Located across the Bay of Asuncion at the southernmost tip of the Paraguayan Chaco, Chaco’i is a small community in a prime bird watching location. The Bay of Asuncion is considered an Important Birding Area and is a stopover point for migrating birds. Walking through the community, you will see several large brick towers – these are from old brick factories which produced most of the bricks used in Asuncion’s buildings during the Lopez era. Guyra Paraguay organizes day trips for bird watching in Chaco’i (see Guided Tours). If you feel like exploring Chaco’i on your own, small covered boats leave from the docks at Playa Montevideo (at the end of Calle Montevideo downtown) every twenty minutes. The fee is Gs. 3,000 each way. Upon arriving at the docks there is a small path
to the right that heads upstream – walk down the path or arrange with someone at the dock to take you in a rowboat (negotiate the price first). If you want to stop for lunch, try the humble but tasty comedor run by Tfa Guille located on the right-hand corner four blocks from the port on the main road (past the soccer field and Na Vivi’s shop). Large portions of typical Paraguayan food cost between Gs. 7,000 to 10,000, and there are also empanadas. The last boat back leaves around 5:30pm but it is best to double check times at the docks.
Spread over 670 hectares Asuncion’s botanical gardens make for a great break from the city’s busy streets. Families fill the grounds on Saturday and Sunday, watching pick-up soccer matches, walking along the gardens’ tree lined paths and sipping terere in the shade. Asuncion’s largest park, this is one of the only places in the city that allows camping. The park was originally President Carlos Antonio Lopez’s summer home. There is a small zoo and two museums, one dedicated to natural history and Paraguay’s history. The natural history museum, known as Casa Baja, contains over
36,000 preserved specimens of Paraguay’s flora and fauna. The Asociacion Etnobotanica Paraguaya (Paraguayan Ethnobotanical Association, www.etnobotanica.org.py) has a garden within the botanical gardens where visitors can view the wide variety of medicinal plants that Paraguayans use on a daily basis (especially when preparing terere and mate). Over 300 species are featured in the garden, approximately 70 percent of which are native to Paraguay. The medicinal garden can be visited Mon-Fri 8am-12pm but it is best to make reservations by calling the Botanical Garden’s main line. Tel: at 021 290 269, 021 291 255, Avenida Artigas and Prime Presidente, www.mca.gov.py/zoo.htm, from downtown the Linea 44 Artigas can be caught along Olivia/Cerro Cora and pass by the park entrance, daily 7am-5pm, Gs. 2,000, camping Gs. 11,500 per person
Ykua Bolanos Fire
On Sunday August 1st, 2004 the large Ykua Bolanos supermarket burned to the ground in what was one of Paraguay’s worst modern day tragedies. Around 400 people died in the fire and 500 were injured. Eye witnesses allege the owner of the supermarket (which included a food court and play area) ordered all exits to be locked in order to prevent theft as people ran from the fire. Those deemed responsible were put on trial but the suspiciously short sentences (five years) they received in 2006 provoked massive protests from victim support groups and resulted in a series of appeals and retrials. In 2008 the owners of Ykua Bolanos were sentenced to ten and twelve years in prison, a ruling which is still considered far too lenient by many.