El Chalten

If El Calafate is small at 20,000, El Chalten is absolutely tiny at around 1,000 people during high season, with many workers coming in from other places in Argentina and heading back before the harsh winter. It is a several hour bus ride north of El Calafate, including passing the location of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s shack as seen in the Newman/Redford movie.

The town was originally created just so Argentina would have something to shore up their border claim with Chile. It continues to exist due to its proximity to Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre (in Chile), so, as with El Calafate, you have loads of turistas and turista dollars during the summer months.

Internet is virtually non-existent, which might sound a negative, particularly if you require immediate gratification in form of FB likes, but in reality is a huge positive. The only thing your gadgets should be used for is taking pics of the simply wonderful scenery.

Absolutely my favorite place we went on this trek. Like there isn’t even a Silver Medal. Loved other places, but this was 1st and 2nd.

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After arriving and checking out the town we stopped in out of the cold (it was fairly cold here our first couple days) to the Wafleria for lunch. Not only breakfast waffles, but savory dinner waffles as well. Enjoyed a nice breakfast waffle with eggs, nice slab o bacon and some raspberry hot sauce.  More discos for dinner – this time Chicken w/ Mustard. And craft beer. Seems pretty much everywhere in El Chalten serves craft beer. Good way to do business with home brew, as tourists wanting more than Quilmes so your experimentation costs are paid for and then some.

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Enjoy some tea, friend

New Years Eve Day was the great Tres Lagos hike. 10km in, 10 km out. It is a difficult hike. Which is to say the first 9k weren’t too bad, a little uphill. The last KM was like Frodo ascending Mount Doom, moving almost as much laterally as ascending. 30 feet across for about 20 feet up, switch back the other way and repeat. Not in great shape, I was not particularly a happy camper. Wanted to keel over several times during the hike but persevered. As the pics show, the view at the top was worth all my whinging on the way up.

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Soooo we finally made it to the top, me wheezing wretchedly and just wanting to collapse. Just short of the crest, with a spectacular view of Mount Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and a lake, I had to pause for a couple minutes to allow a man to take about 3,200 pics of his female companion. After I made it another 30 feet, found a nice rock “couch” to sit back on and take in the view… and dude thanked me for my politeness by immediately plopping down in front of me to take another 3 minutes and 5,600 staged pics before some throat clearing or a snide remark on my behalf alerted him that he had parked his ass right in my view. (BitterTip: When traveling to a scenic spot, snap your pics quickly and be aware of those around you doing likewise or just trying to enjoy the view. Don’t be that guy. )

Don't be this guy.

Don’t be this guy.

Rant over, more pics.

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my fave

After the long hike down, which ended with us stuck the last km behind slow moving, trail hogging German tourists. Enjoyed, you guessed it, more craft beer on the way home before taking a nice, well earned nap.

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Awoke later in the evening and found an outside table at a craft beer place for a few drinks before limping home.

Followed up on New Year’s Days with a shorter hike to a nearby waterfall. Soaked in some rays and ate more waffles and drank more craft beer. Hooray.

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Loved El Chalten. If you ever consider going to Patagonia, make it a priority place to visit.


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El Calafate

We left bright and early in the morning (always seems to be the case) for El Calafate.

Weirdest flight in South America ever. Normally Katie and I stick out like sore thumbs, being one of very few, if not the only gringos. Not this flight. Was like gringomania, only with obnoxious travelers. The ones who compare their T-Peens by listing off everywhere they’ve ever been. It’s one thing to talk travel amongst friends. It’s another to have to random strangers talking over everyone on a plane trying to one-up the each other with their checklist stops. Thank God for headphones and loud metal \m/ music.

The plane also was delayed on entry into El Calafate, leading to a couple minutes holding pattern, which was awesome for us given the absolutely spectacular, even unreal scenery out the window.

