El Roble—a touch of paradise in Paraguay

El Roble has probably been our favourite place so far. Run by an East German who made his way to Paraguay after the fall of the Berlin wall, it translates as the oak—Germany’s national tree. After a few years of “interesting” jobs in Paraguay, he bought a plot of land just outside the northern city of Concepción that was dry, difficult to farm and had no running water. One of the first things he planted was an oak tree, from seeds that his mother brought over from Germany.

Fast forward 20 years and he has gradually turned a desolate piece of land into a thriving paradise, with copious amounts of trees, plants and wildlife. After building a number of simple jungle lodges, he started to have guests to stay. I (Rose) managed to find out about it by one of my frequent and very random google searches. Usually they are quite fruitless; however, this was quite the opposite!

We arrived at El Roble on a Tuesday evening. We got out of the taxi after a long and hot bus journey and were pretty gobsmacked by how stunning the place was. The sun had just gone down, so we couldn’t soak up too much that evening, but immediately the farm had a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

Having met Peter—the owner—and another couple of travellers, we shared a well-earned beer and supper with them. It felt like a real treat after travelling a lot over the last 7 or so days.

We went to sleep to the sound of frogs all around us. We were sleeping in a little cabin, but luckily it had air conditioning. This was something we were thrilled about as Paraguay’s temperature regularly hits the mid-forties.

Waking up the next day was really exciting. We both woke quite early, probably as we were excited to explore. At breakfast we got a real feel what the farm was about: home-baked bread, home-made cheese, cream, and home-cured and reared bacon, along with freshly laid eggs.

The garden has an incredible diversity of plants, trees and flowers. There is so much to look at: 40 foot bamboo, orchids growing on top of trees, numerous succulents and a wild flower bed to top it off!

Staying at El Roble was pretty inspiring, from their almost self-sufficiency to their bio-filtered water system. Not only this, but Peter is an extraordinary person. Having told us numerous stories, it was amazing to hear how he grew up up with so many restrictions but always strived for freedom.

We enjoyed El Roble so much that we stayed for 8 nights, the longest we have stayed anywhere yet.

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La Boca and San Telmo

We visited La Boca and San Telmo on Sunday. La Boca means the mouth in Spanish, with its name arising from the fact it is positioned at the mouth of the river Riachuelo. It was also the arrival point for immigrants in the 1800s when it was Buenos Aires’ main harbour. The houses are built from cast off ship-building materials, and painted in fun patch work colours. Known as conventillos, they each used to be home to numerous immigrant families, with one family per room, living in very poor conditions. Now they have mostly been turned into shops and restaurants. La Boca is also supposedly the birthplace of tango. As it was a Sunday there were many people dancing in the streets, though this did seem something of a contrived affair aimed at tourists.

San Telmo is one of the oldest barrios (neighbourhoods) in Buenos Aires and as a result one of the most picturesque. On Sundays, cobbled streets play host to an amazing market about a mile long, made up stalls selling food, antiques, handmade jewellery and lots of incense!