Woken by Hippopotami.

For the last two days we have been woken, before dawn, by the bellows of several Hippopotami.

We are camped at the municipal campground within the Jardín Botánico at Asuncion, Paraguay. The gate to the park is at S25.251837 W57.577827, the camping area is 1.5km away at S25.248863 W57.568912. There is grass, water, electricity and a zoo. Costs are $3.30 per van per night.

Before leaving Filadelfia, we visited the "Menno Colony" at Loma Plata about 20km away. The contrast between this Mennonite colony and the one we visited in Belize could not have been greater. While the Belize Mennonites reject most things modern, the "Menno Colony" at Loma Plata had a "Head of Tourism" who showed us a promotional video (in English), extolled the virtues of the colony's new abattoir and UHT milk plant as well as providing more fact and figures than anybody could want. The Menno Colony looked like a very successful farming cooperative glued together by religion. Average income per head is 10 times higher than for the rest of Paraguay! For more information see www.chortitzer.com.py.

The presentation we were given was professional and politically correct ("the indigenous culture was not worse or better than the Mennonite one, just different" etc. etc.) The only time our guide strayed from the script was in describing the evil doings of other Mennonite groups (incest and whoring) or the Catholics and Moonies (planning to monopolize water resources).

Both Filadelfia and Loma Plata had far better supermarkets, tool shops and garages than we have seen for a long time. Mick was able to replace some of his stollen tools and Mike was able to get Kolob's leaking aluminium fuel tank welded (so far successfully).

On the road between Filadelfia and Asuncion we were stopped by the police for not having our head lights on. Rather than try to fine us for this offence the police officer attempted to extract a bribe. He was unsuccessful. We had noticed that in general about 30% of vehicles had their lights on, however near this particular check point that figure rose to 100%.

Most of yesterday was spent cleaning dust out of the vans and doing washing. Today (Monday) Clive has taken K-Nine to one of the two Mercedes-Benz garages in town to try and get his steering fixed (his front tyres are wearing unevenly and too fast).

Stephen Stewart.

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