Where is the Picarda 500?
This web page comes to you from a public car park opposite a very fine Mennonite supermarket in the small town of Filadelfia, Paraguay (yes that is the right way to spell it) at S22.354065 W60.035663.
The road crossing from Bolivia to Paraguay proved more difficult than expected.
Contrary to what we were told in Bolivia, the border crossing (via Villa Montes, Ibibobo, Patria, and Mariscal Estigarribia) is all dirt road except the first 10km after Villa Montes and the last 100km into Mariscal Estigarribia. The remaining 360km varied between acceptable gravel to deep rutted sand. We crossed in the dry season (July/Aug 2006) and the road was on the limits of what a two-wheel-drive campervan should be asked to do. It took us three days of hard driving, with no sign of fuel or water.
The border formalities and army check points were straight forward. We got our passports stamped out of Bolivia at an unmarked immigration office in Ibibobo (not Tarija as our guide books said) about 100 metres past a very visible army check point at S21.542986 W62.995368.
From here to the border was an unsigned, dead straight gravel road in good condition. The border had both Bolivian and Paraguay customs (but not immigration) in one building (although Paraguay was asleep when we arrived). Our three (K-Nine, Mel and Mog) UK Carnet de Passages en Douane were stamped out of Bolivia and into Paraguay without problem. Kolob's USA ATA Carnet caused some problems. Because Kolob's Carnet had not been stamped entering Bolivia it was simply ignored when leaving! Paraguay customs had never seen a USA ATA Carnet and told Mike to sort it out with customs in Mariscal Estigarribia.
We were all told to get our passports stamped into Paraguay at the immigration office in Mariscal Estigarribia. We were also told (both aurally and in writing) that it was only 120km to Mariscal Estigarribia from the border (the straight line distance is over 180km!).
Six kilometres after the border we had to report to a friendly, but very basic, Paraguay Army post. From here on the road situation becomes confused.
We had been told that there was a new tarmac road from the border to Mariscal Estigarribia. We believed this road to head south-south-west then due east and to be called the "Picarda 500" (See LP "South America on a Shoestring" (9th), Page 765). Near the border we could find no trace of this road. As far as we could tell, all the trucks and busses from the border headed north east to Estancia La Patria then south. We followed the trucks.
For the major part of this route, our poor dirt road followed a major road under construction. In places this road was virgin tarmac, in other places there was tarmac but it was old and there was grass growing thru it! At no point could this new road be used because it was deliberately blocked by trees, ditches or piles of sand every 300 metres or so.
When we finally reached Patria we joined the newly tarmaced Trans-Chaco highway. Just outside Mariscal Estigarribia we saw signs to the "Picarda 500". So there may be a better (tarmaced?) road than the one we took! But if there is, why don't the busses use it? We don't know.
Mariscal Estigarribia was a pleasant surprise, with the immigration office (more of a shed really), the customs office (new and very posh), a Shell garage that changes money, an LPG filling station (with Italian dish fittings) and a good Italian restaurant all within 200 metres of each other and the main road (S22.037770 W60.590906).
The immigration office stamped us all into Paraguay without question or comment. The customs office completed Kolob's ATA Carnet with some difficulty. They also completed a "Temporary Import form for Tourist Vehicles" for each vehicle and gave us a copy to surrender when we leave Paraguay.
We have spent a relaxed day in Filadelfia visiting the Mennonite cooperative and trying to get rid of the dust that permeates all our vans. Mike is also trying to get his leaking diesel tank fixed.
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changed on 2006-08-03
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