Happy Birthday Beccie! Our first family birthday while we're away. It's strange and it makes me feel slightly homesick knowing that this will happen all year.
Expecting problems with getting our tickets changed to include a flight out of Paraguay, we'd checked the rules overnight with Travelbag, the agency we used back in the UK. We think that as there is a Lan Chile flight, and they are part of the One World alliance, we should be able to get the flights as part of our ticket. At the Lan Chile office, their systems were down so they couldn't help. I actually think they hadn't got a clue what to do so they fobbed us off to Iberia who were very helpful.
Paraguay is one of those places that its difficult to get to and from. To get here from Uruguay we had to go via Argentina. To get away from here to Lima we have to go either through Sao Paulo in Brazil, or through Argentina or through Santiago in Chile. The Chile option is the best but as the leg to Chile is a codeshare flight operated by TAM it isn't covered by our ticket. As this was a change to our tickets, all future legs had to be rekeyed into Iberia's systems so that they could reissue our tickets - something we'd not expected. We now know to leave loads of time for this if it happens again as they had loads of problems getting the information into their system - it took about 90 minutes in total and left us very tight for time to get our bus to Filadelfia.
Another decrepit taxi whizzed us back into the centre of town to get our bags and then up to the bus station. The driver put his foot down (when he could get the car into gear!) and when we got to our hotel Stef jumped out to get our bags. The taxi driver asked me how much luggage? Two pieces. Small? No large. Will they fit on the front seat? Possibly but probably not. At this his face sunk and he leapt out to shuffle the boot load of rubbish he had in the car to fit our bags in. He got us to the bus with loads of time to buy our tickets and some lunch before getting on the bus.
Space-age travel with NASA
This trip is with NASA, unfortunately not the space agency but the speed the bus goes at it feels a bit like a rocket. Its also more what we expected from the bus. Perfectly OK but functional. Behind us there's a couple (mother and son I think) who live on a German colony in Uruguay. They were apparently put out that we hadn't gone to any in Uruguay - not on the map or in the book so we weren't to know. They're off to Filadelfia to see her sister in the Mennonite colony there.
The journey was uneventful. Outside of Asunción we drove through lush green scenery which over time thinned out and then reduced further to scrub. Along the roadside, shacks/huts made of palm leaves and mud were home to families - kids were playing and today must be washing day as each had clothes stretched out on lines to dry. As the light faded you got a sense of how isolated this area is. There are no signs of life for miles on end. The road stretches straight and flat ahead of us.
Reaching Filadelfia (it was dark) we ask the conductor to drop us at the Hotel Florida. He stopped the bus, we got off and with no obvious signs for a hotel we asked him again where it was. It was the building behind us. We'd planned to call this morning to check availability but with the delays in getting the flights sorted we'd run out of time. We didn't think it would be a problem as the country is hardly awash with visitors so we were surprised to be told they were full. Asking about other hotels in town quickly magicked up a room - not much but its cheap and has a bed.
Its full because there's a big group of Americans who have come here to shoot pigeons. We had a beer in the garden while waiting for dinner and caught up with our diaries a bit afterwards. This attracted a bit of attention (as it seems to in many places) and a German speaking guy, and what I reckon is his daughter, struck up a conversation. They live 600km away but are here something to do with humanely slaughtering pigs. As with the pair on the bus, there was something slightly strange and intense about them. It was almost as if they were excited at being able to talk to people fresh from Europe. Its also very strange hearing German as a main language.