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El Calafate is town of about 20,000 and thanks to the relatively new aeropuerto the hub to a good chunk of Patagonia. It also sees something like 500,000 tourists a year so the town is absolutely inundated during summer months with armies Northface-clad gringos from the US, Canada, Europe & Israel, as well as other points.  (And what’s with the freaking Northface? You left during your winter? It’s still colder *there* than *here*… FFS coming from Asuncion in the heat of the summer I was comfy even wearing shorts when walking a KM to the bodega for agua? And no Junior High gym teacher could get so many people to dress alike.)

After having spent 17 months in Paraguay, I found myself identifying more with the locals.  Amusingly was even mistaken for one once. As anyone who’s heard me speak down here can attest my Spanish is pretty dreadful outside a couple phrases, but I guess ordering a couple cervezas was enough for some tourists to think me a man of the town.

So El Calafate… We stayed in a wonderful airBNB apartment roughly halfway between the town’s main drag, lined with restaurants, chocolate places, souvenir shops, and places to buy camping gear and MOAR Northface in case you didn’t bring enough, and the lakeside nature reserve at the other edge of town. Our hostess was awesome, gave us a map with illustrated paths into town and key locations – cambios, restaurants she recommended and the best places for local craft. Yeah, she was great.

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She helped us plot our exploration of the town and key targets with near military precision.

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With more two days in town before heading out, we went to book an Ice trek trip that has you hike across a portion of the Perito Moreno glacier, enjoying a wee dram of Scotch at the stop point before heading back. Sadly they were all booked up, like for the next two weeks. Don’t believe the posts in the TA forum about getting them there. Take no chances, book in advance. If coming this far, not worth the risk.

So we got to do the next best thing… a boat tour going up to the glacier, followed by a walk around the park. Here it actually got cold (as someone who wears short and a t-shirt when most Paraguayos bundle up) – which was great. Some wonderful views from both boat and park – lucky enough to watch a calving while eating lunch on a great vantage point. Not lucky enough to catch on film.

Less words, more pics.

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Enjoyed a Patagonian treat, The Disco, for dinner. No, not Travolta pointing to the sky while The Trammps jam away… a big cast iron skillet filled with meat (Cordero – lamb in this case), veg and some sauce (white wine, as our waiter suggested) cooked up. So freaking good.

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Yes, that is a record sized disco and that wine glass was a #BigCarlos

We spent the next day walking the nature reserve right on Lago Argentina near our place and relaxing with some craft beer, just enjoying the wonderful view.

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We also enjoyed a trip to the Perito Moreno & Darwin museum and  a stop at Libro Bar where finished off some local cervezas and Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” as Katie did some shopping.

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The next morning we got up nice and early and hiked to the Bus Stop for El Chalten.

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Buenos Aires III – The Christmasing.

Started with a week in Palermo Hollywood barrio, adjacent to Palermo Soho, where we stayed our first couple visits. Cool neighborhood, lots of places to eat, ranging from just neighborhood joints to some chic restaurants. Oh, and multiple craft beer bars to try some of BA’s, er “best”.

On a particularly hot day, we got to enjoy an 8 hour controlled black-out, starting at 2pm. Wandered around the neighborhood looking for a coffee joint to plug in and wifi up, but no luck. After a nap we headed out around 8pm, was like Air Raid Black Out dark in our immediate neighborhood, but a couple blocks away places had power. We found a great Fish & Chips place and enjoyed, well, you guessed it, fish & chips. With curry sauce. Yippee! When we returned home at 10, lo and behold we had power. Hooray.

We took advantage of the Christmas Eve Day holiday to enjoy a bicycle tour of part of the city. We enjoyed it. Even if we had already been most the places the tour went, our guide Facu had some great historical facts and tidbits to pass along. One is the meaning of the Evita Peron building. As he explained it, the rich lived to one side while the poor the other. One the side facing the rich section of the city is an angry Evita pontificating into a microphone (or possibly eating a cheeseburger), while facing the south is a loving Evita.

