My Little Bimble Around Paraguay, Bolivia & Argentina

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Bovino, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    So, on the 28th of October we'll be heading down to Paraguay for 7 weeks. We? That'll my wife and my 6 month old baby son. We had planned to spend the winter in Sicily, but then the wife wanted to go and see her family. We had literally just been over, while she was still pregnant.
    I wasn't all that keen, so she told me to book the flights and buy a bike in Paraguay. I get two weeks off for the the bike trip to the salt flats of Uyuni we always wanted to take. Just on my own then. After that I'll have an allowance for the odd two to three day trip, that'll probably take me to the Posadas area, some nature reserves and whatever else pops up in my mind.

    Flights were booked, and that little bugger was delivered to her parents house last week:

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    It's a brand spanking new Kenton TRX 150, basically a copy of the old Honda XL 185. All Chinese, though assembled in Paraguay. They are supposedly pretty tough, but we'll find out about that. The choice to buy was very easy - there is literally no 2nd hand market for larger bikes. Japanese or Euro bikes are very expensive when new, even the Brazilian made Hondas are crazy expensive. All you can find 2nd hand in the more affordable price range looks like it had hit a landmine. Also, there is no way you'd find parts for anything but Chinese stuff in Paraguay, most of Bolivia and northern Argentina. Renting a bike is no option either, it's only BMW and there you are talking about 1.000 USD a week.
    The Kenton was about 900,- Euros all in. That includes full paperwork, a 6.000 km warranty, a hi viz vest & helmet, a liter of oil plus the first two oil changes. It has a sturdy rack and sort of a bash plate too. Add sleek and plain sexy looks and you have yourself a winner.

    Here's the rough itinerary for my first two weeks:

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    I'll be heading out on the ruta Transchaco, NW through the Paraguayan Chaco:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaco_(Paraguay)

    I am not planning on doing crazy stuff, just sticking to the actual road. Even so, the tarmac will stop 150 km or so before the Bolivian boarder. There won't be much of tarmac all the way to Uyuni, after it it will be a mixed bag until entering Argentina. Or so I heard.

    Next up I'll tell you about my (minimal) preparations, and about that beautiful little Paraguay.
    #1
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  2. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    the bash plate looks abit small , might want some more coverage.
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  3. TeeTwo

    TeeTwo Been here awhile

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    That route is going to deliver a lot of variety enjoy your new Dad solo adventure!

    I crossed the Argentine Chaco in May this year on route 81(as you are doing on your return)....which was a decent road for the most part. But on the western/middle end there was a 10-15 mile stretch that was horrendous, blacktop that had evaporated leaving a road that was like an unmaintained backwater trail. Taking it slow, weaving a path and dodging trucks, buses and cars doing the same got me through it, though it cracked both tool tube mounts, the tube cap came off and the tools were disgorged on 81. I only found out when I stopped for a rest and it was pointless to go looking for them. It will definitely test the ruggedness of your moto.

    BTW, Formosa, on the banks of the Uruguay River, was a great town....and only a few miles more than taking the cutoff on the more northerly route. For me the town was the best part of the crossing the Chacho. Maybe a lunch stop before your return to the Paraguay border.

    I enjoyed my few days in Paraguay a lot.

    Cheers T2
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  4. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    I will try to address stuff like that once I've seen and tried the bike in person. There is pretty much naught you can buy there upgrade wise, maybe some handguards and the odd handlebar. So it'll be me and the welder taking care of things.

    Thank you!

    I've been out fishing in Formosa before, the Rio Paraguay it is called there, the Uruguay is a tad more south. Either ways, the river is a gem. Absolutely stunning views, once your are on a boat. Decent fishing too, as there is little pollution (for South American standards). For a few Pesos or Guaranies, depending on what side, you can just join the locals on their little boats. Highly recommended for anyone passing through.

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    #4
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  5. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    Can you tell us about the registration of the bike, is it in your personal name or a family member? Thanks
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  6. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    I have indeed "used" a local for the registration. It was just the easiest way, as I want to use it right when I get there. I don't know what you need to register it in your own name, but from what I've heard you only need to register yourself in the townhall with an address. Don't quote me on that though, I would need to have that confirmed.
    When the bike isn't in your name, and you want to cross boarders, you will need a permit from the owner - validated by a notary. So that is a additional pain and 100,- USD you need to cough up.

    As it happens, all Mercosur members the have changed their number plates last year, to something that resembles the Euro-style system.

    matriculas-mercosur.jpg

    Now that doesn't change much but one little detail: At the moment you pretty much cannot get insurance for small and cheap motorbikes in Paraguay. That won't matter crossing into Bolivia now, according to the locals.
    If somehow possible I will of course get some sort of insurance.

