Searching for the Carpincho

CORRIENTES, Argentina—Have you ever seen a carpincho, also known as a capybara? Well as of now, neither have I.

It all started when I heard that we were going to visit the wetlands in Corrientes.

I am by no means a fan of any animal that is in the rodent family. Numerous scarring stories about mice line the shelves of my life, and don’t even get me started on a brief escapade with two pet gerbils, Fred and George. In short, rodents and I do not mesh well.

Nevertheless, when I heard that the largest rodent in the world lives in South America—and it can be found in Corrientes, no less—I knew that my heart wouldn’t be complete until I saw it. With beaver-like teeth and a slight resemblance to an overgrown gopher, carpinchos are not exactly what you would call cute. Still, I thought that “seeing a carpincho” was something that deserved to be on my bucket list. However, the roads to the wetlands of Corrientes do not mesh well with downpours of rain and the police prohibited us from beginning the journey down the muddy road.

I was in Corrientes, but I wouldn’t get to see a carpincho? It couldn’t be. But hope was restored when we heard of a farm nearby with animals galore. And as fate had it, the farm even had two carpinchos.

As we entered the habitat of the carpinchos, my heart drummed in my chest. Could this be it? Would I finally get to see the largest extant rodent in the world? Would I have nightmares for many weeks to come after seeing them? We trekked around a small pond in search of the elusive carpinchos, but to little avail. The closest that I got to a carpincho was the stuffed version I saw in a museum.

Maybe I’ve never seen a carpincho, but I take it as a sign that I need to return to Argentina someday for a second chance.

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