Friday, September 26, 2014

Granja El Roble and Belen (Part 1)

Our first long weekend of the year is Spring Break, in September. As with all long weekends in recent memory, epic rain was predicted, foiling our original plans. A group of 8 of us (5 teachers, 2 spouses, and 1 teaching from another school) was originally planning to visit a lake and beach in Paraguay called Laguna Blanca. However, Laguna Blanca is at the end of a 40 km. dirt road. If it rained, we'd be stranded out there-possibly for days. If we made it. Our backup plan was to visit an Ecolodge outside the town of Concepcion, which is up to the north.

It took about 5 hours to get there. One interesting thing was this weekend coincided with a big event, the Trans-Chaco Rally, a 3-day car race, said to be one of the most difficult routes in the world. We did see some of the vehicles while we were driving.

Paraguayan Traffic Jam
As always, as soon as we got out of Asuncion the scenery changed drastically, and it was beautiful. I love driving through the "chaco"-it is flat flat flat and characterized by lots of palm trees and not much else! As is often the case in this country, we were on major highways that turned to dirt roads under construction for many kilometers, then back to highways. We stopped in Concepcion for food (and wine, lots of wine) before the last leg to our destination. This was on a muddy dirt road, but the cars and their drivers were champs and we arrived without problems.

The owner, a German named Peter, greeted us and showed us around. We chose to stay in a dorm-like room that slept 6, and a 2-person cottage. The lodging was definitely on the rustic side, but most of the charm lay in what was outside the rooms. The land is beautiful, overflowing with flowers and wildlife. Peter has rescued a howler monkey, a tiny silk monkey, a toucan, and some other exotic birds. He also has a bunch of turtles, aquariums full of critters, and a pet tapir. I also saw either a big lizard or a small caiman scampering into the lake. I decided not to swim in it. :)
Erica's eagle eyes (toucan eyes) spotted this guy hanging out on the side of the road. So cool!

This should get us through the first night.....

We spent the evening checking out the place and the critters while Peter's wife cooked up a feast for us! They raise pigs and fish and everything we were served was local and amazing! After dinner we got out the card games and the wine and enjoyed a beautiful evening.

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