Vapor Cue Naval Museum is about 90 km from Asuncion. It is located outside the town of Caraguatay.
Within it are is to be found the remains of the Paraguayan fleet from the Triple Alliance War (1864-1870). The Paraguayan forces were forced to abandon what was left of their fleet nearby during the final months of the war.
I have previously written of the history of the site. That can be found be searching the website for Vapor Cue.
Here instead I shall be focusing on the visitor experience. Where it is, what there is to be seen and what it is like to visit.
Firstly though a little history is necessary to put the site and the museum in place and in context.
In 1869 whilst the Paraguayan forces were making a fighting withdrawal eastwards ahead of the advancing Brazilian forces they eventually reached a point where the rivers became too small and too shallow to permit the fleet to travel any further.
When that occurred the decision was taken to scuttle and burn the ships so that they could not be turned against the Paraguayans by their enemies.
That point was reached in a creek a little way from where the ships stand now in Vapor Cue.
With the water being too shallow to sink the ships they were set ablaze before the army moved on without them.
There they then sat for almost a hundred years slowly decaying and sinking ever deeper into the soft Paraguayan mud.
It was not until the late 1960s that plans were made to recover the ships. To do this they each had to be carefully excavated in an archaeological manner and transferred to Vapor Cue.
Once that was done the remains of the ships were set up in a specially created open air park for all to see.
The remains now at the site consist of two largely intact iron ships and fragments of four further wooden ones.
Vapor Cue is now one of the most important historic sites in Paraguay.
It is as mentioned above outside the town of Caraguatay which lies about 90 km from Asuncion.
The route from Asuncion is quite straight forwards. 70 km down the main east/west Ruta 2 before turning off at Eusebio Ayala. From there a road runs onward for the final 20 km to Caraguatay and Vapor Cue. The entire journey is along good quality paved roads and so suitable for any vehicle.
It is though a three hour drive from Asuncion and that must be borne in mind.
Travelling there myself from rather nearer than Asuncion I found the only complication to be Eusibio Ayala.
Once I arrived in the town I discovered there was a lack of signage and so took a couple of wrong turns before I got onto the correct road out of town. It was however a small town so no errors required too much backtracking.
On the return things were much simpler as heading back from Caraguatay the road fed back onto the Asuncion bound carriageway of Ruta 2.
That aside it was a problem free journey and the road ran right up to the entrance to the museum.
Inside the ships and the main museum building have been laid out in a circle around a large central lawn and sit on the grass without anything like a fence to block the view.
The museum is also a pleasant landscaped park with a manicured lawn and tall shade giving trees.
It is a quite restful place. Somewhere that would be ideal for a picnic sitting on the soft grass.
Bringing a picnic along would not be bad idea as other than a bathroom there are no amenities of any sort to be found on site. No cafe or gift shop.
The site however is fee to visit. The nearest shops and cafes would be 5 km back down the road in Caraguatay.
As for the ships themselves they are arranged in an arc from largest to smallest.
The first is the iron paddle steamer Anhambay. This started the war with the Brazilian navy and had be captured some time before by the Paraguayans and turned against them. The Paraguayans were determined this was not going to fall back into the hands of it’s previous owners.
Apart from the sails and the wooden planking of the paddle wheels the Anhambay is largely intact.
Next to it stands the other iron ship.
This is the Pirabebe. Rather than being paddle driven this is a more conventional screw driven ship. Again as with the Anhambay it is apart from the sails largely intact.
The Pirabebe started it’s life far from the rivers of South America. It was British built and originally called Ranger before becoming part of the Paraguayan fleet.
Beyond these two ships are the remains of four more. These however were all wooden ships and so after the fire and years in the creek little remains beyond their iron fire boxes.
Two of these were also paddle driven and a portion of the paddle wheel of one has survived.
Finally there is a war memorial and then the main museum building.
This building is quite modest in size. Like the rest of the site it is low key.
Inside there are some interesting maps and pictures up on the walls along with a Paraguayan flag from the war.
There are also a number of glass cases containing metal objects recovered from the creek. Unfortunately none of these are labelled or sorted in anyway other than putting like with like.
On the wall high above them there are though things that are worth seeing. A number of photographs taken whilst the ships were being excavated.
Vapor Cue is a pleasant and interesting place to visit and somewhere full of history.
There a no fences allowing for close up inspection of the exhibits and it is never crowded with visitors and tourists. When I was there I had the place to myself.
There was no waiting in turn to see things or waiting for a tourist free moment in which to take a photograph.
The museum is a worthwhile addition to the touring itinerary of anyone visiting or living in Paraguay. Especially those with an interest in military history.
However due to it’s location a visit from Asuncion would need to be combined with other activities to justify the journey.
A fascinating and often little discussed chapter in military history is this conflict. This is particularly true in the more northern areas of the world. Thank you for this interesting glimpse.
Agreed. The Triple Alliance War is largely forgotten outside South America. I am glad you found the item of value. I have made a number of other posts relating to aspects of it you may wish to read. For example the Battle of Piribebuy and the life of Eliza Bagshawe, who was born in Asuncion just before the war to English parents and left as a child refuge ending up in my home town back in England