A Travellerspoint blog

Posadas

A brief interlude before the next instalment of exciting stuff...

sunny 23 °C

Sunday 30 July

As I may have mentioned in the past, it's not all adventure and excitement in this round-the-world travelling lark. Inevitably, we will encounter times and places where sufficiently little of interest happened to enable the writing of an enthralling blog entry (difficult to believe, I know).

Posadas was one such place. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that Posadas is a fabulous place to spend time in; it's just that we were only passing through and didn't get the chance to make the most of the place. Matters weren't helped by our choice of lodging; a four-bed wooden dorm in a campsite (the Aventura) right on the outskirts of town.

A long journey from Mercedes, with a change of bus at Corrientes meant that we didn't arrive until 6pm. Thankfully, although out-of-season, the campsite offered all the amenities we required for the night including a very nice restaurant which overlooked the Rio Parana and gave views to the distant city of Encarnacion in Paraguay.

Monday 31 July

Did I mention my dislike of long bus journeys? One of the best ways to overcome the tedium and discomfort of these unavoidable journeys is to bury your nose in a good book. The bad news is that English-language bookshops in South America seem to be rarer than hen's teeth.

Our trusty guidebook (published 2003) suggested that such a bookshop ('Liverpool Libros'!) existed in downtown Posadas, so rather than spend the day mooching around the campsite, we took a two-hour mooch into town instead.

Such was our desparation for decent reading material that we spent the best part of three hours searching for Liverpool Libros, at one point asking the Tourist Information Centre for help. Finally, on the point of giving up, we found the address given in our guidebook. To spare potential embarrassment for anyone else looking for Liverpool Libros, you should know that it's now a lingerie shop...!

Tired and hungry, we headed for lunch to a steak (what else) restaurant on the main square. Typically for Argentina, the meal was fabulous even at lunchtime (although it was 3pm when we left). The highlight though was an innocuous sounding dessert called a 'Copa Don Pedro' ('Cup of Don Pedro). This turned out to be a dessert dish filled with whisky into which a tiny amount of vanilla ice-cream had been dissolved, and sprinkled with a few chopped nuts. Brilliant! The alcoholic's dessert!

As July drew to a close we neared the end of our time in Argentina, but of course the reason we had been heading North all this time was to leave on a spectacular note.

Posted by andymoore 20:58 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Colonia Carlos Pellegrini (via Mercedes)

Gateway to los Esteros del Ibera and more nature.

sunny 28 °C

Tuesday 25 - Saturday 29 July

Our next stop, Mercedes, was really just an overnighter to give us chance to arrange an onward journey to the tiny town of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini from which access to los Esteros del Ibera - a marshland nature reserve covering 13,000 square kilometers - is gained.

Mercedes is another charming Argentinian town, and we spent a sunny Tuesday just exploring and unwinding.

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But after a great time spent at las Aurora del Palmar we were keen to do yet more 'outdoorsy' stuff. With now customary Argentinian helpfulness and efficiency, our host in Mercedes - Graciela - arranged our three-day trip to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini (hereafeter CCP), including accommodation and activities and presented us the tickets without batting an eyelid.

One terrific steak supper and a bottle of wine later, we settled in for a good night's sleep.

Wednesday 26 July

The road to CCP is 120km of bumpy, potholed red dust only traversible by 4x4.

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With the midday sun beating down as we travelled, we had the car windows open but hastily shut them every time another vehicle passed to avoid being engulfed in the ensuing thick red cloud. We shared the journey with a nice-enough young American couple who had met whilst travelling. They seemed preoccupied with furthering their acquaintance and so chat was minimal.

Arriving in CCP, we dropped the couple at their campsite on the edge of one of the many lagoons which comprise los Esteros, and continued on to our accommodation - a beautiful pousada owned by our driver and run by his family.

We spent the afternoon settling in and relaxing in the large garden, spotting some of the diverse range of birds for which Los Esteros are famous.

In the evening, our Spanish skills were again tested - none of our friendly hosts spoke English - but we enjoyed the first of many terrific (and huge) home-cooked meals before retiring to our comfortable room.

Thursday 27 July

At 8 o'clock this morning we were picked up by a local guide in his battered Citreon 2CV and driven across the rickety wooden bridge

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which connects CCP with the rest of Argentina, to the Visitor's Centre.

