“Do you have repellent?” he asks.
My skin is lacquered in a stiff coat of stale sweat and deet. “Lots.”
“Good,” he says. “You’ll see at night. We can’t even talk to each other because of the mosquitoes that fly into our mouths.”
Another man has arrived in a truck to siphon fuel from a tank on the Aquidaban. He introduces himself as Wilson, a site administrator. He’s not a National Messiah but rather a 44-year-old Chilean with a youthful, friendly face, a polo shirt, and rubber boots, a Moon follower who moved here two years ago. His wife and children are still in Chile.
“I didn’t know anyone was supposed to be coming,” he says. Walking to his truck, he fishes out a phone and executes a minor miracle: he pulls a signal from the air and places a call, trying to figure out if anyone in the colony knows anything about our visit. He comes up empty but still helps us with our bags, tossing them in the back of his truck.
“Let’s go,” he says.
The Aquidaban drifts away, and we bounce along a dirt road, leaving the guard behind at his cabin. “It’s a naval station,” Wilson explains, a gift from the Messiahs to the Paraguayan government. In exchange for a permanent security presence, he says, the navy now has a base to patrol the upper stretches of the river.
Within a minute, the headlights reveal an indistinct cluster of buildings. I can make out what appear to be several two-story houses, a water tower, a couple of large communal buildings, and a cell-phone tower.