    Buying the bike itself was pretty easy they told me. You call and tell them what bike you'd like. An hour later a truck shows up, dumps the bike incl. the number plate and a temporary registration. Two weeks later you rock up at the townhall, pay your taxes and pick up the permanent registration.
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  7. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    So, we arrived a week ago, right in the middle of a freaking heatwave. It went up to 43°C, lovely.

    Cold beers to the rescue! And, some of the best beef you can get yer hands on.

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    The little Kenton was there waiting for me too. After adjusting the fuel valve and carb in general it actually even started!
    It seems to be put together fairly well, but more on that later.

    Of course she needed some prepping. First I added a USB plug.

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    Then I put the GPS in Place:

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    Put a little strap to it, should make it harder to snatch on traffic lights or the like.

    Next was a top case of sorts. I went the ghetto toolbox route. About $12 all in. Have some of that, KLRistas.


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    I took her out a few times, mainly to break that beast of an engine in. The procedure of breaking in a Chinese 150 is very simple. Beat the living crap out of it. The gearbox is nice and smooth now, it also makes less grinding noises after 200ish kms. Just like a Honda pushrod clone should sound.

    A little highlight was the Lake Ipacaraí, the beach in San Bernardino to be precise:

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    Funny little machine!
    #7
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  8. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    check your usb charger, many will drain your battery if not switched.
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  9. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    All good here, no drainage!
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  10. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    I went out and bought all the spares that could come in handy. Chain kit, engine oil, levers, wheel bearings, inner tubes, gear lever, bulbs and what have you. Not even 50 Euros all in. Crazy.
    I should have enough tools to do an engine rebuild on the road too.

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    The bike went in for the (free of charge) first service at 300 kms. The main Kenton shop in Asuncion is amazing. Fast check-in while you are literally still sat on the bike. There are 30-ish work stations, so a oil change, once over and adjusting the valves took half an hour.

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    I mean even for Paraguayan standards these bikes are dirt cheap, no one would ever expect this level of customer service.
    My local Husqvarna shop feels somewhat medieval compared to that.

    Needless to say the bike was hand washed after the service, and tested on their own little track. With a soccer pitch for the employees in the middle of it.

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    Tomorrow I will start loading the bike up, it‘s gotta be ready for an early start on monday.
    #10
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  11. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    Now thats an awesome service center, looks like the big car truck dealers here. Its a good looking bike
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  12. doomy

    doomy n00b

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    hi bovino, do you have any updates about your trip?

    we are also in paraguay right now and bought 2 kenton bikes. still waiting for the cedula verde and undecided about the route.
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  13. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    So, here‘s what happened!

    First off - I have not had the time or equipment to sort out the pictures so far, it‘ll be a mix of iPhone shots and raw camera stuff for now. The GoPro decided to nuke my SD card, so most of the riding footage might be gone.

    Day 1, San Lorenzo to Filadelfia - 480km:

    I set off at 6ish in the AM, beating my way through a Asuncion in all it‘s Monday morning craziness. The night before I took off I added a 5l canister for some extra juice, next to the toolbox. Turned out to be the best mod.

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    Took me an hour to get to the Chaco gateway, Puente Remanso.

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    Once you have crossed the bridge, there is less and less buildings. After some 50k‘s ist mostly bush and farms. It didn‘t take long for the first Tucan to show up. Dude even followed me along for a moment, checking me out. Awesome. I hope I can recover some video footage to show actual proof.
    The ruta Transchaco is just straight with no highlights save a few monumental potholes.
    Fuel is no issue, gas stations every 100km or so.

    Some funky building:

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    The little Kenton didn‘t mind the 40-odd °C. Well maybe a little. Everytime I used the e-start she smelled funky. Turned out the main starter cable got got, bent downwards and started to touch the exhaust. Once the isolation was burnt of, it tried to weld itself to the pipe. The battery got a little upset and started pissing out water.

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    Some tape and zip ties to the rescue, sorted.

    It was always worth stopping, there are loads of animals around. Like Carpinchos.

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    At about 4 PM I had arrived in Filadelfia.
    I was told to get in touch with a local biker, Franz - like most people there, a Mennonite.
    He set me up with a awesome place to stay within their community, great way of getting to know the local Mennos.
    The guys later invited me to the local airfield. Turns out they love meat and planes. They spend their Monday nights doing BBQ‘s and wrenching. Could be worse!

    Whilst munching away on local beef, news broke that Evo Morales will flee out of Bolivia via Paraguay. I was supposed to cross into Bolivia the next day. The situation there was iffy the days before, with talks of closed borders and all. Oh well.

