The Jesuit Ruins around Encarnacion

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March 29th 2015
Published: March 29th 2015
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So here I sit in Asuncion again, writing this update to not postpone the communication of this wondrous continent to you. The next few days I will visit the Chaco area, one of the most remote and impenetrable areas in South America. So farewell to civilization and wilderness here I come. But more to that later.

After I spent some time in Ciudad el Este and experiencing the Iguazu Falls it was time to hit the road again. I have read a lot about the Jesuit ruins in the south of Paraguay and since it was only a 6 hour bus trip it would have been a shame not to go there. So on an early morning I made my way to the bus station and off I went.

Now I have traveled many times in South America with buses and in most countries they are amazing like double deckers with AC, televisions (which is not always good when they play all day/night long South American soap operas) and WC. But the buses here in Paraguay are the total opposite. When you see them you think they are from a junk yard. When you sit in them you are actually getting scared. Leaking roofs, holes in the floors, seats that are not bolted on, however that is what you get when bus travel here is very cheap. For a 6 hour trip you pay about $18. So whom am I to complain.

After I arrived in Encarnacion I checked into a hostel right at the bus station. To my surprise it was clean, very cheap ($15 a night for a single room but shared bathroom) and very quiet. Since all the Jesuit ruins were only reachable by bus it was the ideal location. I put my backpack in the room and hit the road to explore the city as I really needed a walk. It is remarkable that when you sit in a bus for hours, have a nap here and there, but you arrive dead tired. So the best thing to do is walk it off.

Encarnacion is also a border town to Argentina, but without the hectic and chaotic scenes like Ciudad el Este had. No big shopping centers, no hordes of Argentinians crossing the border to buy junk, a nice relaxing town. The only thing I couldn't find is something descent to eat. But that’s OK. Supermarkets sell food too and it is cheaper in the long run.

The next morning I caught an early local bus that bypassed the two most important Jesuit ruins, Santisima Trinidad del Parana and Jesus de Tavarangue. The bus took me about 21 km from Encarnacion and I had to get off in Trinidad. From there it was a 700 meter walk to the first ruins, the Santisima Trinidad del Parana and what a sight it was. The complex was built in 1706 and it was a typical Jesuit enclave. Complete with church, schools, housings, orchards, parade plazas all of which were in reasonable order. Both these places are under a world heritage protection and I was impressed how clean and well looked after it all was. The other great thing was that I was virtually the only person there; in all I saw 4 other people all day long visiting the sites.

I spent hours just roaming through the ruins and wondering how this must have been in the 18th century when it was built with the Jesuits living there. Can you imagine you are from a land far away and suddenly you are in this strange continent, dealing with the heat, mosquitoes, sicknesses you never heard of and the Indigenous Native Indians. It must have been a strange place. Of course they came here to enforce their agenda and they literary were brainwashing the Indigenous people and their world. It was at times a complicated life and even an romantic can’t deny that this wasn’t paradise on earth.

To reach the other ruins I had to hitchhike 11 km on a dirt road to the Jesus de Tavarangue ruins which wasn’t really a problem. Again the ruins were amazing. These ruins were started in 1763 and it was a huge construction program but it was never finished because 4 years later the Jesuits were expelled from the area with all buildings and slaves were seized. Again it was fun just to walk around and take it all in.

Since I had started the day rather early and I had plenty of time to get back into town I decided to visit the town of Hohenau so again I hitchhiked my way. Now I was a bit disappointed with this town as I expected a little bit more from it in regards to its history. But it's really only a small town with not much to offer. As they say you can’t have it all.

The next day I wanted to visit the last ruins in the area but it all was a bit of a disaster. I then took off with the bus and was told at one intersection to wait for the connection bus. As the fool I was I just did that, waiting for about 2 hours with about 3 vehicles passing by. Besides the 3 vehicles it was dusty, windy and stinking hot. After two hours I gave up and walked back to the main town where I actually consumed a good lunch. The streets were also quite fun to walk around. I must have looked a bit like an alien there as everybody just stared at me- the big gringo covered in dust and sun burned to crisp.

The next day I wanted to leave the place as there was really not much to do and I was naturally becoming ill of spending time in cities and towns. I had a lot of time to think and I decided that it was time to head into Bolivia and on the way see some of the most remote areas of Paraguay. Nature was calling but there was one last place I wanted to see and that was a German Colonies near Villarrica, about a 7 hour bus trip from Encarnacion. So I bought my ticket and went off with another wreck of a bus, only to be told that due to the heavy rain that started that morning, the roads were flooded and there was no way to reach Villarrica. After some thinking I decided to go back to Asuncion and plan my trip up north.

So here I sit and with this blog entry I am super updated to the day. Tomorrow I have a 6 am bus to a town called Filadelfia right in the middle of the Chaco. The Chaco is one of the most driest and impenetrable areas in South America. There is only one major road into Bolivia and it is said it is one of the last frontiers in South America. There are still areas that are not explored and it is the wild west of Paraguay, which likewise can be very dangerous as it is a major smuggling route for drugs.

There are no guarantees that I actually will reach Bolivia from where I go and maybe I will have to return to Asuncion. But it is worth trying as I love stuff like that. The roads less traveled are the best...

So this afternoon I am going to get as much food and water as I can carry to get me over the next few days. There is no internet as far as I was told so I might be out of contact with the world for up to 10 days. To be honest I am looking forward to that. I am sure it will be a blast.

So sit tight for my next update. I am sure it will be interesting. Take care wherever you and thanks for reading to the end. As usual leave comments so I know you actually read it all the way here…

Additional photos below
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30th March 2015

Are you going to the River of Doubt...
that Theodore Roosevelt and party was the first to explore? The book about his experiences was eye opening.
30th March 2015

River of Doubt
Hi Bob. Thank you for the comment. Unfortunately I am not going. It is simply impossible to see everything and I have to make my way up north. Leaving tomorrow to Bolivia which should be fun. But you will read about it on the blog. Take care and until soon. Welf
10th April 2015

A wondrous continent
We are glad you keep us up to date as you galavant around S.A. Each day as I head off to work we wonder what you are seeing that we have not yet seen. We look at the atlas and wonder if we can head south anytime soon. Not yet for us as work interferes so for now we'll follow your journey. Can't say these buses sound like much fun but roaming through the ruins are great. Loved the photos. Always good to keep the plan soft so when things change you are not disappointed.
8th May 2015

Very interesting keep me up-to date ,will pass on to Mu
22nd May 2015

Thank you Bill...
..... and I hope she reads them. You should come here one day. Take care and say hello to your family. Until soon.

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