix) and mandioca and fresh cold pineapple juice at rickety wooden table with same fruit-patterned table cloth on it from a year ago; and in the evening, a comp seat in the magnificent Teatro Municipal, to hear Richard play his lead and solo parts, under the baton of Luis Szaran, with the Orquestra Simfonica de Asuncion. Here was a concert in a splendid theatre which had its musical moments, plus all the standard sycophantic protocol of a classical concert, while members of the dressed up audience walked about at will. A strange mix of musical European formality and Paraguayan deference and indifference to it. And, to the surprise of many, with all other musicians seated but Richard standing up to play his guitar part. - Ended the day with a good few Brahmas (local alcoholic beverage) in buckets of ice, and to eat, empanadas, seated at a crowded table on the noisy pavement at the oh-so-famous but nothing special Lido Bar. (Cities may be exciting, in terms of relentless noisy stimulation that can be both wonderful and wearying but, to me at least, are as nothing to life in the campo, the countryside, the interior, as they aptly call it here, where there is space and time to truly take things in, like the beauty of that giant jaguar-faced leaf, the splendid fruit and hardwood trees, and the frog and birdsong to write home about. Am drinking it in as I sit, in garden of little house in Belen two hundred yards from Rio Ypane (river) shirtless, feet in sand, under vine arbour loaded with grapes, writing this.)   

Next morning, new acquaintance Carlos Salcedo, a former lead violinist and expert on Barrios, took RD and me for an early-morning session of tennis in the lovely club that sits on the banks of the big lazy Rio Paraguay. Great fun. Carlos is handy and has a topspin backhand rarely seen from a middle-aged mid-ranking club player. RD´s game cannot compare to his guitar playing.  It´s that of a raw and joyful enthusiast but has real scope for improvement. We had great fun!

Then I headed north, in air-conned coach that lurched a lot, to Concepcion, for R´s next concert - but, in my case, first stop Casita en Belen, where I arrived at  midnight, and, in the pitch dark, walked down Calle 15 de Mayo, which just about runs along the Tropic of Capricorn, pulling my suitcase over the sand and cobblestones while gazing up at at the night sky, a stunning sparkling southern starscape, a multiudinous brilliance that could make you believe in almost anything. My arrival that time of night, set Belen´s village dogs a-barking but, though many ran forward, to sniff me out, not one had a bite to match their bark. In fact, I felt welcomed by them all.

Next day, Saturday 9th November, the neighbours asked me over for lunch, a plain Paraguayan stew, of meat and mandioca, of course. We sat in their grubby but homely courtyard and between mouthfuls, proceeded to fit a new main seat spring in their family motorbike, a 50cc two-seater that will carry five. In fact, at times during lunch, all five were holding, supporting, or prising apart bits of the bike, while big brother Isidrio tried to make the big new hydraulic spring fit. (It did because yesterday, the very same bike came to collect me at dusk from the ruta (main road) where the collectivo (bus) had dropped me.)

That night´s concert at the entrance of a music college (they call it an Escalatrina, when they put on a performance on the steps of a big building, with grand columns framing the ´stage ´, and the performers sort of half in, half out, and the audience sitting al fresco, which can be all quite nice, despite competing noises from street, and elsewhere). It was scheduled to start 8pm, finally got going at just after 8.30pm, and proceeded to have a tortuous extended intro with MC who did not know when to stop, talking, enthusing, and promoting, followed buy a succession of fifteen short pieces by young and overawed musicians who you felt had mostly been forced to perform publicly by pushy parents and who were not ready for that kind of exposure and therefore, wore the audience out, especially because the MC kept insisting on ´Aplausos, mas aplausos para los jovenes!´  In fact, after one hour and twenty minutes of this interminable juvenile warm up, the audience was beginning to drift away, especially the ones whose children had already performed, by the time Richard Durrant, who had faced tricky set up, to say the least, with the decidedly tricky sound system, came on to play his 50-minute solo set of guitar pieces based on compositions by Paraguayan composer Augustin Barrios (famous and dead) Juan Duarte (not yet famous, young, and alive) as well as Elgar, Bach, and Django Reinhardt.  It was amazing to witness R´s playing win over the weary audience, who listened open-mouthed, as did passers by, and people who crossed the street, drawn in by the sweet notes played by RD of AB´s Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios. 

