I recently traveled through the Chaco region of Paraguay for work. Before my ride picked me up in the morning, I had two special helpers waiting with me until they left for school.
The entrance to the Chaco from Asunción is marked by the crossing of the Puente Remanso over the Río Paraguay. Crossing over the bridge, one can see Asunción in the distance off to the left and the Chaco off to the right.
The Chaco region, in the western half Paraguay, covers over 115,000 square miles, comprises more than 60% of Paraguay’s territory and is home to just 3% of the country’s population. This region of Paraguay, sometimes called the Green Inferno, is flat, hot (hotter than eastern Paraguay) and green, especially if it has recently rained. The Tropic of Capricorn crosses the Chaco, making for a humid, tropical climate with a dry season (March – September) and a rainy season.
The soil is gray, salty clay. When there’s rain, the water puddles on the ground become salty as well. While these factors would seem to make for a very inhospitable environment, and indeed many people and animals have died of thirst in the Chaco, those native to the region have become accustomed to the heat and high salt content in the food and water.
There’s not much around. On the four-hour drive from Asunción to the Chaco city of Pozo Colorado, we didn’t see more than 2 or 3 vehicles on the road per hour.
We passed a handful of indigenous communities with shacks made from the trunk of karanda’y (the Chaco palm tree, distinctive for its thorns).
Mostly, the Chaco is just vast, wide-open nothingness punctuated with karanda’y and grazing cattle.
Sometimes the cattle got awfully close to the road.
One of the most common sites on the drive was vultures feasting on roadkill.
Just as our entrance to the Chaco was marked by the crossing of a bridge, so too was our departure, again crossing the Río Paraguay as we entered into the Departamento de Concepción.
While there’s not much in the Chaco, it was nice to see this part of the country and it was nice not to have much traffic at all on our drive!