ASUNCION – The old train tracks of Paraguay’s railroad company, once a pioneer in South America but now abandoned, could find new life as the longest cycling path in the region, thanks to a project by an enthusiastic Paraguayan cyclist.
The project began to take shape after Jeronimo Buman, an audiovisual producer and big fan of cycling, traveled in early 2017 the 370 kilometers (230 miles) that separate Asuncion from the southern city of Encarnacion, the country’s tourism capital – traveled, that is, on his bicycle along the route of the old railroad, which went into service in 1861.
Buman told EFE that on his trip he found “ghost cities” along the former railroad line, like the villa that English engineers built in the town of Sapucai, from where they designed and laid out the railroad, and the wild landscapes of the Yvytyruzu mountain range near the city of Villarrica.
Along the way he also came upon some impassible stretches overgrown with brush, and bridges either destroyed or ready to fall apart over streams and rivers.
“Sometimes there were no bridges, and I had to float the bicycle across on aquatic plants. Once I found an iron bridge held up by burned pilings, so I took my bicycle apart and passed it piece by piece to the other bank,” Buman said.
The cyclist captured his adventure on videos that he shared on social media, to show people that his dream could come true – his dream to convert the historic railroad line into the longest cycling path in South America.
“Bogota, for example, has a very extensive bicycle path that covers the city like a spider web, but it’s an urban path. In Paraguay it can cover some 44 districts,” he said.
“I found that many people already use the old train route as a path for walking or riding motorcycles or bicycles. The idea is the clean it and fix it up to make it a safe, rapid alternative,” Buman said.
He also hopes that the bicycle path can coexist in the future with the light train beteen Asuncion and the town of Ypacarai (some 40 kilometers east of the capital) that the Paraguayan government has been studying since 2015.
To kick off the project, the cyclist is calling for a cleaning day this Saturday on the train route through the towns of Luque, Aregua, Ypacarai and Itaugua near Asuncion, and plans to organize in 2018 an international bicycle race along the new path, which he hopes by then will be all cleared and ready for cycling.