My fave tidbit was a story of new money, old money, social standing and a woman scorned. An extremely rich ‘old money’. An Old Money family had a swell mansion on a hill, which they built to show off a marvelous view of their favorite church when hosting company. A woman of new money wanted to marry their son. The son was entranced with this woman… but Moms said “No.” New Money isn’t good enough to marry old money. You’ve heard what they say about women scorned. Women with money exponentially so. She used her family money to build SA’s first sky scraper… coincidentally between Old Money’s mansion and their favorite church, thus destroying the view. Oh, and you might find he shape of said building vaguely familiar. (Hint, as our guide pointed out the gesture means is close to what his name sounds like.) One of my favorite buildings in SA after hearing that story.



It was also enjoyable to cruise the normal busy streets of Buenos Aires, many of which largely empty due to the holiday.

Also amusing was on the way to the meet-up point to the tour we passed a bakery that was baking some Christmas Argentine bread the equivalent of fruit cake. People were lined up down the street. WAY down the street. Hundreds. Looked like a Star Wars Force Awakens premier line, only longer.

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Initially worried about where to eat for Christmas Eve, we needn’t have been. Katie and I enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner (top 10 steak for me) chicken for her dinner on a patio… with a complimentary slice of some of the aforementioned Argentine fruit cake bread for desert.


On Christmas day our gift was the arrival of our friends George & Jennifer from the U S of A. We welcomed them to Buenos Aires with gifts of Malbec and Cuban Cigars, which we enjoyed along with the rising full moon on the rooftop pool of their airBNB apartment before going out to score some excellent ramen noodles.

We spent the following day on the Hop-on, hop-off bus tour, making a point at showing off the colorful La Boca. Enjoyed a tango show for lunch Ordered a lomito for lunch, wondering why it was so expensive compared to the Paraguayan version… and found out why. It’s not a hamburger sized cut of steak, it’s the whole freaking steak on a bun.

I had to wuss out during the latter half the bus trip. The sun was blazing and with traffic at a near standstill, no shade sent me scurrying for the lower deck lest I fry.

Was great seeing friends again, particularly those who have made the trek to South America.  Always fun to show off the cool places down here, even if George had already seen a lot of the Continent.  They continued exploring northern Argentina for their vacations, while Katie and I went Further South to El Calafate.

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Patagonia – Our Greatest Adventure

The Greatest Adventure. (Feel free to cue the tune from  Rankin & Bass’ animated version of The Hobbit. Here, for your convenience.Embrace Glenn Yarbrough.)

Well, for us anyways.

December & January saw Katie and I embark on the great Patagonian trek we’ve been planning/dreaming of since arriving in South America. Work scheduled demanded a more focused, short stop trip than the epic 12,000km road trips some of our friends have gone on. Had to maximize our time at each stop. Most of our time would be in Argentina, with a short 3 day trek into Chile.


(Used driving tool to give an idea of the extent of our travels, even if we flew most of it.)

Stops included:

Buenos Aires – Spend the Christmas holidays with friends before heading further South
El Calafate  – Hub in Patagonia near the Perrito Moreno Glacier
El Chalten – Very small town near Mount Fitz-Roy
Puerto Natales – Bus into Chile to see the Torres del Paine National Park
Ushuaia – Southernmost city in the world. None more South
San Carlos de Bariloche – Relax (and work) for a couple weeks in the beautiful lake district

Each has their own entry, chock full o’ pics, linked above for your convenience.

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Iguazu, Too

This time we go Brazilian.

Took advantage of a four-day Thanksgiving Weekend, a friend of ours to bus out to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil to see their side of the Falls and check out the town. We hit up a Churrasqueria / Brazilian Steak House to do Turkey Day Feast.

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Next day we checked out the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. While less walking area than the Argentine side, had some spectacular views. Saw some Toucans. And while others wore cheap plastic ponchos to brave the wet, I just went straight into it.