Lovely as the concert was, and during which RD called on me to offer occasional simultaneous translations from his musically-literate English to my basic Spanish, which got a  share of laughs and appreciation, its late finish and relentless people-pressure, meant that some of us were well ready for space if not solitude, so ended up with a great tray of picados (bits of river fish, heart of palms, fried mandioca, and, of course, assorted meats) and a big iced bucket of beer in the quietest outdoor corner of the crumbling colonial Hotel Victoria. It was 1am before the food was eaten, the chilled liquids drunk, and, most important of all, the debrief completed. Don´t they say that, to move on to the next thing in life, it´s no bad thing to review the last?  In other words, know your history to better plan your future . . . . 

Next day, Sunday morning, my role in life was to act as full-on interpreter at a guitar masterclass by Richard to eighteen all-age students at a distinguished music academy in Concepcion. There they all sat, ready to take in the ´great man´s´words of musical wisdom; and there I stood struggling instantly to find the Spanish for chord, fret, and plectrum, never mind arpeggio or fortissimo, in my frazzled head. It was, of course, two hours of great musical and linguistic fun, with use of gestures, analogy, and metaphors aplenty. 

By the afternoon, we were back in Belen, with a little time to chill at Casita, before the next gig in Belen´s church. Wandering round my tree, bird, and flower-filled garden, Richard, bare-skinned but for shorts, skyped his family and said, ´Yes, I am having a great time. There´s a humming bird building a nest in my armpit!´- By late afternoon, we headed off to the village church, an outwardly attractive sandstone-yellow Jesuit structure but inwardly, a somewhat barren,, unimaginatively-decorated, and untidy place of worship, with a sound system to match.

´Let´s be acoustic here´ said Richard, so the well-meaning sound man and corpulent music prof promptly set up and tested invasive amps and mic.   -  In order to be saved form the previous night´s experience, I told the two important people who had prepared (long) speeches that this concert would be in ´estilo ingles: menos palabras, mas musica´, and that if there was anything left to say, it could be said at the end but to begin with, we should let the music speak for itself.  

And so we did, starting with not a single word but, at a given signal (me turning of the ventilator fans) the sound of 8 young musicians from Belen´s Sonidos de la Tierra group sincerely strumming (who said scraping?) their first piece, followed by a sweet soloist.  A few words of thanks and others of welcome were followed by Richard´s set, which captivated a small (barely 50) and unsophisticated audience of all ages. Apart from the music prof and a woman with non-Paraguayan origins, no one appeared to have heard of Paraguay´s greatest and internationally-known composer Augustin Barrios. They looked mystified when RD sang his praises and played his famous tunes. - But the evening had an authenticity and sincerity about it, as most of the audience were introduced to a new kind of guitar music. There was something very moving and wonderful about the whole thing. Comparing it to the previous two concerts, brother John gave this one a multi-star rating.

We celebrated by going back to ´Matt´s place´, which was not unlike heading back to Lower Shaw Farm after a Swindon Festival of Literature event: who´ll be there, can we relax, and should we speak the truth? -- Neighbours had cooked great Surubi (river fish) stew and Andressa of El Roble had brought along salads and sweets. Oh did we feast, laugh, talk, and tell stories. So lovely, to see the mixing of people, nationalities, ages, and friends, outdoors, by trees, under starlit sky in this strange little ´LSF-style home´in Paraguay.

Monday morning, and the new week began with a swimming trip on the fast-flowing Rio Ypane.  We jumped in and, buoyed by or swimming beside inflated inner tubes for more than two delightful hours, simply let the 5km per hour current carry us downstream to an agreed meeting point with Peter the German-Paraguayan. Along our water way we chatted, looked out for birds, and listened for monkeys. Lovely, tell your Mum.

