My first day is eventful. Esteban finally arrives with our long-awaited vehicle and shows it to us in front of our accommodation in Asunción, where we spend the next few weeks until the car is ready to go. We still have to make some decisions about the design of the interior and exterior. After our first inspection I drive with Esteban for a test drive. I get behind the wheel and familiarize myself with the car. With an old lady from 1996, I first have to put myself back in time. The steering wheel requires a lot of manual work, you have to use the key to ignite the engine and some plastic parts are peeling off or have clear signs of wear. You can smell the 90s from the dusty air vents. Nevertheless, the van cuts a fine figure.
We drive out of town to the river. Esteban is keen to show me the bus’s capabilities in the mud. Since it has been raining heavily in the past few weeks, it is not difficult to find a muddy track, especially not at the river.
We sink the Toyota deep into the mud and actually get it out again on our own. Then we drive through the bush. Esteban states that “over there, where the big pole sticks up in the air” is a road. It’s more like there are just a few light spots on the ground showing through all that grass. I drive the car there anyway and it bravely fights its way through the ditches and up the slope. The bus only shows its weakness when driving under trees with low-hanging branches. Then a cacophony suggests that the car has added more decoration to its roof.
We have to dodge the trees generously and the track finally stops completely. Turning back isn’t an option for us, so I find a way through the bushes.
In the end we arrive at the Paraguay riverbank where we stop and watch the fishermen at work.
We only drive a few meters, then the engine stops. Esteban quickly suspects that it must be the diesel supply, but cannot solve the problem. He calls his friend Diego, who is himself a keen off-road vehicle builder, and is with us an hour later with his converted Mitsubishi Delicia, his wife Ava and their two boys, and a can of fresh diesel.
Now both hang over the engine, check the diesel supply, test the filter and replace the pump. Nothing helps. There is actually no more diesel in the tank and Esteban suspects theft. Nevertheless, the fresh fuel does not help to help the bus. At some point the battery gives up and has to be jump-started.
While the two men remove one part after the other from the engine, I chat with Ava. She also has the tereré with her, the Paraguayan mate tea, without which many people in the country seem to be unable to function. I try it from the metal straw protruding from the gourd-like cup that appears to be filled only with dry herbs. i love it immediately There is some mint and it is cold but very refreshing.
Hours later, when it’s dark, cold, windy and wet, the two give up and send a mechanic the next day, who diagnoses the problem with the pump head.