Driving the Chaco Highway, or Why I Needed to Rent a 4×4

Fifteen years ago the Chaco Highway was one of the most infamous roads in the world, known for swallowing up vehicles and leaving drivers stuck for days on end. Eventually efforts to improve the road became more serious and I’d heard from various sources that it was a lot better now.

Before I left I asked multiple people in Asuncion about the road. They all said it had gotten safer and that I would probably be fine as long as it’s not raining. Rain turns the sandy clay into grease.

It’s been a torrential downpour all night and still is this morning.

I decided to try it and turn back if it’s crazy.

I have no idea how long the drive will take and the road is not safe to be driven after sundown, which is 6pm here, so I leave Asuncion at 6am and head north.

About an hour outside the capital the road splits and as I start onto the Chaco Highway a police roadblock pulls me over. I’m pretty sure it’s a shakedown, as I know what that looks like, but I don’t offer any cash, I just keep smiling like an idiot and repeating that I don’t speak any Spanish, making fun of myself the whole time, eventually the cop hands me back my license and sighs, waving me past.

The downpour alternated all day with full sun and 35c heat, then back to downpour again, I’ve never seen a day like it.

Some of the highway is absolutely perfect, some is rough, some is dangerous, repeat for 8 hours until I get to my stop for the night, Filidelfia.

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