By nightfall, kindly Peter was driving us some 400kms south to Itacurubi and Puerto Rosario, in preparation for two gigs on one night, one a John Holland special under a big old tree on a little old boat with a big old river rolling gently by. 

Next day was a flurry of activity in an attempt to get both outdoor sites ready and sound-checked by 6pm. For one, the sound man failed to show at the agreed time, or even an hour later, so we went looking for him, and found him in his back garden, and RD did a sound check there, just like that, and came away happy, but uncertain . .

The scene by the river was scenically stunning but sonically worrying. Delay piled upon delay when the sound man did not show and the first old boat on which RD was to perform, though beautiful was, erm . . unstable, so another was found, by solution-finding John, that looked safer . .

Amazingly, by 6.30pm, we were almost ready to rock. Just the revamp lead needed to be moved along the boat a bit, which I volunteered to do and, while clambering along the boat´s side, my forearm caught the jagged metal paltform edge, and got sliced open, one of those one and a half inch nicely open flesh wounds. - Ah, three minutes to go and the MC is bleeding. The beer bar woman had some sellotape and taped it over, and offered another bottle of Brahma beer as painkiller, and the show was ready to go on, in an absolutely stunning, people-crowding, river-flowing, sun-setting setting. If ever there was an occasion in which, rather than a writer recording things, a painter, photographer, or film-maker was needed, this was it. Truly, a visual feast: the big tree (newly shored up, by John´s engineering initiative, hence the celebration) surrounded by happy Paraguayans of all ages and backgrounds. Before them, their great River Paraguay, and at the river´s edge, standing on the flat roof of a small green boat moored to the bank,  a bold English concert guitarist, guitar in hand, silhouetted against the darkening sky, and behind him, a great orange orb going down towards the river´s far horizon. And the Englishman played his plucky heart out, against all concert-giving odds, and the people chatted and laughed and drank beer and terere and a vocally-mad self-selected local enthusiast would occasionally rush to the mic, mid guitar piece, and shout above the sound of music, mayhem, and general merriment, in an attempt to whip the crowd into some mental or spiritual state they were not already in. Meanwhile RD, the one-man band, played on, through Barrios, Elgar, and Bach, and the people played their part by mostly not listening to him but preferring to tell one another what a marvelous occasion this was and how much we were all enjoying it and also how much we all loved one another. Most everyone was certainly having a good time and a Julio Iglesias style communal rendition of Recuerdos de Ypacary certainly seemed to have everyone raising their best singing voice but who knows what part the quieter notes of Barrios´ music played in the whole occasion.  What this river jamboree may have lacked in musical subtlety, it certainly made up for in visual magnificence and memorable communal collaboration.  The old tree is saved, the people are happy, and the river flows on. 

And hardly pausing for breath, a beer, or a new dressing for the forearm, we wrapped this gig and sped on, 35km to Itacurubi, where the white chairs were out, the sound men were in place (right in the middle of the stage) and the people were waiting. 

The by now, customary opening speeches were cut short by this English man coming out with the tour mantra: menos palabras, mas musica, and RD played on, despite his signals to the high-volume sound man going unheeded.

Once again, by the end of the ´concert´, the people were happy and while most drifted into the night or to the nearby bars, the passionate few huddled round performers and organisers and a certain buzz of satisfaction was felt by all.

In fact, the following day, we were hounded by local media, especially to explain why we come to Paraguay, the shared reasons being the Barbudos (bearded community Bruderhofers) past and a Barrios (musical) present.  

Next day, tour day 7, was to be markedly different. The venue was a hall in Mennonite colony of Friesland.  It was like entering a little bit of Europe placed under the Paraguayan sun. The meeting time was agreed and everyone was punctual, the sound equipment was in place and met with Richard´s approval, esp because it had something called Phantom Power, and the hosts efficiently met with all our needs; and they were splendidly-hospitable too. Terrific.

