Ventured into the Chaco this weekend to a truly unique little town called Filadelfia. It’s one of several German Menonite settlements nestled in the middle of one of the last largely un-tamed wildernesses in the world. To be honest, the whole experience was just a little bit odd. Contributing factors included traveling with a couple of Germans [and therefore hearing more German over the weekend than Spanish]; driving 6 hours straight into the Chaco, seeing nothing but palmas, reedy grasses, and the occasional half-starved cow only to come upon a town of neat brick houses, manicured yards [complete with garden gnomes] and stern-yet-pleasant-looking tall blondes, and then stepping out of the washroom in the morning to find the shortest, darkest Paraguayan man I’ve seen yet standing non-chalantly in my room, speaking a language I’ve never heard to my still-sleeping room-mate. Like I said, just a little bit odd. By far the most fun, though, were the roads. It rained pretty hard for much of the day and by the time we got to the city, the roads [none of which are paved, a fact that still puzzles me given the pristine condition of most everything else] were a veritable skating rink—a warm, dirty one. Just a couple inches down, the dirt was completely dry, but for some reason no one’s tires seemed to be reaching that far. Driving on it felt just like driving in deep slush. We spent most of the afternoon in what felt like some kind of erratic dance; narrowly missing a fencepost here, sending two wheels off the road there, and praying [or cursing] audibly every time we had to cross one of the guardrail-less bridges…all the while trying to teach the investment banker from the south of Germany how to steer into a skid.
At one classic moment, we slid into a puddle fast enough to send a wave over the top of the car, completely coating the windshield. Florian, the driver, gave the perfect impression of a snobbish European city-boy [how do you stand it here?] The “eww” he muttered as he flicked on the windshield wipers was priceless.