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(Please people, when done with your coatamundi, please put them in the regular trash… they are not recyclable. Thanks.)

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A wet day was wetter when the rains came pouring down in such a fierce storm half the town had a black out. Was cool, one of the staff at the sushi place we went to used an umbrella from a patio table to try and shield/protect customers as they hurried in.

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We heard that some of the damage caused by the flood a couple years ago to the Argie side, making Garganta del Diablo visible, had since been repaired, so we booked a trip there as well.

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The view was simply staggering.

Also took some time to check out a local craft beer store and score some cerveza. It was not yet open so we stopped at a beer garden, had a submarino. Learned the hard way it’s just a mediocre lager with an upturned shot of tequila in it. Was rough, but finished it. Fortunately my experiences in Rio and Curitiba made shopping for beer much easier.

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Curitiba & The Bodebrown Beer Train

Early in the year my friend Sergio invited me to an event at a local market, Casa Rica (Paraguayan’s Whole Foods equivalent) to launch the sale of Baltika, a Russian beer, he and his partner had started importing. Sergio introduced me to some of the guys involved in the local Craft and Home Brew movement. We hit it off, beer nerds excitedly talking about our favorite beers and styles. They told me of this magical sounding journey they had done, the Bodebrown Beer Train.

Bodebrown is a brewery/beer school in Curitiba, Brazil. They brew. They have classes to teach people how to brew, and at their Beer Ranch they also sell the equipment and ingredients needed to brew. One stop shopping. And, every so often, they take over a couple cars on the scenic train route, the Serra Verde Express from Curitiba to Morretes, and you spend three or four hours taking in breathtaking scenery while enjoying Bodebrown and other Brazilian brewers fine barley sodas as well as some great bread and pretzels.

It sounded like the most awesome thing ever.

I hoped, against odds, that it might be possible to join them on a road trip. Suddenly, mid-July, The Hop, the craft beer school here in Asuncion that some of my friends from above run and teach, announced a trip for August of this year. 3 day weekend , so only one work day missed, and a reasonable price considering it covered bus, hotel, most meals, train tix and schwag. So on Thursday night, August 20th, about 18 of us – 17 Paraguayans and me, the token Gringo, began the 1,000km 16 hour bus ride. It was long. The bus was slow. And as readers of my Iguazu trip might be aware, Paraguay’s main highway has speed bumps on it when driving through towns. Yeah.

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Finally, after bathroom breaks, chipa stops, and loading up on Matte Leao we arrived. F the hotel. Straight to the brewery. Giddy-up.

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Bodebrown greeted us like family. Half the staff of the brewery were out front hugging us as we approached. After a short explanation of the beer tap situation – we got “credit cards” with 50 reals of cred for beer… scan the card, fill your glass – they treated us to a feast of German food. After plowing down some great food and several glasses of their 9% Perigosa double IPA and a Rye IPA at 7% (didn’t come close to depleting my credit), we took a tour of the facilities then Samuel, the owner, took us to the school and storage area of the Beer Ranch and let us sample several more tasty (and high octane) brews. He was like Willy Wonka and this was the chocolate..err beer factory.

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We left, checked in to our hotel. Allegedly we went toured the town that evening, including a stop at some massive market and an Italian restaurant for dinner. I have foggy recollections of a Brazilian at the market happy to practice his English on me, as well as a some pics of a giant rabbit and some chicken wings. So, yeah, I guess that happened. 3 hours sleep on a bus coupled with giant lunch and day drinking 9% beers takes a toll.

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We stopped by the hotel and I was informed we were going out. I rallied. Went to Barbarium, a cool bar about 20 minutes away. Got to try some more swell Curitiba Craft. Was 2:30am when we got back. Hooray. At least tonight I’d be getting four hours sleep on a bed as opposed to three on the bus the night prior.