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    In that hangar it was mostly Charly‘s stuff.
    He‘s an South African Menno that spends way to much time at American Airshows.


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    Charly‘s first homemade plane. Used to fly and all.

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    Charly’s Homemade Thing MK2, with Franz posing. Used to be powered by a Rover V8, now it‘s more conventional. Using the lighter engine meant cutting out a section in the rear to lose some weight. The replacement was done in carbon fiber. Great skills, bearing in mind that all this is done in the Paraguayan badlands.

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    After mending a few issues with the rudder (damn thing almost hacked off my finger) till 1AM it was time for bed.


    Next up: Filadelfia to Villamontes, maybe.
    #13
  14. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    Day 2, Filadelfia to Villamontes - 430km:

    After a good nights sleep, a massive breakfast of local products it was time to say goodbye to my new friends. I will be back at some point!
    Before heading out, the guys checked the situation in Bolivia with some local bikers in Tarija. It sounded like everything was calm, but no reliable info on the border situation.
    I decided to just go for it. I thought if I can‘t get in, I‘ll just make my way via Argentina, using the Picada 500 dirt track to Pozo Hondo.

    The roads towards Bolivia is just perfect, what used to be dirt is all paved by now, so progress was good. The traffic thins out quickly to maybe one truck every half an hour, the last 1,5 hours I did not see a living soul.

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    At about 3PM I arrived at the border. There is a gas station just a few 100 mtrs before the Paraguayan border post.
    I filled up my little turd and tried to ask the boss what the deal was on the border. Probably closed he says, but vehicles seem to go through. Um, what..? :rofl
    Anyways, I head to the Passport control. Within a minute I had my Salida stamped, after 3 minutes my Bolivian entry was all stamped. The passport guys were all happy AF. We laughed alot and the told me where to get a decent hotel with pool in Villamontes. They had taken off Evo‘s picture, it just sat in the corner upside down.
    Easy! Not. The customs guy next door was a right wanker. He told me right of the bat that I will have to turn around and head back. He made it sound as if the paperwork for the bike wasn‘t in order. I asked him if he might want to have a look at them or if he wants to keep assuming things. Now we became friends. Dude starts mumbling I shouldn‘t waste his time and go home.
    After not finding anything, he suddenly asks for a visa. I tell him I don‘t need one, he tells me I do. It goes back and forth for an hour, until he gives up.
    All of a sudden he fills out the forms, signed and stamped in a matter of seconds. I tell him to go see a shrink and head out.
    His brethren from passport control wish me well and wave at the door.

    Ha!

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    The road to Villamontes is a blast, first a bit more of straight Chaco, then following the Pilcomayo river until the tarmac stops. Then it‘s all gravel and the little Kenton loves it.

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    Right before Villamontes the tarmac start again and you get the first glimpse of the Andes.

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    Once in town, I fill up the bike again and check in the hotel. A quick dip in the pool and of for a beer or five. Get in there!

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    The locals celebrate Evo‘s departure. That gave me a good feeling of what is to come.

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    Next: Villamontes to Tarija!
    #14
  15. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    Right, the holidays kept me very busy. Here's the next installment.

    Day 3, Villamontes to Tarija - 220 km:

    A little heavy headed (honey flavored beer anyone?) I was off to Tarija in the AM. Just outside Villamontes the tarmac stops, turning the road into a somewhat unknown death road. Just Phone pics for now.

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    The Kenton felt right at home on twisty and dirty stuff, so after two days of pretty much just going straight, that was a hoot. Some madmen in clapped out lorries coming down the mountain kept it interesting too.

    Just after mid day I had arrived in Tarija. I checked in a lovely Hostel (Hostal Cultura Berlin) and went off for some lunch. Tarija is a pretty cool town, lots of colonial buildings and cool cars. It felt like Spain at times.

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    There is a creepy archaeological museum too. That little dude started out as an adult, before drying up.

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    Gee, good thing they went extinct.

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    Mucho trabajo for poco dinero makes one sleepy.

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    They like their cars. Me too.

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    Franz from Filadelfia told me to meet up with Christian, a local guy he knows. I did, and he dragged me to a decent eatery. The starter was grilled guts. Yummy if a tad greasy. What really got me was the wine. There are quite some vineyards in the area, so Christian had me try the local Malbec Kohlberg. That stuff beats some upmarket Riojas and Riberas no problem! So if you are in the area, get some of that!
    After a couple of bottles I was given some insight in the political climate in Bolivia, which was interesting.

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    Next, Tarija to Tupiza. With an hangover.
    #15
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