Finally it feels as if we are really on our way having left Buenos Aires 13 days ago. Wanting to see the Jesuit ruins at San Ignacio and the waterfalls of Iguacu, it seemed logical to head north first although at odds with our aim of south, south, south.
We thought South America was going to be sunshine all the way but as we have already found out, our waterproofs and that umbrella I sneaked into Jim’s tankbag when he wasn’t looking are going to get quite an airing.
Arriving in San Ignacio dripping wet, our welcome at El Jesuita Hostel was warm and Bertie was grateful to be parked under cover for the first time since arriving in Argentina. Tired and wet, it was an easy decision to stay put the next day and to visit the ruins in the dry. While stopping off for a quick coffee and empanada (like mini pasties which are easy to get addicted to), the owner turned out to be German, so Jim, who speaks a tad more German than Spanish was able to chew the fat and I was able to people watch, a favourite travel pastime.
The Jesuit mission at San Ignacio Mini was established in 1696 although the original mission was founded in 1610 but as with other missions moved to escape harassment from Portuguese slave hunters. Sadly it suffered destruction in 1817 but was restored in the 1940’s. It is easy to see from the ruins how the settlement would have looked and operated in its day. Apparently the men did all the rural work and skilled trades and the women looked after the home and family and did the weaving; Jim started to nod in approval and then thought better of it.
Ruta 12 took us up to Puerto Iguacu where the scenery becomes greener with more trees and a bit hillier which made a nice change after the previous few days of very flat open landscape. There are a lot of lumber yards and the smell of freshly sawn wood fills the air. One of the delights of riding on a motorcycle is that it plays to all the senses, including taste when the lorries are belching their way up the hills, what emissions!!
Finding somewhere to stay in a town in 36c heat with safe parking for the bike, is one of speed balanced with patience as every time you stop, you are reminded of boil in the bag meals as you come up to fast boil inside your riding suit; the locals riding past in shorts and tee shirts with their helmets sort of balanced on their heads, look at you as if you are slightly barmy. However patience is rewarded when you find a nice family home with a room in the garden, and of course Bertie can come inside on the patio. Nothing is too much trouble and through sign language and a bit of vocabulary bonds are very quickly built.
Iguacu Falls are stunning and most definitely have the wow factor, with everyone, including us, wanting their photo taken where the spray was at its most fierce. It is easy to see why they are among the new 7 wonders of the world. There is also wildlife at the falls, most obvious to all were the Coatis, which make their presence felt chiefly wherever there is food and they are not shy about getting onto the tables to help themselves. There are signs about showing what harm they can do and having seen their determined forays onto tables I think I would just hand over whatever they wanted. Puerto Iguacu is also the point at which Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil all meet and we visited Hito de Tres Fronteres where the Rio Iguazu and the Rio Alto Pirana meet.
Other treats in Puerto Iguacu are the humble lavanderia (laundry) where we came away with a bag of freshly laundered clothes and the most wonderful panaderia (bakery) where we naturally came away with scrummy pastries. Someone told us we would lose weight on this trip, no evidence yet of that likely to happen.
We had reached as far north as we could go in this part of Argentina so we did an about turn and headed south, stopping off at El Jesuita again and then moving on again and spending a night in Federacion with the lovely family of Roberto, Ava and Federico. It was here that I had discovered that my very necessary waterproof jacket was not so securely stowed under the cargo net and had been taken away by the wind somewhere along ruta 14. A look at the map showed us that it would have to be either BA or Rosario to get a replacement. We opted for Rosario, and thanking Roberto for his words of caution (watch out for bad people!) we headed off. Several coffee and water stops later we were on the toll road traversing some 40 odd kms of amazing wetlands and watching Rosario looming up, large and grey, both of us thinking that we didn’t want to do another city.
A trip to the tourist office produced a very nice English speaking assistant who found us a place to stay at a hotel which had a bar below which was undergoing refurbishment and we could lock Bertie away in the bar. The hotel was located above the bar and had a sort of hostel feel to it, but was clean and of course always important, cheap. It was only while Jim returned to Bertie and I had a good look round that I noticed the very large mirrors on the walls and the tilted mirror above the bed!! After a brief discussion which mainly centered around how tired we were and it was only for 2 nights, we decided to stay. Well they may have been refurbishing for a mainstream hotel feel but someone had forgotten to tell some of the clientele and it seemed somewhat noisy next door!
Happily, Roberto’s fears for our safety were unfounded and Rosario was lovely, with the park along the river alive with joggers and walkers every evening and a positive lively feel to the city. Rosario is well worth a visit if you find yourself anywhere near.
So, waterproof jacket purchased we could at last head south and we aimed for the town of Azul having read about a man called Jorge who likes to help bikers and gives over space in his garden for bikers to camp. Together with a large area for eating and the chance to clean Bertie it has made for a great stop. A chance to chat with Jorge’s daughter Peny who speaks very good English and is visiting England in January, gave us the chance to pass on some helpful information of our own. Friday night is BBQ (Asado) night and a group of Jorge’s friends arrived, all seemingly well used to seeing strangers in their midst. The walls of the building are covered with messages from past travellers and we added ours to the Brits corner by that of Pat and Ness Garrod in whose book we had first read about Jorge. So if you are a traveller in the Americas don’t pass by, stop and share some time here.
Tomorrow Sunday 16th November 2014 we continue the trek south expecting to end up somewhere near Bahia Blanca for some camping on the beach tomorrow night?