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For an area that's meant to be semi arid desert its wet, muddy and cool. Our room has a strange chemical smell - a mix of bleach, disinfectant and I don't know what! There's only one tap in the shower (which looks slightly dodgy as there electric cables running along to the shower head). I've been dreading a cold shower but Stef assured me it wasn't hot but wasn't cold either - it was more cold than hot.


Hauptstrasse, Filadelfia

The owner of the hotel was on hand to give us some information about what there is to see and do. There's a museum, a shop selling Indian handicrafts and that's about it in town. We've given him the money for our return bus tickets and he's going to book our seats for us (at least that's what I think he's going to do with the money, Stef the German speaker isn't sure).

At the museum we were met with a "Oh so you've been sent here from the hotel then have you". He spoke English which was helpful for me and was polite but functional - seems to be a common trait with the German descendants. I think we scored points with him because we're not American, the pigeon shooters don't seem to be liked generally. The museum is officially closed. Its being renovated and updated for the 75th anniversary of the colony celebrations in July and is only due to re-open next week. He lets us in anyway later turns away a group of Americans.

Small, it has a collection of stuffed birds and animals, some relics of bits from the Chaco war and some Indian artifacts. Downstairs focuses more on the establishment of the colony. There's a display explaining when, why and how they got here. Most of the rest of the collection is of old household items and there's also a printing press. The Menno times was initially a one pager which also included news and information about family back in Europe. Over the years it has grown and is now 12 pages long with a circulation of 2,600!

The gardens around the museum have been freshly planted ready for the celebrations. It leads into the Plaza de las Recuerdos (Garden of Memory) at the back of which there's a circular patio and some strange trees. They have thorns on the outside which, from our days at Yacutinga Lodge in Argentina, we know means they are still in transition from plants to trees, and have bulbous trunks as if they are full of water (which we later find out is the case). When you tap them they sound hollow - very odd.

We ambled up the main road to a corner bookstore. All the books were in German and a fair chunk were religious. There was a group of American students in there who we kept  bumping into over the next half hour as we "did" the sights of Filadelfia. There really is nothing much here.

The roads aren't paved (although there is a pavement to walk on), they are just dirt roads. The main road stretches in a straight line in both directions as far as you can see. There are a couple of roads leading off here - again long, straight and muddy. There are indigenous Indians hanging around on the street corners, we think looking for work. The chap in the museum told us how their social structure is changing as the elders no longer have authority within the family unit. There's also unemployment and alcoholism.

Further along the main street past our hotel is "downtown", mainly second hand clothes shops, a cafe and a shop selling spit roasted chickens. Across the road is the main cooperative centre with a ferreteria (hardware shop also selling white/electrical goods), an administration department and a supermarket. Its odd seeing fridge freezers standing in the window of such an outpost. The supermarket is functional - like many places we've seen staple provisions like sugar, pasta and beans aren't pre-packed by the manufacturer. The shops buy in bulk and package them up into clear plastic bags.

I haven't kept up my track of where we've seen McCains products along the way. Knowing there's a contingent following us around I'm pleased to confirm that Noisette potatoes are doing well in the freezers of the Paraguayan Chaco. Unlike Uruguay though, I wouldn't bust a gut to do a check on distributors here.

Having exhausted the sights of town we ambled back to the hotel hoping the car we're hiring would be ready. The hotel manager, who seems to be the town's head honcho, chases the car for us and it soon arrives. He is impeccably dressed in black waistcoat, trousers and shoes with a white shirt. His shoes are spotless despite walking up and down the muddy high street.


Chaco War gun placement in a "flaschenbaum" (bottle tree)

We have the car for 24 hours and also get a Spanish speaking guide/driver, Horatio. Our first stop was Fortin Boquerón, one of the sites of battle in the Chaco war. The site is large and surrounded by 4km of trenches. You can still see the paths from these even though they have now been almost completely filled in. We paid our entry fee and walked around the museum building - lots of black and white photos, guns, bullet casings etc. I thought it was a bit odd that the caretaker followed us around the building but I now think he was just waiting for questions. I'd thought we'd be left to wander alone through the fort but we were given a guided tour.

The guide showed us the trenches, a bottle tree (the one's we'd seen yesterday - they absorb water during the four months wet season so that they can survive through the eight month dry season) that had been hollowed out to form a gun placement and a bunker. The bunker tunnels were covered with branches and twigs to form a roof and then earth 1 metre thick was added on top to hid the bunker.

There are also two cemeteries here - symbolic but close to the original sites - one for the Paraguayan dead and one for the Bolivian dead. We were also shown small young plants that have a root system that contains water good enough to drink (the bottle tree water is no good) and other edible plants. The Paraguayan soldiers survived the war eating what was locally available. The Bolivians had to rely on supplies being delivered.

Following us around was a young puppy, just under four months old. It was big for such a young dog, with a dappled body but a jet black head. He was very playful and thumped along running in the same curved fashion as Bud, my sisters springer spaniel.

Back in the car (4WD truck) we headed for Neu Halbstadt, home to another colony. Its pretty much the same layout as Filadelfia but here we also passed houses, 3 churches as well as the coop and the supermarket.