Ladies and gentlemen,
with a delay of only 3 weeks I present to you our first impressions of Argentina! As you know by now, our last destination in Paraguay was charming little Encarnacion, from where you have an excellent view of Posadas in Argentina. And when I say “excellent”, I mean it:
Originally we wanted to take a bus on Thursday morning, but since our CouchSurfing host had an appointment in Posadas on Wednesday he took us along and so we suddenly found ourselves in Argentina. That was a rather special moment for me, because it’s a country I wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. I don’t even know why exactly, it just always held a certain attraction… Anyway, Posadas itself is the capital of the Misiones province, and while it may not be the most exciting place in the country, it’s rather relaxed and has some pretty spots. And it feels distinctly more urban than most of the places we saw in Paraguay, which was a welcome change for city rats like us.
Two nights proved to be enough though, so we followed our trusty friend the Parana river to San Ignacio Mini, a Jesuit mission similar to the ones found in Trinidad and Jesus in Paraguay. We managed to catch a tour of the premises (in Spanish) and while the ruins are very impressive, I think I preferred their Paraguayan counterparts, if only for the fact that we had the latter basically to ourselves when we went there, which is quite different from San Ignacio where domestic tourists are carted in by the busload. Still, if you are in the area, try to include the mission in your schedule, it’s definitely worth it!
San Ignacio is also where the first terere withdrawal symptoms kicked in, but luckily one evening we met a guy called Paco, who not only offered us some mate, but also proved to be good company and an engaging conversation partner. Since then numerous encounters like this followed, and it’s one of the big differences to traveling in Asia for me: once you speak a bit of Spanish, the shared European cultural heritage allows for a level of interaction I never really managed to attain in any Asian country. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling in Asia, people there can be as great and friendly as they are in South America (or even more), but barely ever did I manage to have such nice and meaningful conversations with locals…
And then: Iguazu! I saw waterfalls before, or so I thought before I saw Iguazu. It’s like nature put on its best Crocodile Dundee impression and said: “You call that a waterfall? THIS is a waterfall!”
I never thought I’d be this awed by water falling down some rocks, but I was, and words can’t really describe it. Or maybe one word can, ridiculous, as in ridiculously big/impressive/awesome. The town of Puerto Iguazu mostly consists of tourist infrastructure and is nothing to write home about, but there’s a cool tri-border point from which you can see Paraguay and Brazil. There’s also a pretty cool animal sanctuary close by, so if you find yourself with some free time before catching an overnight bus, give it a go (it’s called Guira Oga).
If you know Argentina, you may have noticed something, namely that we never ventured to far from the Paraguayan border until now, which means there still was the Parana, the Guarani influence, chipa and landscapes and vegetation similar to Paraguay. This was about to change however, since we embarked on our first longer bus trip in Argentina, namely a 15 hour ride from Puerto Iguazu to Colon in Entre Rios provice, which is one of the border towns from where you can cross into Uruguay, which is just what we did. But let’s keep that for another time and go back a little… Long distance buses in Argentina are good, bordering on awesome. Our “semicama” had good reclining seats, ample legroom and they even served food, most of which was vegetarian to my great surprise. They also are rather determined to get you to your destination, so while our bus didn’t really go to Colon, it was nice enough to drop us off at the point where the road into town starts, which is what they told us before they would do. What they omitted however is that said point will be on the highway, with no real transport into town. So there we were, confused after not being awake for too long, by the side of a highway in the blazing sun. Luckily there weren’t too many cars, so we managed to cross the 6 lanes without too much trouble and call a remis (a kind of radio taxi) which took us into town. Colon itself is quite pretty and seems to be a rather popular destination for domestic tourists, so it was a pleasant place to spend a day and night (we rented a room from a nice old lady) before heading to Montevideo.
We spent the past three weeks in Uruguay, a country I’m madly in love with by now, and about which I’ll tell you more soon! Tomorrow we’ll enjoy our last day here, before heading to Buenos Aires on Friday where my friend Ezequiel is waiting for us! :-)
Oh yeah, I wouldn’t be the language nerd I am without at least mentioning that the Spanish around here (Español rioplatense) is quite different from the one in Spain (the use of the Voseo, the pronunciation of “ll” and “y”, the melody), but I have to say I really quite like it. I’d write more about it, but I’m currently in charming little Colonia del Sacramento, so I’d rather have a walk and expand on this thought when I tell you about Uruguay and the rest of Argentina…