It’s like the corporation’s number 57 bus, you wait an hour and then along come three, all at once.
Yesterday’s hotel breakfast in Caaguazu was fresh crushed pineapple juice coffee and the local bread speciality: a white dried out rusk that explodes if you try to break it open. Best to dip it in a liberal dose of dulce de leche. So we headed off, some what underwhelmed but with confidence that we would find the chipa man at the side of the road, long before the call for second breakfast or an early 'onces'. No chipas in Repatriacion, none in Oviedo, none in San Jose. None all day. We end up with a millanesa: minute steak in batter served with a wilted lettuce leaf and a styrofoam roll. Added for good measure were some deep fried dough balls of indiscriminate provenance. There’s never a healthy option on truckers’ roadside stop. So today we head off, this time with no inclusive breakfast and little hope of our chipa fix. We turn the corner out of Itacurubi, a van is coming up hill, his loud-speaker crying “ cheeee…..pas cheee…..pas”. We flag him down and inside two minutes he’s got the navigator’s ‘phone number. Bloody fast workers these Latino lotharios! We get four large round rings that turn out to have bacon chips and maize polenta in them.
So, fully victualled we’re ready for the day. By El Ayala we have passed three chipa bakeries and twelve road side stands. Not to mention all the itinerant sellers going door to door with their baskets balanced on their heads. The roadside barras are always manned by ladies. The chiparias, the bakeries, provide them with a uniform of the classical “French maid” style: frilly white apron, short black dress. Only some of these ladies haven’t been “maids” for over half a century. By Caacupe and San Lorenzo the score has gone beyond recall. As we start to hit the outskirts of Asuncion the colectivos and the local buses start to multiply, rushing past in a roar of diesel smoke, only to suddenly pull in front of us. They barely stop either for ascending or descending passengers. The chipas lads, it’s always lads without sexist uniforms, leap from moving bus to bus.
Given the number of buses that pass I’m surprised that a No 57 isn’t one of them.