It felt as though I had just dozed off when the alarm woke me. I fought the urge to toss it out the window, made my way to the breakfast area for some water. At the appointed time we hiked over across the way to the train station (5 minute walk from our hotel. Great strategic planning that.) and boarded up.

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My buddy Pablo made sure to have me sit on the left hand side. This is very nice when doing the Beer Train or especially important if riding the regular Serra Verde Express. The best views are all on this side and the traditional train ride is very strict about sitting in your seat. The beer train is a bit like a mobile bar with mingling.

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Introductions and opening remarks were made and we had our set list for the day. Also great strategery. The beer, each round of 45 minutes, was paired with artisanal bread and pretzels, followed a nice trajectory of 5%, 7%, 8%, 7% and finally easing down to 5% before we arrived at our destination.

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The Beer Train was everything it was cracked up to be. Great beer, great scenery, great company. Was tough to rotate between talking with new friends and just staring out the window at the eye-popping views.

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When we arrived at town I was, well, a tad tipsy from sampling the beers and, as it had warmed to a nice 70f, popped my sweatshirt in my swag bag. I attempted to place my battle-tested Bodebrown Beer Train glass into the bag, it rolled out and shattered on the ground. So, fogged and distraught, I picked it up, slightly cutting my finger. The first person I run into leaving the station in this state was Samuel’s mother. She was more distraught than I and insisted on me receiving a new glass. One did show up at our hotel towards the end of the day. That’s how awesome they are at Bodebrown!

Morretes was a quaint, scenic town and we enjoyed a nice lunch, some agua, and several of us took advantage of the beautiful day and enjoyed a cat nap by the pond behind our restaurant.

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The trip was over, but the adventure was not. We bused back into town. Pablo and I took off to go to the highly regarded coffee place, Lucca Café, where I sampled some coffee as well as a beer that was made with it, and scored a couple bags of java to bring home. Afterwards we did another city tour (I remember more of this one), before stopping at Club Malte for burgers and more beer. They had 8 Brazilian craft beers on tap, but had a sizable collection of bottles for sale. Or they did. My amigos were like locusts, nearly buying up the store.

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My final stop, as with most the gang, was Hop N Roll, a cool bar which features about 30 beers on tap – mostly Brazilian but some Belgian, and classic rock blaring in the background. They were packed early, so it was 45 minutes before we got in. They knew we were coming, felt bad, so delivered a round to us on the house to enjoy on the sidewalk while we waited. Got to enjoy some more tasty Brazilian craft beers, including Petroleum, a thick, heavy, viscous stout that clocked in over 10%, as well as the Petroleum Chipotle, which was easily the hottest chipotle I’ve ever consumed. Wow the burn on that.

“Enjoyed” another 38 winks or so and we began the long busride back to Paraguay. After we crossed the border, around 5pm, the party continued. At least for some of us.

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Great trip. Knew three people when I left, came back with three bags of coffee, four Bodebrown beers, and 15 new friends. Easily one of the most fun weekends of my life. I am extremely grateful for being given the chance to go, and to all my friends who looked out for my gringo self during the course of the weekend!


Now on youtube!

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Rio is a city that, like Venice, sets one with lofty expectations, yet somehow manages to meet or even exceed them. It is also like Venice in that is heavily laden with tourists, rather expensive (particularly coming from Paraguay), and is so full of astonishing views that virtually any direction you face is worthy of a picture.

We arrived late on a Friday night from Asuncion. Was pretty cool arriving at night, the clear skies meant the city was light up like Christmas. Only because there are national parks/hills spread throughout the city you have lights and massive areas of black out. All of this was further improved as we banked over the ocean, adding the reflection off the beaches in to the mix.

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We stayed in an airBNB just off Atlantica near Posto 5. If you leaned out our living room window, Copacabana was right there. So our location was pretty great. We took Saturday morning to acquaint ourselves with our area. Hiking a couple miles down Copacabana, getting my feet wet in the Southern Atlantic (now been both hemispheres for both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean), and stocking up random stuffs for our apartment. Her brother and his girlfriend would be arriving around 1am Sunday morning so we got some welcome wine (for her), South American watery lager (for him), coffee… you know, the important stuff.

