The first stop on our Paraguayan adventure was Filadelfia. Located some 450 km from the capital of Asuncion, we planned to visit the Chaco in search of something just a little bit different.
What we found was a quirky little town that has created success from the dust. And, there is a lot of dust!
Filadelfia in terms of age is a spring chicken. Founded in 1931, 2 years after the first Mennonite refugees emigrated from the Soviet Union, the town serves as the administrative centre for the Fernheim colony.
The colony itself consists of 25 villages and 318 farms, many of which fall under the management of the Fernheim Cooperative and while religion is an important aspect of daily life here, 'membership' to the church is a personal decision and many different ethnic groups have come together to live in peaceful harmony.
We arrived in Filadelfia after being unceremoniously turfed out of a rather expensive bus from Bolivia. With little options available and the searing heat breathing down our necks, we had no choice but to thumb a ride the 18 km into town.
Luckily, the first car stopped and we enjoyed 10 minutes of cooling air con and a chat with local guy Orlando, before arriving at Hotel Golondrina. At 182,000 Gurani a night, the hotel isn't cheap but, options in town are rather limited.
Now, what makes this place a little quirky, is that it is so similar to a country town back home in Australia. It was also strange hearing German spoken more so than the official language, Spanish and the people here are ridiculously polite. They even indicate when turning corners! We were starting to wonder if we were still in Latin America!
Because we had come by bus and couldn't afford car rental, the only tourist attraction reachable on foot, is the museum. They open at 7am and close at 11am. (Some buildings reopen in the afternoon). For Justin this was a nightmare because it meant he had to wake up before 8...
Visiting in the morning, we had the services of Gati to better explain the history of the settlement, the Mennonite religion, and help us with some tourist information. It took us two mornings in total to see everything but if you arrived at 7am you could do this all in one visit.
There are tours available with two local companies however, at USD $200 a day, we couldn't justify the cost on our tight budget. The two companies are;
All that left us with was a visit to nearby farm and coffee shop, Lluvia de Oro in nearby Orlof, a small village 16 km from Filadelfia. With no public buses available there were only two ways for us to get there; walk or take a taxi. We decided to take a taxi.
A taxi around town costs 30,000 Gurani so we weren't surprised when we were quoted 120,00o to get to our destination. After a bit of negotiating, we had a driver for 100,000 (one way) and were soon at the gate to the farm. If you need a taxi driver in Filadelfia, contact Atilio Caceres 0983 821 861 - he seemed to be the only person who knew where he was going!
We wandered around seeing pigeons, ducks, geese, chickens, lambs, a tapir, a honey eater, a couple of small monkeys, some native wild pigs, and some hamsters. We had managed to arrive in time for milking too so we got to see the cows and their calves before sitting down to enjoy some delicious cakes and a coffee.
Lluvia de Oro is open Friday & Sunday 2pm - 6pm and Saturdays 8am - 6pm. Entrance is free and the cafe serves hot and cold drinks (no alcohol) and tasty treats at very reasonable prices. For more information, you can contact Rodney 0981 814 884.
After our little feast of sugary deliciousness, it was time to head back to Filadelfia and we were going on foot. The first 4 km was extremely boring except for the fact we found a few spare parts like a bike pedal, fuse and a spark plug which, Justin wanted to use to build us a car...someone misses mechanics! The last item we found was a spanner which we decided to pick up and take with us.
A few minutes after reaching the main road, we had managed to thumb a lift in a small. red mini Cooper with a young Jehovah couple. They introduced themselves a Philip and Julia and we had a nice conversation as they drove us the remaining 12 km of our afternoon adventure. Before jumping out at our stop, we gifted them the spanner which they looked delighted by. We just hope they never have need for it and stays stucked away in that glovebox!
The next day after breakfast at the hotel, we packed up our belongings once more and made our way to the bus terminal, just 2 blocks away.
Buses leave daily for Concepcion at 11am and 8:40pm (90,000 Gurani) and Asuncion at 4am, and 1pm (100,000 Gurani).
While there wasn't a great deal to do as tourists, learning about the history and culture of this town was very interesting. Everyone we met was helpful, kind, and polite so, while I may have been slightly bored at times, I'm happy I made the effort the visit and experience this little gem for myself.
Videos by Global Runaways