Our first day of travel (last Monday) consisted of a 6:30 am wake up call, half hour phone conversation with my boyfriend before I had the chance to brush my teeth, contemplating and then rejecting the idea of a 20 minute workout, putting the finishing touches on my overnight bag and electronic accessories, (read – camera, laptop, iPhone,) and Francisco’s smiling face all before 8:30 am. From my house we stopped by a coworker’s to pick up some Radio Spots we were meant to distribute on our trip, the office of our fellow travel companion, Chrisanta, and finally the office of our other companion, Karen, from Paresa, (also known as Coca Cola.) Then we hit the road…at about 10-10:30.
First stop? Paraguarí, of course. Paraguarí is basically a rest stop/restaurant on the way from Asunción to el Campo. It is pretty much obligatory that anytime you leave for the campo, you must stop for lunch (or dinner) at Paraguarí. They have some pretty good food, but man are their juices killer! I made the mistake of drinking a full water bottle full of Mburucuya (Passion Fruit, for those of you who don’t speak Guaraní/Paraguayan.) Why was this a mistake, you might ask? Well Mburucuya is very well known in Paraguay for inducing sleep. I’d like to say that I disagree, but about an hour after gulping down my deliciously fresh juice, I almost lost the battle to heavy eyelids while trying to be first commander in the truck, (shotgun.)
After what seemed like a week on the road, (and amounted to about 10 hours in total,) we finally arrived in the San Rafael Reserve in the ITAPUA region of Paraguay. View Photo of Map. We were staying in a wood cabin on the property of Procosara and at first I was weary – it was too reminiscent of years of summer camp – however, after 10 minutes of staring up at the clearest skies I’ve ever seen, I was more than content to stay a few days.
We were welcomed by Christina and Hans, the owners of Procosara, who are an amazing Swiss German couple that upon realizing that they wouldn’t be able to own the land that they truly wanted after getting married in Switzerland 35 years ago decided to follow an advertisement leading them to affordable land in Paraguay. They definitely hit the jackpot on their property, that is – until people started cutting down the forest as quickly as humanly possible. They are living their dream on countless acres of land where Hans keeps his lightweight jet, (aptly named Lucy after Lucy Aquino, the director of WWF Paraguay,) and maintains his dream of farming and experimenting with new crops and also my dream of having lots of dogs, horses, and cows!
They started Procosara when the deforestation became a visible threat to the viability of the Atlantic Forest, and fought for the establishment of the San Rafael Reserve, a 180,000 acre jungle reserve. The government was meant to make the reserve a national park, but has somehow failed to pay for it – and continues to put off buying the property, which increases the threat to the land as most of the land in Paraguay is privately owned. Procosara aims to protect the land by monitoring the land daily, purchasing new lands to reforest, promoting sustainable land use, and educating locals about the environment, (you can read in more detail at the link at the beginning of this paragraph.)
All in all their work is AMAZING. WWF has been working closely with Procosara for years in their efforts to educate the public about deforestation – which, as I will go into in more detail in Part II, is why we were out there to begin with this week. I’ll leave you at the end of day one with the image of clear skies, a home cooked farm fresh dinner, happy dogs belly up for petting, and excessive layers of blankets.