The asphalt road ends at a barrier and a border booth full of police officers who look at us in amazement. The barrier that interrupts the asphalt road seems to separate private property from the rest of the world. Turn left onto a dirt track. This also has a barrier, but it is open. I wait for an officer to come and tell us something important, like that we have to pay an entrance fee, but nothing of the sort happens. I do some wild pantomimes, meant to imply my question of whether I can just keep driving, but they go unanswered. So I finally step on the gas and we drive along the slope.
There are said to be five waterfalls worth seeing in this area. Since I am sure that Leon will not let us all look at them, I would like to drive straight through to the most beautiful of all waterfalls: the Salto Mbocaruzú. According to the map, there is also a campsite there where we can spend the night.
According to the map, it should only be half an hour to get there. However, the Google Maps app doesn’t anticipate that these roads are made of sand and holes and can be driven on at just twenty kilometers per hour – unless you’re climbing over rocks at walking speed. So it takes longer. We reach a campsite, which is still well ahead of our destination. It’s just half past two in the afternoon, but Sara gives the alarm that Leon needs food now. The whole thing takes over an hour and includes a nap. It’s no longer worth driving any further, so we’re already preparing our next camp.
A ranger keeps watching me as I discuss our plans with Sara. When the decision to stay is made, I go up to him and ask what we have to pay. He explains that someone from the police station will be coming soon. We should have paid there. I’m confused. They specifically didn’t want anything from us. A police car does come quickly, and with it is a guy in no uniform who politely tells us that we should have paid earlier. I’m confused again. In any case, suddenly we have to pay an entrance fee, a fee for parking a car and another fee for an overnight stay. The price would also be reasonable in Europe.
We use the time to explore the area a bit. After all, the campsite was not laid out anywhere. Right next door is the small waterfall “Salto Minas”. It’s not spectacular, but close. Leon wants to jump straight into the water and even a little taste makes him miserable as he would rather dive headfirst than just dip his toes in the cold water. We are very tired and lie down early.
The next morning we walk to a lookout point. However, it is also not worth seeing. We only see trees.
But there is another surprise: the car does not start. Something drained the battery last night and I need help. Annoyingly I didn’t buy the starter cable the days before I got my hands on it. Now it’s taking revenge. I’m asking the rangers for help. They don’t have a starter cable either, but they know where to find one and someone sets out to get it. As soon as he is back, the car can be made to run with it without any problems. It will later turn out that the electrician foolishly connected the freezer to the car battery and that was the culprit.
It takes ages before we finally take off and head to our actual destination, the Salto Mbocaruzú. We have to go through a very broken track made up of rocks, potholes, sand and finally a river that we have to cross.
I’m testing the depth of the water and it seems okay. On previous trips I was able to gain experience crossing a river by car. Dusty is a long way from the bottom, so nobody but me needs to worry about wet feet. Although that would certainly be in Leon’s interest.
Crossing the river works without any problems and on the other bank I can fight my way straight up a slope that can hardly be called a road anymore. A guy is already waiting for us at a gate and I talk to him. He is the owner of the land and takes direct payment of 20,000 Guayani per person from us. That’s about three euros. That’s not a lot for us, but a lot by the standards of deepest Paragay. With the money in his hand, he opens the gate and lets us pass.
We reach the campsite at the end of the slope. There is nowhere to go. A fat woman is waiting for us there, smiling at us expectantly. She gives us tips on where to park, which is completely unnecessary as the entire area is free. I can tell that she’s only here to keep stealing money from us, and that’s the way it is. We have to pay a stand fee. Another 20,000 Guayani. I wonder if this is only for foreigners as a few other cars are arriving but there is no longer a fat woman to be seen. But how did you recognize us from afar? Our license plate comes from Paraguay!
We don’t get a chance to see the spectacular waterfall. Sara raises the alarm: Leon needs food. Warm. Now. But we still have nothing to warm up to. I show her Esteban’s gas cooker again and what I’m failing at. She follows my steps and has no idea what could be missing either. It even leaks gas. Not a good sign.
It all comes down to the very traditional method and I make a fire. Even our lighter is failing us and we have to get one from other people. The fat woman is of no help to us and claims that there is no way in the nearby house to heat up some food for our dwarf.
There isn’t much wood either, but eventually the fire gets going and some rice with tomatoes can be cooked. Which of course Leon completely despises after all the work. After much persuasion, we manage to persuade him to have a few bites. Less picky are a bunch of dogs, pigs, and a group of guinea fowl that would love to eat Leon’s lunch. Food for toddlers is war!
It’s late in the afternoon and time is on our necks. We have to be back in Asunción in the evening so that we can start working on the car again on Monday. And we still haven’t seen the waterfall we came here to see. We take our time and fortunately the waterfall is not far from the campsite. All other guests with tents or vans, groups of young people, greet us incredibly friendly.
We take nice photos after we had to climb a bit through the thicket with Leon. It would be a good idea to swim here, but we don’t have time. After a few shots we have to move on again. The fat woman had said that there should be a second waterfall immediately behind the first and a third immediately behind it, but after five minutes of walking through the bushes we turn back.
We are approached by a couple who ask us if we can take them to Asunción. They seem to have hitchhiked and walked the way, the young woman now admits that she has injured her foot in some way.
We start the journey. This time we only make a few stops to feed Leon in between. This time it works quite well while driving. Our guests have a few extra requests where they would like to be let out in the capital. It’s actually on the way, but it turns out that the two have steered us onto a toll road and I’m having a crisis with the cashier at the toll booth because I don’t have the money to pass right away.
We reach Asunción after dark and have to hold out for another two weeks before we can finally start properly.