And the concert was not bad either, and nothing if not moving. Maybe it was helped by an afternoon trip that preceded it, to the Rio Tapiracuay, where we swam, with new friends in an old river, round its sweet-flowing bend, as we had as children more than half a century earlier. Some things that are good don´t change.

But before we knew it, we were back in Asuncion, back on the tennis court with Carlos and Richard; out with them for a meal that never came, a ´press´ interviewer who was two hours late and not up to scratch, a car that broke down, and wine that was undrinkable but got drunk in street doorways while the car was being fixed;  and then preparing for the last gig, more than a week and 1,500kms after the first one.  This concert, taking place on the steps of the splendid former home of playwright Julios Correa, Paraguay´s Shakespeare apparently, was entirely in the capable Paraguayan hands of tennis-playing Barrios-enthusiast Carlos A, and his trusty band of contacts and musicians in lovely Luque. Again,in true Paraguayan style, it was rather too late starting, had far too many intros from four too many ´important´ people, and three too many warm up acts, one of whom, played one of RD´s numbers on guitar! Whose idea was that!

But it was a good concert, which felt was in the right setting with the right appreciative audience, and made the more pleasurable for me by friendly German/Aussie sisters Anna and Helene sitting either side of me and loving it all. 

And to celebrate the end of this chapter, a naughty few of us went to the Bourbon hotel, a fabulously decadent piece of 21st century shiny architecture that clearly signals the end of civilisation as we have known it. It is vast, the foyer the size of a football pitch (really!) and when you go up in a see-through lift, the people down below, ambling by the flower-lined indoor lakes in the foyer, are like tiny matchstick men and women wandering through an architect´s mock up.   The roof-top bars are swish but lifeless. The seating is swank but hardly homely. All style and very little substance. The beer was the same as any beer here and waiters were far too uptight and afraid to be enjoying their jobs. The whole place is bankrolled by South American FIFA and on his last Sth Am tour, was the hotel of choice for one Sir P McCartney. He can keep it.

Sunday, my long journey back north began by going south to an impromptu Paraguayan sing-song way out in the campo in the shade of citrus trees. Then north again, with white van man, who dropped me in Santa Rosa, part crossroads part outpost, a halfway point, they tell me, between ´lugares muy importantes ´but itself, seemingly sleepy and lost, a place where lost souls and weary travelers meet, and, but for the fresh cold juices, try to sell one another things that no one really wants. Did I say desolate?  Did I say that there was a point at which I pictured fine people who know me, in England and Swindon, seeing me there, hot, tired, sandalled, shrivelled, and stranded and thinking, ´What on earth is he doing stuck out there when he could be warm and at home in lovely Lower Shaw Farm?´ Well, that certainly crossed my mind. But, as Michael Ondaatje said in his poem ´To a Sad Daughter´ - ´better find life or fail going out than be safe staying in´ or something  like that.

The penultimate leg of this journey back saw me dropped, by the bus, 3kms short of of the turning for Belen, so I had two thirds of a parkrun to walk on a sultry tropical evening with night closing in and my bags and rucksacks weighing a ton on my aching shoulders.  Actually, it was the sweat that bothered most, my shirt clinging to me and not able to take it off because of the mosquitoes.  (Are you wondering why I come here?) 

Final leg was on the back of a motorbike, that flew over ruts and through sand dunes and was handled with a combination of recklessness and skill by a naturally confident 17 year-old. Doing this sort of thing is as exciting as it is silly but is quicker than horseback and, on this occasion, got me back swiftly to where I most wanted to be, at Casita, where the oven bird builds her nest of mud, and the grapes and mangoes hang full and ripening.

And it is here that I have finally found the space to write a word or two to you. Sorry it is so late, and so long. Despite the slow pace of life in Paraguay, I have barely found time to write this, let alone shorten it.

Saludos, from where the Tropic of Capricorn runs through the middle of the house.