Today you’ll be setting off into a true wilderness: the wildly beautiful Chaco, a remote area of barely populated marshland, lagoons, cattle prairies and semi-arid plains. The tiny population includes members of the indigenous Guarani community, and relatively affluent pioneer settlements established by pacifist Mennonites from Russia and Europe who fled military service in their own countries.
The latter includes Filadelfia (an orderly town of 10,000 souls specialising in cattle-ranching), 460km from Asuncion, which you reach by the lonely Trans-Chaco “highway” which goes on to cross the border into Bolivia.
On both sides of the road a vast savannah unfolds, studded with thousands of fan-shaped palm trees. Occasional lagoons appear by the roadside and if you are lucky you may spot egrets, roseate spoonbills and jabiru storks. Cross the Tropic of Capricorn and the characteristic palm forest of the humid Chaco gives way to the arid savannah of the dry Chaco, with its bottle-shaped trees and huge cacti.
Arrive in Filadelfia late afternoon, with time at leisure to relax and explore the town (there’s a bookshop, a couple of banks and a gift shop – that’s about it) and engage with its friendly High German-speaking inhabitants, some of whom also speak English.