Carapegua is the center for Paraguay’s utilitarian textile industry. Artisans in neighborhoods and villages surrounding Carapegua dedicate themselves to weaving brightly colored cotton blankets, hammocks, and tablecloths, often dyeing the colorful thread by hand. Aside from stands at the market there are few points of sale in Carapegua itself – most people sell their goods to salesmen known as macateros that then distribute them to stores throughout the country. Carapegua is well known for its traveling salesmen. As a local joke goes, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon he encountered a guy from Carapegua selling hammocks.
Carapegua is one of the main access points for the Ypoa wetlands and the location of the access road to Ybycui (near Parque Nacional Ybycui) and La Colmena (near Salto Cristal).
Sidebar: At the town of Acahay, approximately thirty kilometers from Carapegua the road forks. The left-hand side road leads thirty kilometers to the Japanese colony of La Colmena The road on the right-hand side leads past the town of Ybycui (approximately twenty kilometers) to Parque Nacional Ybycui (approximately thirty kilometers past Ybycui).
The Wetlands of Ypoa
The wetlands, or humedales of Ypoa (the y is really a u sound) extend across the southern tip of the Central department through the department of Paraguari and into the department of Neembucu. The Lago Ypoa National Park covers approximately 100,000 hectares of the wetlands. There are four lakes and lagoons in the region – Lago Ypoa, Laguna Cabral, Laguna Paranami and Laguna Vera. Lago Ypoa is the largest of the three. The park’s flora and fauna are largely aquatic -otters, yacares (caiman) and large capybaras swim amongst islands of floating reeds while nandu (rheas), marsh deer and maned wolves roam on land. The few people who inhabit the park’s islands live almost completely off the grid – largely cut off from civilization, they survive by hunting, fishing and small scale farming. Due to its importance as a habitat for aquatic flora and fauna this area was declared a RAMSAR site in 1995.
(Ypoa means water that gives luck in Guarani.)
The Water Ghost
According to Guarani mythology a large pira hu (black fish) created the channels linking the wetland’s lagoons. This black fish still guards the waterways and is known as ypora (water ghost).
The most popular route of access to the wetlands is the road from Carapegua to Caapucumi. The twenty-kilometer dirt road passes by rural communities before arriving to the edge of the wetlands. One such community is Beni Loma, where a group of artisans weave woolen horse blankets (to be placed under the saddle) known as jergas, as well as rugs and satchels. The artisans process their wool by hand before dyeing and then weaving it on rustic wooden looms to create geometric floral designs. The entire process is quite labor intensive – a small bag can take eighteen hours to make while ajerga can take as long as forty hours. In Caacupumi, there is a small visitor’s center with an observation tower next to a school house and camp site. From here one can cross to Mosito Isla, a small island in the wetlands reachable only by canoe.
The wetlands are best visited with a guide. Most of the park is on private property and the roads are nearly impossible to navigate using public transportation (even by car, roads are frequently impassable after rains). DTP (see Guided Tours) and Fundacion Tierra Nuestra (both based in Asuncion) offer tours of the wetlands that include an overland drive to Caapucumi followed by a canoe ride to Mosito Isla. You can also consult Fundacion Ononivepa in Carapegua itself to hire a local guide (though most will not have private transportation). Fundacion Tierra Nuestra, Tel: 021 220 332, 021 201 106, corner of Cerro Cora and Mayor Fleitas, www.tierranuestra.org.py, Fundacion Onondivepa, Tel: 0532 212 573, Pedro Juan Caballero 947 (two blocks from the main plaza). To get to Caapucumi take the right-hand turn off to Aguai ‘y 3.5 kilometers past the center of Carapegua (coming from Asuncion). Ask about road conditions if traveling by car.
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