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That evening we joined some of our friends from PY, also vacationing in Rio at Os Imortais to watch the Copa America final (congrats to Chile, we were pulling for you, particularly after Argentina abused Paraguay in the semifinals) and try all sorts of Brazilian craft beer. I was pretty impressed as a whole. Great evening. Stayed up long enough to make sure the second half of our vacation squad was there before retiring.


Sunday, after coffee, we headed out to enjoy the beach and, eventually, found ourselves at the famous Copacabana Palace for brunch. It was ridiculous. Filet Mignon, red snapper, duck, oysters, various cheeses, fruit, fruit smoothie shooters. We then walked back along the beach to Fort Copacabana and enjoyed, er, more beer and coffee at a café, taking shelter from some sudden rain.

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Monday we made it into town to check out the awesome Escadaria Selaron. One man decided to beautify his neighborhood… one tile at a time. As his work grew, it intrigued others who provided him with tiles from their favorite futbol clubs or home city to include in his mural which extends up and up for about 125 meters/yards. Really cool to behold. His neighbors apparently originally mocked him for his garish colors. I suppose now they are happy for the income selling pics and trinkets to turistas.

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After we made our way pass the aqueduct and on to the Cathedral of Saint Sebastian of Rio. Was impressive, but when I looked up to the top of the inverted ice cream cone interior, I ended up feeling rather dizzy looking up. Terrified gravity might reverse and I’d fall up. Oh noes.

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We followed that up trying to time a sunset visit to Sugarloaf. Mother Nature wasn’t totally down with our plan, clouds came rolling in so the entire view was a rather grey. Ultimately it might have been better that way, as it was still spectacular (particularly when an illuminated Cristo Redentor was visible during a small hole in the clouds), and a brilliant counterpoint to our visit to the famous statue the following morning.

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Tuesday was much better, weather-wise, and we took the train up to Cristo Redentor.

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Red and yellow, black and white
They all take selfies in his sight
Jesus poses with the peoples of the world.

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Busy, but spectacular. Great views of the city, but had to be careful dodging all the people standing, kneeling, even laying on the ground taking pictures. This was 10am on a Tuesday during low season… cannot imagine the crowd during a peak season.


After a lunch we decided to hit the beach. I’m not really a beach guy, but I really enjoyed relaxin’ at Copacabana. We had a great “Beach Guy” who rented us out chairs, umbrellas (to keep me from getting fried), and seemed to come back around to check on us just as we finished our caipirinhas. “Paul, not McCartney” as he introduced himself, made it easy to just relax and take in the scenery. People playing football, joggers, sunbathers, Sugarloaf in the background… stunning.

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After dinner we ended up going to a cool samba/bossanova club, Bip-Bip. A great little local venue that has been around for near 50 years It’s the size of a walk-in closet. The tables inside are occupied by a rotating cast of musicians – guitarists (we had 5), flutes (3), squeezeboxes, percussion. You have to slink in along the far wall to get beer from the back, show it to the owner, who sits out front and keeps tabs on the honor system. Oh, and shut up and enjoy the music. As passionately as he preaches about the music, he’ll also erupt and shoosh those whose conversations interrupt his enjoyment of the tunes.

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We enjoyed another Maxo-relaxo Wednesday on the beach. Yum caiprinhas. Even Antarctica tastes good relaxing on the beach. We needed to store up as we had an action-packed Thursday planned.

Thursday was the Day of Many Things. While planning everything out, each of us picked out an activity we wanted to do. Kyle was easy enough… beach. Done. Katie wanted to do a bike tour, Kaitlyn see the rain forest, and I wanted to take in a futbol match at the legendary Maracana. As fate had it, the only days that would work for the bike tour and soccer were Thursday, and a jeep tour of the rain forest fit right in.

