Wednesday, 11 July 2007

I think I've just made the world's fastest trip to Paraguay

More for the stamp in the passport than anything else. Most people skip it, and according to the Foreign Office the whole country only receives about a hundred and fifty visitors from the UK every year. Having now been there myself, I'm quite surprised it's that many - the place sucks @rse like a five dollar wh0re. The statistics don't record how many people wish they hadn't bothered, but it shares one border with Brazil and another with Argentina, and on first impressions I found myself thinking that if these two countries decided to start a war to seize territory and wipe Paraguay off the face of the map, I would probably chip in a tenner for the war effort.

Obviously on mature consideration I reconsidered such rash and hasty thinking, and decided fifty quid would be more appropriate.

I'm willing to be contradicted by anyone that's spent time there and really gotten to know the place, especially by anyone that visited the North (where I couldn't summon the life force to go), but really I felt that that I'd rather get to know Josef Mengeler.

So my passport records that I entered on the ninth and left on the tenth, and in between spent a considerable amount of my valuable leisure time staring out of a bus window at the dull and uninspiring landscape, trying hard to ignore the fact that the girl next to me was being repeatedly, violently and above all copiously sick.

Yet who would have thought the young girl to have had so much barf in her?

If the human body really is over sixty percent water as the scientists tell us, then I reckon this seƱorita was at least another twenty percent nausea.

After a couple of hours of this, during which time I gave a few sympathy retches myself, the conductor came to remonstrate with her and sent her to the toilet at the back of the bus. She didn't return for the rest of the journey. Then he placed a tea-towel sized cloth over the heap, sprayed some disinfectant on it and warned me to be careful where I put my feet. Such advice was hardly necessary as I already had my bag on my lap and my feet up against the seat in front, uneasily and constantly aware of the spreading, sliding, growing mound of ooze below.

Later, when a frail and delicate old lady went to sit down in the empty seat I panicked and tried to alert her to the situation. I guessed the word 'vomito' correctly, which was lucky since this particular piece of vocabulary hasn't featured in any of my rudimentary Spanish efforts thus far, but instead of 'cuidado' meaning 'careful', I blurted out 'ciudad', which means 'city'. So my attempted 'mind the vomit' warning ('cuidado del vomito') could probably best be translated as 'city of the vomit'.

Which, to be fair, wasn't too bad a description of what lurked beneath her sandled feet.

Mind you, by the time the poor, confused old dear had trodden in it, slipped a bit and spread it around the floor while attempting to regain her balance, it was far more a suburban sprawl of sick, a Milton Keynes of regurtitation, if you will.

When it finally came time to leave the bus, only an hour later than scheduled, the stepover I did to avoid it would have made Ronaldo proud.

I'm now back in Argentina, a country I'm almost ashamed to like as much as I do. I'm currently in a pretty little city called Rosario.

It does mean that once again the Falklands are raised in every conversation I ever have with the locals, who seem to feel the loss surprisingly keenly since as far as I'm aware they're just some rocks with sheep on. They don't do themselves any favours mind, since they include them on all maps of the country and spray 'The Falklands are ours' slogans on walls - full marks for patriotism there, but minus ten for accurate grasp of reality. Whenever an Argentine brings it up, I refer them to Maradona's hand of God goal. In terms of the scale of global injustice, invasion and nearly two hundred years of occupation by the British set against one blatant World Cup hand-ball, I think we're just about even.

I have however brought with me the coldest weather the place has seen for nigh on ninety years (, and the snow looks to have put paid to my plans to visit Patagonia. This is probably for the best, since I'm a complete big girl's bottom when it comes to the cold ... and rain ... and strong winds ... in fact, even a light mist is enough to seriously discombobulate me, so the logic of visiting one of the coldest inhabited regions on Earth during their winter was always questionable at best. If I'd had a well thought out plan - let's face it, if I'd had any sort of plan at all - I would have started off there.

Still, it gives me the excuse to come back one day and discuss the ownership of the Falklands some more.

All the best

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