From here we began a two-and-a-half hour walk through an adjacent patch of forest, spotting monkeys high up in the dense treetops and catching our first brief glimpse of a Capybara, the world's largest rodent. We thought ourselves really lucky to have spied this creature, assuming it to be rare and shy...

Several more spottings of birds such as the turkey-like Southern Screamer, various butterflies, plants and flowers and suddenly it was lunchtime.

As mentioned, the Esteros are comprised of a number of lagoons and the best way to explore them in detail is by boat; this afternoon was our chance.

Our particular lagoon was dotted with largeish green islands,and drawing close to them we had the inescapable feeling of being watched...

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Alligator-like Caiman lurked on every shore, occasionaly slipping into the water to eyeball us more closely.

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We landed on a (thankfully) Caiman-free island. The islands are naturally-occurring and are composed of densely-matted vegetation. Walking on them is a bizarre experience; a bit like walking on foam rubber - if you jump up and down you can feel the island vibrate!

Here, our notion that Capybara are shy was completely dispelled - the little devils are absolutely everywhere! A family of three happily munched the nearby vegetation, seemingly oblivious to us even when we virtually stood on top of them.

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Less forthcoming were the graceful Marsh Deer living on the islands, which fled at the first sighting of a camera.

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As the light began to fade and afternoon drifted toward evening, so we drifted back to our pousada to share a bottle of wine and enjoy tonight's full scale belt-busting culinary onslaught.

Friday 28 July

Another early start today as we were met by Andrea, a local riding instructor, who quickly allocated us a horse each and led us out for my third horse-riding session in a month.

The morning was hot, but the ride was a sedate affair taking us through the village of CCP and out into the surrounding fields to observe a few of the many species of birds found hereabouts.

In the afternoon, we decided to revisit yesterday's walk from the Visitor Centre in the hope that with only the two of us rather than a group we might see more wildlife. Alas the day was too hot and most of the wildlife, excepting some butterflies and the now inevitable Capybara, sensibly remained out of sight in the shade.

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After one final sumptuous meal, we bid our hosts goodnight and turned in early on our last evening, since the return bus to Mercedes was picking us up at the ungodly hour of 4am the following morning.

Saturday 29 July

Bleary-eyed, we staggered onto the minibus in pitch darkness. Sadly, sleep was impossible not only because of the continual bumping of the minibus over the potholed road but also because of the incessant rambling of some bloke behind us.

Mercifully, some time after dawn broke we reached Mercedes and flopped into our hostel, not regaining consciousness until after midday.

We spent the rest of the day planning the next leg of our journey northwards, booking a bus trip to Pousadas for the following morning.

Posted by andymoore 13:54 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

La Aurora del Palmar

Seeing the wood for the trees

sunny 28 °C

Sunday 23 - Monday 24 July

A short bus ride away from Colon, we arrived for a couple of days' stay at La Aurora del Palmar, a private wildlife reserve just across the road from the Parque Nacional el Palmar.

La Aurora del Palmar is home to the largest remaining area of Yatay palm trees outside the national park, and provides a natural habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna.

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During July, the state of Buenos Aires has a two-week holiday when a large proportion of the five million denizens of the city disperse themselves over the rest of Argentina. Thus, the reserve was packed with holidaymakers and for our first night we had to take the only available accommodation; an enormous chalet-style affair with two floors, five beds(!) and an en-suite bathroom - luxury!

A number of activities are included in the price of a stay here, and so on Sunday afternoon we set off for a relaxing canoe trip up the El Palmar Creek. We shared the trip with a bunch of friendly Argentinians, but conversation was limited due to our respective lack of language skills. The bandying of phrases such as "Margaret Thatcher - stupida" and "Maradonna - Hand of God" broke the ice though, raising laughs all round.

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Monday 24 July

This morning we moved into accommodation more befitting of our budget; a train carriage cunningly converted into an en-suite double bedroom! This took us back to our time in the "Santos Express", another converted train on the beach in Mossel Bay, South Africa.

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Our first activity of the day gave me my second taste of horse riding this year, as we took a leisurely two-hour ride through sunlit orange groves, across a river and into part of the palm forest.

