“We usually eat them whole, with our hands.” She mimed chomping across the bony flesh, then gestured to the knife and fork on the table. “But you can use those.”
Piranhas have a fearsome reputation but most of the time they’re harmless enough. Just don’t get into the water with them during mating season.
The Parque Nacional Otoquis, or the Bolivian Pantanal, sits hard up against the border of Brazil, an immense wetland swimming with towering jabiru storks, caiman slowly roasting on the shore and families of capybara. Yet it receives only a tiny fraction of the tourists that visit the Brazilian Pantanal.
Why? The answer partly lies in infrastructure. Although the road that takes you close to the entrance of the park is paved (thanks to the immense iron ore mine, Mutun, one of the largest in the world), once you pass the military checkpoint it’s bumpy and rutted all the way to the end of the line at Puerto Busch, an outpost of the Bolivian navy, 137 km away. Don’t even think about it without a 4×4 in the wet season.
We were heading further down river, to the tri-border area and the Tres Gigantes research station.
The watery border marked a hazy line – over there, Bolivia, over here, Paraguay. This second visit to Paraguay felt even stranger than the first – no official stamp this time. We’d passed a border post and stopped briefly upriver, but you couldn’t help feeling this would be a good place to disappear.
While you’ll find a few people on the dirt road to Puerto Busch (mostly families on fishing trips at the weekend), once you’re out on the water it’s an isolated, hypnotically beautiful, wilderness.
Tres Gigantes is a biological research station with a handful of permanent residents, but we were the only ones staying in the lodge.
The high water level meant the giant anteater (one of the ‘three giants’) stayed away, but dozens of birds, snakes and the occasional caiman sighting kept us busy. If you’ve never slept under a parakeet roost, be prepared to be woken at dawn!
Green rafts of floating plants appeared and disappeared over night, offering a different view every morning.
One evening I took a canoe out as the sun set, the sky a blaze of pinks and oranges shimmering on the water. It can’t have lasted more than a few minutes, but it’s something so magical I can only recommend going there and experiencing it for yourself.
The jumping-off point for the Parque Nacional Otoquis is the border town of Puerto Quijarro, or the nicer Puerto Suarez. Puerto Suarez is currently served by two flights a week from Santa Cruz with Transporte Aereo Militar.
To visit Tres Gigantes from Bolivia, we travelled with Amboro Tours. You can also visit from Paraguay but access is more difficult due to the isolated nature of this part of the country.
I’m linking this post up with a new travel blog hop, #wanderfulwednesday. Find the hosts of this at the sites below and join in every Wednesday at 8am GMT.
Marcella : www.whatawonderfulworld.co
Lauren : www.laurenonlocation.com
Van : www.snowintromso.com
Isabel : www.thesunnysideofthis.com