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The bike tour was great, went up the Copacabana around by Sugarloaf, Vermilha beach, by Botafago, through the city eventually coming out by the lagoa near Ipanema. Was a great tour, not difficult, and a lot of really beautiful scenery. If this sounds like your thing, I’d try to schedule in advance for your first day or so in town, as you’ll get a better lay of the land early in your trip.

We had time for a quick lunch before we were off on the Jeep tour. We were able to a scenic ride the the massive nature park in the city – replanted as it was cleared for coffee plantations in the 1800s. Scenic waterfall. Very short jungle trek. Then off to the stunning Chinese View and the botanical garden.

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mega panorama

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Following a quick bite to eat, off to the Maracana where we watched Fluminense overcome a lot of missed opportunities scoring a late goal to defeat Cruzeiro. Even though the 72,000 seat park was half empty, the supporters end made a lot of noise to cheer on their side. Great atmosphere.

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Kyle and Kaitlyn left early Friday, having enjoyed their visit. Katie and I had one more day to enjoy. Amusingly was the sunniest day of the entire week there, so we did what any logical people would do. Copacabana & caiprinhas. Woohoo.

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Absolutely beautiful city.

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Beer in Paraguay

Before coming to Paraguay I was forewarned by a good friend who had lived here and loves barley soda that it was a desolate wasteland.

Paraguay, as most of South America, is dominated by watery lagers. Each nation has their own. Paraguay has Pilsen, Argentina “enjoys” Quilmes, Brazil has Brahma. There are others, but all watery lagers of varying degrees. Baviera is comparatively decent. Polar, on the other hand, is quite possibly the worst. beer. ever.

Truthfully it makes some degree of sense. Wine and harder spirits dominate and when it’s 95F out and 80% humidity, watery lager hits the spot. Mostly because it’s served champagne style… in buckets of ice to keep it so cold you can barely taste it. Ah. Refreshing.

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They also import from abroad. Fortunately wave after wave of German immigration going back 150 years has paved the way for Hacker-Pschorr or Paulaner. And, for whatever reason, the oh-so-tolerant Dutch have opted to inflict their worst of the worst upon the peoples of Paraguay.

But not so anymore. Or not entirely, at least.

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Like the good old U.S. of A 30 years ago, people have tasted the good stuff and are no longer happy with watery lager. Brave souls made inroads with England and they now import Fullers.  Several brewers have started up making craft… Sajonia, Herken.

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(Let’s go to The Hop!)

Other intrepid, brave and noble souls have gone one step further. They brew their own. There is even a school, The Hop, that teaches courses.  Sure, in the America it’s fairly easy… easy enough your humble author brewed a couple enjoyable batches. Here it’s a tad more challenging. I was lucky/privileged enough to join some of my new amigos to brew a batch of Death Metal Stout, just in time for the “frigid” Paraguayan winter.

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Gotta say, I was mighty impressed with their rigs, including the copper plate cooling system. Even more impressed with the results.  And not only did my hosts allow me to sample their beer, but some of the (extremely impressive) import stash, which included US beers I was never able to get my paws on.

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In March, my favorite local watering hole/beer garden, Ninjas Con Apetitos was host to the first anniversary of the AcervaPY (Asociacion de Ceveceros Artesanales y Caseros del Paraguay) – Artisanal/Craft Brewers of Paraguay – in which craft and home brewers shared their wares. Apparently it was the first time several of the attendees had even tried craft beer… no kidding. And as a result they got a lot of positive response/press and the craft & home brewing movement has a lot more legitimacy and generated a lot of interest.

The beer here will only continue to get better.



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Running in Asuncion

Signed up for a 5k recently. Normally my running is done solely at Parque de Salud as perhaps the only thing more treacherous to South American walkers/runners than the sidewalks is the traffic.

