Please give generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/Dan-Thompson11/
Date : 20th September, 2016
Time : 58’53”
Total distance run to date : 830 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1382864465
Stop scratching yourself…and drinking what I hope is water….and leaning across to pick up your phone…. and for God’s sake, PUT YOUR GLASSES BACK ON AND KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL!!
My early morning taxi to the airport is weaving all over the motorway with cars passing us on both sides blowing their horns. My Spanish doesn’t stretch to “I’m very sorry to bother you, and I know back seat drivers are intensely irritating, but please could you stay in one lane for our, you know, mutual safety and all that”. So instead I squeak out “One lane. Please!”
My driver turns down the blaring radio a notch. “Eh?” I realise that we’re not going to cross the language barrier and conclude that my best hope lies in not distracting her any further.
Somehow we make it to the airport in one piece.
But if I’m worried that the taxi journey is going to set the tone for my day trip from Buenos Aires to Asunción in Paraguay, then I’m completely wrong.
After a trouble free flight, I’m met at the airport by Nick White from the British Embassy. We have a bit of time before the run so he brings me up to speed with life in Paraguay.
Now I hope any Paraguayan based readers of this blog will excuse me, but I don’t know many people who’ve been to Paraguay and I think it’s worth spending a couple of paragraphs running through some basic if no doubt superficial background. (Please feel free to skip ahead if you know all this!)
Paraguay is a landlocked country of 7 million bordered by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. It hasn’t always got on well with its larger neighbours and even fought a simultaneous war against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay between 1864 and 1870. The War of the Triple Alliance, also known as the Great War in Paraguay, was the deadliest in Latin America’s history with an estimated 400,000 deaths. It was particularly devastating for Paraguay, which suffered a catastrophic loss in population – almost 70% of its adult male population died, according to some historians – and was forced to cede about a quarter of its territory to Argentina and Brazil.
Growing up, I remember Paraguay being a military dictatorship under General Alfredo Stroessner – Latin America’s longest ruling dictator. However, things have moved on a long way since and it’s now a relatively stable democracy with an economy that has performed strongly in the 21st century. In a 2015 Gallup poll Paraguay came out on top as the happiest country in the world.
It also has a very nice park near the airport- Parque Guasu – and that’s where we met my fellow runners from the British Embassy (pictured above) and went for our run.
I had the pleasure of running the first 5 kilometres with Ambassador Robin Hobbs. As I’ve commented in previous blogs, we Brits are extremely fortunate to have diplomats all over the world promoting British business and culture and even carving time out of their hectic schedules to support people such as myself.
After the run, we visited the British embassy and then a number of us went for a buffet lunch. This was half a buffet lunch as you might know it – a huge array of things to help yourself to – and half a buffet the like of which you’ve never seen. The difference being that it was supplemented by endless cuts of meat that were brought to your table and carved onto your plate. Along with whole caramelised pineapples.
And not just any old meat. Paraguayans believe that their meat is “the best in the world”. And they could well be right. (Uruguayans would beg to differ – although both countries agree that their meat is much better than Argentina’s.)
It was magnificent stuff and completely negated the need for any dinner that night. Not that I felt much like eating when I got back to my hotel in Buenos Aires. The taxi back from the airport went 110 in a 60 speed limit area while executing undertaking manoeuvres that would have brought a smile to Lewis Hamilton’s face. On the plus side, a journey that can take an hour had only taken half that time…
Ambassador Hobbs, Nick, Melissa and everyone else I met in Asuncion, thank you for all the support. It was enormously appreciated and I have made a donation to Cancer Research in what is, I hope, an appropriate way to show my gratitude.