Paradise with Serpents

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Paradise with Serpents

Travels in the Lost World of Paraguay

by Robert Carver | Harper Perennial

Robert Carver grew up listening to stories of how his great-great uncle, Charlie Carver, had vanished into the Amazon jungle while looking for hidden treasures, never to be seen again. The only trace of him was his pocket watch, which found its way out of the jungle through trades between tribes and eventually back to the family in England. Another ancestor had sailed with the Mayflower, and he got killed by the arrow of an Indian.

Robert Carver’s return to the Americas was not to write some ‘in the footsteps of’ story but, in the family tradition, to follow a quest of his own: to discover what really happened to Charlie Carver, and to return from the Paraguayan jungle alive. It was a quest he found tougher than he ever imagined.

Uncovers one of the strangest countries in the world

Along the way he uncovered one of the strangest countries in the world. A visit to the bank to exchange money, for instance, was not accompanied by a frosty glare from a security guard with a pistol, but from one with a rocket launcher on his shoulder aimed directly at Carver: Paraguayan banks had suffered a spate of ram-raids by military armoured cars. Meanwhile, the streets were populated by local lunatics, clothed in morning dress naturally, who had been let loose to fend for themselves because their carers had run out of money to feed them.

This is a splendid account. Each page is a delight as Carver finds some other darkly amusing nugget – in a style that writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith terms ‘travel noir’.

First published: Traveller magazine, Autumn 2007
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