Paraguay travel guide
© Luke Kenyon
Crossing over the Parana River from Posadas, Argentina to Encarnacion, Paraguay, you get the feeling that you have crossed into another world. On the Argentine side the buildings are tall and shiny, the streets alive with people, lights and music and the roofs topped with bars overlooking the river. However as soon as you step off the bus after crossing the very elaborate Puente Roque Gonzalez de Santacruz Bridge, clutching your newly acquired Visa, the streets turn a red, dirt colour and the effectiveness of the Argentine garbage removal system disappears. With many border crossings in South America the landscape and scenery separating the two countries is quite similar and the feeling of entering a new, foreign state lacks. However crossing from Argentina into Paraguay gives you the feeling that you have caught the bus one stop too many leaving civilization behind you.
© Luke Kenyon
Sitting in a school bus turned coach with straight back seats for 6 hours on a bumpy, dirt road in the middle of Paraguay, may sound like the stereotypical South American bus ride. However when all the road signs start to appear in German you may get the feeling you've been on the bus for too long. There is a small German population in central Paraguay, living along side the indigenous Guarani since the end of WWII. Primarily located in Filadelfia, some call the small town of Concepcion on the Paraguay River, home. River barges meander their way up from Asuncion stopping at the Concepcion docks to unload and reload and continue there journey all the way up to Bahia Negra, a national park close to the Brazilian border. Bahia Negra is only accessible by river barge that leaves once a week and can take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks to arrive depending on the weather.
This fairly weird town in the middle of nowhere is home to some of Paraguay's religious minorities. It was founded by fleeing Mennonites from Europe in the 1930s who received this dusty land on the great wide Chaco from the Government of Paraguay - though nobody asked the Indians who lived here. But the white folks have made their own little white picket fence heaven with churches and own schools, where the language is Plattdeutsch (a German dialect). Filadelfia is a strange pocket of colonial history that is very much alive... or as lively as it gets in Filadelfia.
© Luke Kenyon
If you want to travel like a local through South America then this is the bus route for you. The Trans-Chaco Hwy is one of the only sealed roads that leads north out of Paraguay. Trying to find a timetable/ticket office for the route to Sucre, Bolivia from either Asuncion or Filadelphia, Paraguay is hard enough. The key to this journey is to be very, very patient. From Mariscal Estigaribbia (closest town to Bolivian border) the bus arrives at 4am and doesn’t leave until 5:30am due to passport control consisting of one man, grumpy from being woken up. From here the bus has the potential to stop 6 times, four of these stops for immigration, security checks and so on and the other two for break-downs. Make sure you give yourself a couple of days as the trip can take anywhere from 6hrs-36hrs considering how many times the bus breaks down.