Marylin drove us out to the property, and showed us to our room, which was attached to a big shed, separate from the house. The property is owned by her parents and brother, she is allowed to use the house for tourists and her husband (Gerrado) manages the farm. Compared to some other places we have stayed in it was really lovely. As it was a bit late for dinner we were given some toast, jam and a coffee. The house was quite nice with a large patio room where our meals were served, that also had a ping pong and pool table.
In the morning we were keen to have a look around, as it had been dark when we arrived. Near the house there was a large swimming pool and a large dam. There was also some play equipment like a huge slide, and a smaller one that landed in the dam. The pool hadn't been maintained, which could have been as it's winter, but looked like it would be great fun.
We then took a walk to the main gate and back, about a 3km round trip. There were some cows grazing in paddocks along the way, and we saw some butterflies, but not much else. While walking back to the house for lunch we saw Marylin leaving. She said she would return the next morning to drive us back into town to look at the museum, or perhaps to a farm that works with the Tagua (Chaco Peccary) from the area which were rediscovered in the 70's, after having been thought to be extinct. The cook Gustavo would look after us.
For lunch we had Milanesa, a South American favourite, basically like a beef schnitzel. After lunch, we set off on a walk to the other end of the property. Marylin had showed us on a map of the property where we could go to potentially spot some wildlife. In Paraguay, land owners are supposed to leave a percentage of their property natural, so we were headed for one such area.
We set off, and knew we had to follow a fence line from the house for about 2km, then turn left and follow another fence line about the same distance again. "Should we take some water?" Lindsay asked. "Nah, we'll be right", replied Fergus. Fortunately Lindsay ignored the response and grabbed a bottle anyway.
We followed the wrong fence line initially, which led us through long grasses and muddy patches. Not wanting to continue on this path, Fergus finally listened that the fence line we were supposed to be on was in fact about 100m to the right. Upon finding that fence line we discovered we could have been walking along a dirt road instead. We pressed on from there, and found a burrowing owl sitting on a fence post. Continuing along the road further we also spotted a tiny little snake, though it slithered into the shadows before we could get a photo.
Once we reached the end of that fence line, the mosquitoes really started to have a field day. Along the other fence line it became really quite muddy and difficult to walk through, and the mosquitoes seemed to get bigger and bigger, but we pressed on, determined to see some wildlife. It was quite hot and humid as well, so it was a good thing we had some water.
Along the way we did see some patches of vegetation at the edges of paddocks that showed what the typical flora of this part of the Chaco might be like. Every plant had spikes, whether it was a cactus or not. Some of the cacti were enormous, with a trunk branching out into spiky sticks of cactus at the top. It was also very dense and didn't look at all inviting to go wandering through.
We could see trees up ahead and knew they were our aim. As we neared there was a herd of cattle, staring us down with each step we took towards them. They clearly didn't like our presence as they started heading in our direction quite quickly. As they gained speed and got closer, we decided it might be better to walk on the other side of the fence. They all stopped when they got close, glared at us, then thankfully retreated, before repeating the same process a few more times.
When we got to the edge of the trees, the mosquitoes were unbearable, and the ground became even muddier, with no way of really getting through it. We stood there for some time, slapping at ourselves, until we realised we were defeated. We would end up being pushed into a big mud hole by charging cattle or being eaten alive by mosquitoes if we hung around any longer, so we had to make our way back.
We were served Milanesa again for dinner. While we ate, Gustavo was on the phone nearby laughing away with a rather evil sounding cackle. We couldn't work out what he was saying, but we are pretty sure it was probably along the lines of "I gave these tourists Milanesa AGAIN, and they're eating it!"
Late that night, it started to rain, quite heavily but not for long. We arose early so we could have breakfast and be ready by 8, but Gustavo informed us that it had been raining so much in Filadelfia that Marylin wouldn't be able to get to the farm to take us on a tour. As it was also a little rainy at the farm, we weren't left with a lot to do for the day.
So, Lindsay went back to bed for a while while Fergus caught up on the blog. We managed to go through some photos and get some of those uploaded as well. We played quite a few games of pool. Fergus was quite happy to win one occasionally. At ping pong, he was quite happy to win the occasional point. We also spent some time lazing about in hammocks and reading.
Gustavo prepared hamburger patties that had a ridiculous amount of salt but we battled through most of it. We're sure we heard him laughing on the phone again, this time saying "I took the leftover Milanesa's minced them and made patties and the tourist are eating them!!!"
The next day was much of the same. Originally Gustavo had said Marylin would return to collect us at midday, then he later said she was returning at 3pm. We decided we should stay in town that night so we could actually check out some of Filadelfia, and booked a room at the hotel Florida. When Marylin arrived at 3, she said she was having some friends over, and that we would leave after dinner at around 9pm, but we could stay at her house in Filadelfia that night.
So, we had more time to kill. More pool, ping pong, reading and sleeping. We were given dinner around 6 which included some fish that had been caught in the dam and more salty hamburger patties. We also had a pasta and rice salad that night, which might have been made by Marylin, and the vegetable component of picked cucumber, as usual.
We were then driven back to the house in Filadelfia and shown our room. We took a walk into town, though there was little to see and nothing happening. The roads, aside from the 2 main cross streets, are all dirt, but there are footpaths. On our return to the house, Marylin and Gerardo had already gone to bed. One of their sons had arrived home however, and seemingly wasn't aware who we were as we had to explain that we were staying the night.
It was up early in the morning, so we could have breakfast at 6.30 and then Gerardo drove us to the bus station to buy our tickets, before driving us to the museum where we would spend the morning while waiting for the 11am bus.
Filadelfia is a bizzare place. The population is a mixture of mostly German speaking Mennonites and native Indian people. The first Mennonites arrived in Filadelfia in the early 30's. Most came from Russia through Germany, fleeing religious persecution. The German Government helped them reach Paraguay, where they were promised religious freedom in exchange for farming the barely inhabited Chaco.
The first part of the museum had tools, machines and other odds and ends made and used by the Mennonites in the early days, photos of each group that came to Paraguay and details of which communities they formed, and other photos of life in the early days of the Mennonites communities.
The second part of the museum included a history of the Mennonite people, dating back to the 1500's, and the local flora and fauna of the Chaco. A lady who runs the visitors centre and that part of the museum gave us a great tour, explaining details of some of the animals and vegetation of the area.
We grabbed a sandwich before jumping on the bus to Concepcion. This bus was the worst we had been on so far. The journey was about 6 hours, the seats were terrible, and there was no toilet. Though they did stop at a service station so we could use their facilities which was nice.