Atop Paraguari’s Cerro Negro

The view from atop Paraguari’s Cerro Negro was as beautiful as I’d imagined it would be from the first time I’d seen it. Far below was our secluded residence and, to the right, the town and its many landmarks, tiny and insignificant. Everything engulfed by sea of blue.

There was only one problem: The beauty below was overshadowed by the fact I was at a loss as to how we were supposed to get safely down.

Such was the case after a forty five minute, relatively vertical slog up
Don’t look down

Paraguari’s most obvious landmark. Approximately 400 meters/ 1200 feet of tree covered rock rising up and standing over the otherwise flat expanse of eastern Paraguay. A slog, it should be noted that neither Bec nor myself were prepared for after the steady reassurances to the contrary from the family we’d first started discussing the hike with a couple weeks earlier.

That would be my first mistake; assuming the definition of such concepts of ‘safe’ and ‘easy’ by people I’d really only known for barely three weeks even remotely mirrored my own.

Don’t get me wrong, these were good people. Honest and friendly as the day was long. But we’d been in their house and between the numbers under one roof, the tight sleeping arrangements, and the rudimentary cooking facilities, let’s just say there was nothing ‘easy’ about it. As for ‘safe’, I’d spent enough time watching their four year old son running wild on their expanse of animal inhabited property to know better.

Between tied up baby crocs, a massive mixed breed of pitbull for a pet, randomly dispersed machetes and the two
Hard work pays off

live shotgun shells I’d picked up while walking the yard dodging cow patties, there was a very good reason neither Bec or I felt even remotely comfortable dropping Kaia off and leaving her to her own devices.

But from what I’ve since been told, by South American standards, I’m just being overprotective.

“In this part of the world the average local’s awareness of the concept of danger is stuck on that of a 12 year old until into their late 20s or early 30s,” would be how a neighbour would explain things to us. Whether there was any science behind the statement was highly unlikely. But what was certain though, was that after having left Germany thirty years ago, she had become well versed in such things as having to drive extra slow at night so as not to inadvertently take out unlit motorcycles and scooters with three or more, helmetless and often inebriated passengers.

Which may have explained why parents Roxanne and Edgar were more than content to linger at the back of the pack encouraging us along while their four year old son scampered on well up ahead and out of sight with his older brothers and their couple friends. Friends and family, only fittingly, carrying multiple pellet guns and even one shot gun (a deterrent, I’d learn later, to guard against thieves).

Such ‘hiking gear’ struck us as weird but, to be honest, I had plenty of other things on my mind as I labored on beneath the weight of Kaia on my back amid a rock strewn path void of even the slightest hint of a curve, let alone the switchbacks I’d somewhat come to expect. We’d come too far to turn back now, became our mantra while our companions and one or two descending strangers assured us we were ‘almost there’. would have been true if only the part of having to pass our daughter up a human chain for the last vertical hand over hand climb hadn’t suddenly become part of the equation. The part of the equation that marked a defining point of the day’s hike. This being the moment where concern for making it to the top was immediately replaced by the palpable dread of how the reverse procedure was supposed to play out.

We’d cross that bridge when we got to it both Bec and I forced ourselves to reason as our hosts brushed off the looks of concern on our faces with a nonchalance that I could only hope would prove infectious as the afternoon wore on.

Which it would…sort of. Long enough to take in a few of the different cliff top
Catching a well earned breath

vantage points while bantering in broken Spanish, nibble some lunch, rehydrate with a few coldies, marvel at the atrocious quantity of discarded garbage all around and watch as the armed ones proceeded to shoot at anything that crawled, flew or blew in the wind.

All with Kaia never more than an arm’s length away from our side the entire time, of course. A fact that apparently wouldn’t be lost on either Roxanna or Edgar as, between that and the sweaty and concerned looks on our faces as we finally pulled ourselves up that final rise told them, they knew they had a bit of a job to do in getting us down.
Almost there

Which, I’m happy to report, is exactly what they did. All with an aire of confident reassurance that seemed to say, “Relax, there’s no hurry. You’re with us and all will be fine.” And sure enough, such would prove the case with the ominous first few vertical descents passing in a fear-of-death-is-worse-than-death-itself sort of way. A fact that, along with Edgar and Roxanne’s level headed demeanour and attention to detail, had Kaia actually apparently enjoying the entire “me” focused production before, thirty knee and thigh burning minutes later we’d made it.

Back to the land of the living. To the land of the living and meandering exhaustedly along a flat, grassy path with not a rock or boulder in sight and with a sense of accomplishment only exceeded by that of conquering generals inspecting their
Feeling the burn…and the urge for a beer

victorious troops.

It’d be there during our own final victory stretch—with only a couple hundred meters separating us from some well-

deserved beers—I turned to Edgar and thanked him in words that to me never rang truer than at that moment. “I can honestly say we couldn’t have done it without you,” I told him.

To which he just laughed.

The sort of laugh that seemed to come from a man increasingly sure he was in the presence of gringos prone to making mountains out of molehills.







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