Saturday, November 3, 2012

La Laguna Blanca... Red Sand to White Sand

While I was in Bolivia I heard from another traveler that there was a nice nature area to visit in Paraguay called La Laguna Blanca. I made a mental note and promised myself that if I was near the area I would try to visit it. While in Concepcion I tried to look for information about La Laguna Blanca. I asked a few locals, but they had not heard of the area. I searched online and found a little information. 
The google map was not too helpful. I was in Concepcion (point A) and wanted to go to Laguna Blanca (point B). It indicated that there was no road reaching La Laguna Blanca from highway 3.

I searched around a little bit more online and found these written directions...  "From the crossroad at Santa Rosa del Aguaray take a 27 kilometers long pebbled road towards East. In dry weather the trip can be made in car; otherwise it should be made in high-clearance vehicles." Hmmm... I thought that Emi, my motorcycle, could be considered a high-clearance vehicle... she has a suspension with10 inches of clearance.

I also found this map from the Rancho Laguna Blanca website. I was pretty sure that the map was not to scale, but it had some nice landmarks (puentes, agua, porton) for reference.

So with these three pieces of information I would try to triangulate my way to La Laguan Blanca. And, if some of you are wondering, my GPS was useless when I tried to locate La Laguna Blanca.
Just as the google map indicated, there was an asphalt highway from Concepcion to the town of Santa Rosa. I stocked up on some groceries at one of the local stores. I had trouble finding the crossroad that would lead to the pebbled road, so I stopped and asked a couple of people for directions. 

When I ask for directions I always like to ask at least two different people... just to confirm. The first person that I asked gave me some hand signals and directions. The second person that I asked was a motorcyclist. He gave me some hand signals and directions and said that he was heading in the same direction. So off we went. 
The pebbled road was actually more of a dirt and sand road. The sand was a rich red color...quite stunning next to the green vegetation of the countryside. It had been raining over the past few days, so the road was not in the best of conditions. Most of the puddles were only an inch deep, but some of the puddles were a foot deep. I tried to ride around most of the big puddles. Just as the written directions had indicated... "for high-clearance vehicles". 
And, just as the graphical map indicated, I would pass over a number of bridges. The bridge in this photo was in relatively good condition compared to some of the other bridges. I rode quickly over the bridges so that I would not fall through the cracks.
I eventually came across a sign and intersection. I actually passed this intersection at first and had to double back after riding a few miles.
I rode down this winding dirt road and would disappear into the forest.
The narrow path that led through the forest was fun. It was muddy and filled with puddles, but Emi seemed to handle it well.
At one point along this path, I came across a gate. See the yellow things along the side of the road.
There were hundreds of yellow butterflies waiting by the gate to welcome me into the park. They fluttered by in salute.
I eventually arrived at La Laguna Blanca. From red sand to white sand.
This beach umbrella and lounge chairs were beckoning me.
I found a place to park my bike, set up camp, ate dinner and watched the sun disappear on the horizon.
The next morning I was greeted by this little guy. He was the pet of the park ranger. After I fed him some of my food he would follow me everywhere.
I met some other travels at the park. They were a friendly group of South Africans. After being in Paraguay for about two weeks, these were the first international travelers that I had met. We went on a few nature hikes and shared a few meals. 
Over the next few days I would explore the area around the laguna. It did rain on and off.
The water of the laguna was very clear. It was a bit cold at first, but nice to swim in. I tried my luck at fishing, but was unsuccessful.
The area around the laguna consisted mainly of low lying forests and scrubs. There was not anything in the surroundings that grabbed my attention and that I would call super amazing.
But in the details there was a beauty that I would call graceful.
The texture of the fungus on a tree limb.
The intricate abstract design of a termite mound.
The rustic patterns of tree bark.
The delicate layers of fungus...
And more fungus... among us.
I could look to the sky and see birds soaring above me.
I could look to the ground and find an hormiga (ant) the size of a bottle cap.
There were tracks of animals with hoofs like small deer.
There were markings from animals with claws like raccoons or anteaters.
And there were traces of animals like this... with big paws the size of a fist... perhaps from a puma or jaguar.
In this area, metaphorically there appeared to be many things hidden under layers and layers. I felt as if I was just scratching the surface. I spent three days camping in La Laguna Blanca. It was a solitary place... a peaceful place... a reflective place. However, I needed to move on.
I waited for a moment when the rain would subside, then departed La Laguna Blanca. I left the white sand for the red sand. I would make my way back down the muddy road.
The road was in worse condition that when I had traveled it previously. Progress was slow. 

A funny thing happened.

I stopped at this point to take a photo of the muddy road and this particular puddle. To me the puddle appeared to be pretty deep. There was no room on the right nor left side to ride around the obsticle. Just after I took this photo a small truck pulled up behind me. The driver stopped briefly and glanced at me to see why I was waiting by the side of the road. He took a quick look at the puddle and then accelerated. He passed halfway across the puddle, but on the outbound side of the puddle his truck bogged down. The level of the water was probably knee high. He had lost his traction and was spinning his wheels. The truck was only 2 wheel drive and not 4 wheel drive. The water was deeper than the axles of the truck. Water soon started entering the interior of the cabin. He glanced back at me with a puzzled look. He kept his foot on the accelerator, but he kept digging his wheels deeper into the mud. He opened up his window and called out to me. He asked me if I would push him through the puddle. I wanted to help the guy, but I was not looking forward to it. 

I knew that it would be a wet and muddy proposition. I was already dirty on the outside of my riding gear from riding through the mud, but I did not want to get my boots, socks and pants completely immersed in the water and mud. 

I paused to think for a moment... then acted. I quickly dismounted my motorcycle and stripped off my riding gear... jacket, pants, boots and socks. I rolled up my pants and waded through the water and mud. I started to push the truck while the man accelerated. We were not very successful. After about a minute... his truck stalled. Water had entered either the exhaust or engine. Water had entered the cabin. He was stuck. He climbed out of his truck, waded through the water and settled on the dry ground. We looked at each other for a moment in despair. 

We chatted for a while. He thanked me for trying to help. He called someone on his phone for assistance. He said that they would come by later. I asked him if he would be okay if I continued on my journey. He said that he would be okay. 

I did notice that he was packing an automatic pistol, something like a Glock 19. I felt like he would be okay on his own.

To give myself the best chance of riding through the puddle, I first waded through the water to find a high spot. The best route that I could find was still about a foot under water and with loose mud.

I put back on my riding gear, started up my motorcycle and said a little prayer. 

I twisted Emi's throttle... she bolted forward... slush... slush... slush... back wheel moving... back wheel spinning... play with the clutch... a little more throttle... slush... slush...slush... keep the front wheel strait... back wheel sliding... play with the clutch... a little more throttle...slush... slush...slush... varooooom! Out of the puddle. And that is why Emi is so amazing. 

The adventure begins... when the road ends!

I looked back at the stranded truck driver. He waived at me. I waived back. I rode on.

After an hour or so of some more puddle jumping I made my way back to the asphalt highway. I was glad to see it.

I would travel west on the highway toward the city of Asuncion. Rain clouds were forming on the horizon, so I pulled over to put on my rain gear. As I looked back I saw something coming toward me. I turned and snapped this photo. A horse and wagon on the highway next to my horse and wagon... Emi.

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