Paraguay 2003

The Chaco

October 1 - 15

I entered this forlorn country from Bolivia and traveled through its Chaco region. (See here.) Surely this place is the most isolated piece of real estate I have ever seen. There is no real backpacking as there are no real trails. One cannot simply bushwhack cross-country because of the difficulty in finding water, the host of dangerous creatures who have little fear of man because he is so seldom encountered, a plague of mosquitoes and tiny biting flies (polverines). Maps are worthless here even when you can find them.  Most roads (so-called) are little more than dirt tracks useful only for a four-wheel drive and then only in dry weather.

In reality most of the Chaco is  seldom if ever visited. Some parts are simply inaccessible, four-wheel drive or not. There are still near-naked savages roaming about, and they have a nasty habit of killing the Mennonite missionaries who venture forth into the nether regions to bring civilization, defined there as Christ, clothes,  soap and water. There is a national park, El Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco, but it is very difficult to get to---it lies hundreds of kilometers off the road from Bolivia---and if you got there you would find no water and would have to deal with an ubiquitous thorn tree whose spines can penetrate all of your fancy backpacking clothing. And recall that temperatures reach 50 degrees at times, and there is no shade.

To visit the isolated---that is, the most isolated---parts of the Chaco you will have to arrange transport from the Mennonites who live in the only town of note, Filadelfia. I hired Roland Epp and his wife Marylu. We went to their farm five hours away from Filadelfia. It was well worth the $150 it cost. Roland left me, a shotgun and pistol and my backpack somewhere in the bush and picked me up two days later. We then went to the port of Pinasco on the Rio Paraguay from where I traveled by boat to Concepción.

Poor Paraguay has little going for it save the Mennonites and the Chaco. A common disease is syphilis. A national pastime is petty (and not so petty) larceny. Murder is a common way to solve problems.

 I should add that Paraguay would be the most dismally corrupt nation on the planet---but then there is always Nigeria.


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Chilling in Filadelfia


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Roland and Marylu on their farm


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On the way to the river


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On the way to the farm


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The road goes on forever

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The Rio Paraguay

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River travel

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