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Mennonites in a red dessert

Roughing it up in Paraguay

View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

Ok, so we wanted to see something even weirder than Concepción, so we hopped on a bus that looked like from a Donald Duck cartoon and spent the day cruising on some small roads stopping in all kinds of small places and watching all kinds of people get on and get off the bus (some more smelly than others).

Well it actually took a while before we got going, because when we had driven about 2 minutes, a tire of the bus broke and we had to stop and fix it. I think I've already lost count on how many "bus incidents" there have been on this trip... Well anyway, we're getting used to it and I didn't really mind this time, because it was actually a great opportunity for me to observe the tea ritual of a family who were sitting outside their home enjoying their morning mate tea. So there's one cup half filled with Yerba Mate with a straw sticking up from it and then there is a thermos with hot or cold water (this time it was hot, I could see the steam). Everybody in their turn drinks a couple of sips from the cup and then hands it forward to the next person. One person is in charge of filling the cup with water when it gets empty, which it does all the time since the cup is so small and there is so much mate in it. I wonder why they don't have bigger cups or why they don't all have cups of their own, but what do I know, I'm just a dumb tourist... Probably has some greater meaning to it...

The trip to Filadelfia was quite interesting both inside and outside the bus. We watched the landscape change from a wet swampy scenery to bushy harsh chaco views. We kept spotting different kinds of life in the bushes. One of the top things we spotted in a swamp was a huge bird. It must have been at least 2 meters high. We were sure we had spotted some prehistoric bird that has been extinct for a long time. Sad to say we were soon brought back to reality when we realized that the bird is actually quite common here. But I bet there aren't so many that big!

When we arrived in Filadelfia we were struck by this freakish weirdness. Here, in the middle of nowhere, in a 40 degree heat, is suddenly a town surrounded by red desert and filled with super white people who speak german. And every once in a while you see indigenous indians wandering about or cruising past on the trailers of trucks. The dusty red dirtroads are huge like the avenues in Beijing, with the main road, avenida Hindenburg, parading in the middle of town. This is a really bizarre but rewarding experience. Interesting to see that there are places like this on earth. The people see to be content with life, here they live their calm life, drive around in their pickups and on their scooters, here they shop käse und bratwurst in a well stocked supermarket, and here they spend a nice afternoon in a bar enjoying a nice bottle of bier.




In the beginning of the 19th century the german speaking mennonites got a piece of the harch an unproductive territory that nobody else could live on and founded Filadelfia. There are many other similar towns in Paraguay. If you want to know more about the mennonites, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mennonites.


The mennonites and the indigenous indians that lived here before they came are said to be living in harmony together. We didn't spend enough time to research if that is actually true, but at least they seem to be living differently. The mennonites seem to have big houses with nice gardens while some of the small houses on the area where the indians live could almost be called shacks. But hard to say, maybe that's just how they choose to live.




One of the few sights to see in the town was a park in which they were hosting a zoo. We strolled there one morning and found a park full of retirement houses surrounded by dense forest and mosquitoes. Heh, whas that the zoo? The old people hanging around the houses? After a bit of search we found the real "zoo" which we almost wish we hadn't. There were a few animals in really bad shape. We saw a small fox that looked like it had been through hell and some pig-like animals that laid on the dirty ground almost lifeless. Then there was a cage with two monkeys. One of them had gone crazy and was running around the cage screaming like a mad monkey, the other one sat in a corner and looked so very sad. His gloomy eyes told us: please, let me out, I'm suffering, my friend has already gone mad. We started feeling sick so we had to hurry out from that place. For the sake of the animals this "zoo" should really just be shut down.


To finish off, something of a lighter note: We have gotten to like the local speciality, chipa, corn bread, that is sold everywhere, especially on the busses. People selling chipa hop on the bus and stay for a few stops. They walk the aisle with a big basket on their shoulder and hand out chipas for 1000 guaranis each (that's about 16 cents). And usually they are fresh from the oven! They taste really good :).


Posted by AnnaMickus 10:00 Archived in Paraguay

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