I was talking with my sister earlier today, via skype. The usual questions on both sides: “are you guys OK”, “You had your appendix OUT?”, “how are the kids”. Etc. I told Ingrid that yes, we are doing quite well; travel has been easy so far; we’re really enjoying ourselves; and we’re really enjoying the way we chose to travel.
As we set out on this trip, there were a few – very few, and they know who they are – who stated that our kind of traveling would never work for them. The following day-in-our-life story will likely not convince them otherwise, but be that as it may, for them, and for my sister, here’s what Oct 28th looked liked.
Woke up around 6.45 after a great night’s sleep, and got out of bed at 7.15 or so. Our bed is very comfortable. It is a full queen size bed, with a decent mattress, on top of which we added a memory foam pad. We brought our best sheets, pillows, and down comforter from home, to make the bed as good as the one we had in Boulder. A good night’s sleep does make everything seem so much easier.
Breakfast was yoghurt and granola; a daily vitamin, and a fish oil tablet; and a large cup of coffee. Walked down to the shower building and not just took, but enjoyed a long, hot shower. As everyone who has traveled knows, the activities of daily living take on heightened significance on the road.
Suitably clean and fed, Karen and I headed into town to drop of our laundry; something we have been doing roughly once a week. The town itself is Hohenau, a very German colony, founded in 1900.
After dropping off laundry – the laundry is dropped off at a store where they sell jewelry and watches in the front, and do laundry in the back – we went to the Jesuit mission of La Santísima Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is about 10 minutes up the road. The Trinidad mission is another beautiful Jesuit mission with a gorgeous location on top of a small hill. You can feel the associated history all around you.
As we were leaving the mission, a well meaning, rapidly Spanish speaking tour guide walks up to us and lays down a few quick paragraphs. Of which neither Karen not I understood much. We used one of our favorite stock phrases: “Despacio, por favor” – slowly, please – she then repeated the same paragraphs at a slower tempo, and we picked up maybe 3 words, one of which was “Cantera”.
Being the intrepid Spanish speaker that I am, I immediately associated this with “Cantara” – to sing (really, only one vowel off) – and made the connection that she was talking about a concert of some sort. As we had plans to go to a concert that evening at another nearby mission, it was clear to me that this concert was what she was talking about.
However, miming the playing of instruments and singing only led to a confused-dog-look from the guide.
Wisely, the guide proceeded to fetch another person who walked up to us and spoke in English. This was Julia, a Peace Corps volunteer from Ohio, who had just started her two year stint and is placed in Trinidad. BTW, did you know that the US has 280 Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay alone? Surprised me.
Julia helped explain that Cantera actually means quarry, and that the helpful guide was trying to point out that 700m away, we could go visit the location where all of the rock for the mission had been quarried. You say singing, I say quarry…
We did go to the quarry with Julia, and were guided around by Cristina, a 19 year old who will be graduating high school soon. The quarry tour was quite interesting, and somehow the low level of “tourism preparedness” made the quarry, and the work done in the quarry – 1,000 men for a period of 6 years – much more tangible than if it had been a slick and polished tour. And, at the end of the tour, Cristina invited us to share the cup of tereré that her friends / coworkers were enjoying. Tereré is a form of maté, but it’s ice cold instead of hot. How often is your tour guide going to do that at a world-class attraction?
Had this mission, La Santisma Trinidad, and its associated quarry, been in a more tourist friendly country and location, say in the midst of Tuscany, there would have been 1,000s of visitors a day; it is truly magnificent. In comparison, as of 11.45, Karen, Julia, and I were the first visitors of the day to the quarry… We may have been the final visitors for the day as well.
Worn out from a busy few hours of acquiring culture, we head back to our camp. A quick lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, an apple, and a cerveza. Now, it’s time for what has become almost the daily nap. Karen hangs inside the camper, reads and dozes for a while, whilst I do some deep thinking in the hammock for about an hour.
We head down to the bar / restaurant at around 3.30 to catch up on email, pay some bills, do some writing – including blogging – and Karen and I skype with my sister, and I talk with my father.
We ate an early dinner, very early for South America, at 6.30 because we had the before mentioned concert to go to in the evening. When we visited the Jesuit mission of Jesus the day before, workers were assembling a stage inside the church. Our guide Gabriella, had told us that there was to be a baroque concert the evening of the 28th; that the concert was free, and it would start at around 8.00. We had mentioned this to Julia who wished to join, so we picked her up and brought her along, as it’s a 20 min drive to the Jesus mission. We were all rather excited about the concert.
Gabriella is a professional guide, and only works at the Jesus mission. She did get one thing right: the concert will start around 8.00. However, she got two things wrong: the concert was not for Friday the 28th, instead it will be either Monday or Tuesday depending on the weather; and no, the concert is not free, instead we need to buy tickets somewhere. Ah well, this falls under the category of stuff happens.
Karen and I drop Julia off – she’s delightful and we wish her all the best during her stint in Trinidad, Paraguay – and instead of the concert, we go to the evening light and sound show at the Trinidad mission. This is the second such show we’ve been to in South America and they add an extra dimension to visiting the ruins; very contemplative.
To summarize: we slept well, ate well, met some very interesting people, visited a world-class attraction where there are no hordes of tourists, learned a few things, took care of some personal business, spoke with family. Napped. This may not be the life for everyone, but it suits us rather well.