It’s a nice park. You need an ID to get signed in and present it again when leaving. Has some security on hand, so it’s safe. It’s a fairly swell place to run small distances as it has a 1,500 meter course, nicely shaded by trees, that is shaped more like, say, Paraguay than a proper oval or circle. It has some downhill and uphill parts and swell little markers every 100m, making it great for some interval work as well as just jogging.

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The 5k, held by the American School of Asuncion, was fun because they blocked off traffic and you could run riot over the streets that comprised the course. It is a weird feeling running on Espana, comfortably, rather than the normal darting across it, terrified of becoming a local’s newest hood ornament.

First thing that struck me as odd was out of 1,500+ runners, Katie and I were two of maybe 40 people *NOT* to wear the shirt handed out in the Swag Bag. Apparently Droz (think way back to PCU) has never visited Asuncion and informed the peeps when going to a concert, you don’t wear a t-shirt of the band you are going to see.  (Side note, the value of the items in the Swag Bag exceeded the cost of racing. I paid $20 and got an UnderArmour tech shirt, mate, about 5 free bottles of Gatorade, and other goodies.)

The other thing that struck me was the pre-race warm-up was reminiscent of what I’ve read (or seen, going back farther than PCU to Michael Keaton’s 1986 flick Gung Ho)… some trainers on a stage with music and headset mics got a crowd of 200+ to follow along. Was odd.

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Race itself was fine. I did better than anticipated, particularly considering my legs were still horribly sore from Friday Night Futbol 38 hours prior. Although another issue was race etiquette. The throng of peoples got bottlenecked out the gate, causing those in the back to Walking Dead Zombie Saunter for 2+ minutes before we could actually open up and start even jogging.

Further, no one seems to get the concept of “slow people on the right.” It is annoying while jogging in Salud, but was infuriating at the race where a huge chunk of the first two miles required an awful lot of lateral movement to avoid plowing into people.

But I finished, running the streets of Asuncion without getting run over or plowing into anyone.  Hooray me.

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Bowling in Paraguay

I love bowling. I am a believer in Earl, the Patron Saint of Monster Truck Rallies, Trailer Parks, and, well, Bowling. I even permanently inscribed his name on the sleeve of my Vandals work shirt/bowling uniform.

Marko, one of the other teachers here formed a bi-weekly (every two weeks, not twice a week. always get those confused) bowling team. Naturally I jumped at the chance.

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No, THE bowling alley, is not situated above or below the apartment of Frank “Grimey” Grimes. It is located on the third/upper floor of one of Asuncion’s more fancypants malls, for starters. It has a whopping 11 lanes. While it has a fully functional ball return, the pin re-racking mechanism is vastly different. Rather than free pins jumbling around a mechanism and being reset, these pins are all on strings. The end result is while you still have some action, you won’t get awesome “Avenging Ninja Pin” action like you might in a traditional lane. However, there was at least one case of “Avenging Guillotine String” where the moving pin missed an adjacent one, but the string basically clotheslined the last pin for a spare.

Other oddities about bowling here. You get a ticket when you enter. Or in our case, six or seven, and everything you eat, drink and bowl (you pay for time, rather than per game…) is tallied up. You pay up, they give you another card to hand out at the exit.

Shoes. As usual, you rent shoes. Hooray. Only sizes are all in centimeters rather than our typical shoe size. And over the years, some have been stretched. One week I’m a 41, the next 42.

And as far as eating goes, best bowling alley food I’ve ever had. They serve the Paraguayan fave, a parilla. A hot metal tray/skillet brimming with high quality beef, chorizo, fries, fried mandioca (a potato-like root), onions, peppers. Ridiculously good.

In regards to aiming fluid… err, drink, you get the typical Paraguyan set-up, a big bottle of beer in an ice bucket that gets shared. And in our case, because we’re bringing in 6-7 gringos every two weeks, ordering food and beer, they’ve agreed to turn a blind eye to the bottle of white russians we bring in.

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