After an intolerable hour of watching this lonely, bobbling egg boil, on the one working hob in the hostel, I ventured off to track down the egg culprit. This was the first time I met Davide and Florence, a free-spirited Italian couple. Davide was inconceivably cool and was allegedly a porn star, a rumour I embraced due to his maverick's moustache and his laid back demeanour. In the end I just found the concept of boiling one egg for an hour absurdly funny and besides, I liked them so I just waited patiently. The eggs were being prepared for the next day's boat trip up the Rio Paraguay, a trip I was also to embark on.
Still half asleep, we got to the boat station at 8:00am. It was like boarding Noah's arc, anything and everything was being hoarded onto this old, rusty boat that made a shipwreck look attractive. As I followed a few raucous chickens I was amazed at how crowded this "tourist" boat was. It was like stepping into a fifteenth-century Paraguayan market street, at night, during the plague.
The smell on board was horrendous, a rich effluvium pervading the asphyxiating air, a musty collaboration of mouldy vegetables, dirty animals and ill-ridden, fly infested Paraguayans. We set up hammocks, all in touching distance of each other due to the lack of space and lay there, heads resting on onion bags with the near-death coughing up at us from below.
As I sat there looking at the perpetually frightened eyes of the Paraguayans, I spotted a mother and father crying, leaning over their sick daughter, stroking her damp hair. I couldn't concentrate on my book, I felt so helpless. I wondered for a while what journey they had been through, how their faces had become so weathered and tough and why their defeated eyes conveyed such a sombre history. I felt unworthy of my superior position in the hammocks so I decided to take a stroll. I spotted Davide climbing onto the roof, so I followed him.
Davide and I frequented the roof for the next four days, bathing in the relaxing sun as we meandered slowly through the thick warm breeze. We remained silent until sunset, when we would sit up and admire the only time of the day that Paraguay looked truly beautiful, passing obsolete towns with the last glint of the quiet sunlight. As night fell, I slipped unnoticed into my hammock, poised for a restless night, victim to the voracious mosquitoes.
As we approached Vallemi I grabbed a red pepper for breakfast, took one last despairing look at the peering eyes beneath me and hopped off the boat. As I looked around I was unsurprised to be greeted with yet another depraved Paraguayan town, sunken humans moping around with hopeless hearts and austere lives. It was time to get out.
Davide, Florence and I waited in silence for a skiff to transport us to the border crossing. The corruption of the country then unveiled itself to me in a series of mind-boggling incidents. The whole border patrol team had taken a day of work and so we crossed the border illegally into Brazil. After I managed to get an illegal entrance stamp, I sat down to have piranha before illegally getting an exit stamp to Bolivia. My moral orientation was completely lost and furthermore, I knew I was never going to leave Paraguay officially.
The Italian pornstar and I were now Paraguayan buddies for life.