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Whilst riding, we struck up a conversation with an American schoolgirl called Rebecca who was on holiday with her Argentinian mum. Her dad is a lecturer on films and so we talked endlessly about our favourite films, directors, what made us laugh and so on all the way back to the camp. Shortly afterwards, Rebecca's mum invited us to a barbecue lunch with the family as her daughter had so enjoyed our company!

We parted comapany at 2 o'clock to take a jeep safari into the heart of the palm forest. Here our guides explained that because of the pressures from cattle grazing and commercial forestry, the palms are struggling to thrive in new habitats, hence the need for privately-owned reserves such as the Aurora del Palmar which take the proceeds from ecotourism and use them for conservation initiatives.

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Posted by andymoore 07:18 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Colon

Much nicer than it sounds...

sunny 25 °C

Friday 21 - Saturday 22 July

As if to reinforce my dislike of overnight buses, about an hour after leaving Cordoba last night the bus came to a stop next to a police truck with its lights flashing. Uniformed cops began pulling bullet-proof vests from the back seats of the truck and we began to worry. In fact, they were clearing space in the truck to accommodate a passenger on the bus who had seemingly suffered a heart-attack and needed rushing to hospital. By the time the bus crew and police had completed an hour's worth of form-filling at the hospital, the patient - now upright in a wheelchair - was looking decidedly better.

After two big cities, the small, pretty town of Colon (pronounced co-lon, before you get any ideas for smutty puns) made a nice change, and our host Marcela at the Hostel Sophie could not have been more helpful; not only in giving us invaluable travel advice but also booking our onward journey from Colon and actually walking to the bus station to pick up the tickets for us!

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Colon Harbour

With a warm sunny afternoon at our disposal, Marcela directed us to a local tour company with a perfect-English-speaking (and delightfully nutty) tour guide called Charlie Adamson. Charlie, a third-generation Argentinian of Scottish descent took us on a terrific boat trip along the Rio Uraguay,

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The sunlit Rio Uruguay

stopping at islands to allow us to explore the sand dunes

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and to look for semi-precious Jaspers and Agates. I was particularly pleased to find a sizeable chunk of fossilized wood, estimated by Charlie to be 65 million years old.

With his expansive knowledge and infectious sense of humour, Charlie made the perfect day for us -

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Is that a beard or have you been glue-sniffing on the carpet again?

and we were even more delighted when, once back on dry land, he invited us to dinner! We soon learned that this kind of unthinking hospitality is commonplace in Argentina.

That evening, Charlie cooked us the most unbelievably succulent beef (what else?), kept our kidneys afloat with good Argentinian red wine and regaled us with jokes and anecdotes. We rounded the night off by watching the Terry Gilliam film 'Brazil' (Charlie's personal favourite) with the sound turned up around 3000 decibels. Despite this Sharon still fell asleep, and so we left Charlie to it with thanks for a wonderful evening.

Saturday 22 July

Up bright and early for another sunny day, we took a long an enjoyable stroll along the 'beach' which forms the bank of the Rio Uraguay on the Colon side.

Saturday is the day that traditional Argentinian gauchos come into town, and we saw no shortage of these smartly dressed cowboys as we made our way back to the hostel after a pleasant evening out.

Although having spent only two days in Colon the place, the weather, and the people we met all contributed to its inclusion on our 'places we were sorry to leave' list.

Time, though, to continue our journey north.

Posted by andymoore 13:06 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Cordoba

Admiring the fountains, but not the mountains.

sunny 24 °C

Monday 17 - Thursday 20 July

I'm no fan of night buses, which is a pity because in South America they're your only realistic option for travelling the huge distances between the places you want to visit, unless you're prepared to fork out for internal flights.

Having covered the 700k from Buenos Aires overnight, we arrived at our accommodation in Cordoba at precisely 9am, completely shattered, and fell into bed just as the rest of Argentina was settling into another working day.

Surfacing in the early afternoon, we emerged to find ourselves in the centre of Argentina's second biggest city. The pedestrianised city streets were surprisingly crowded for a weekday and so we kept our initial exploratory sortie brief before diving into a typically western-looking coffee house for a few shots of wake-up juice.

After the overcast weather of BA, we were happy to see undiluted sunshine again and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing around San Martin square and taking in the ornate statues, fountains and architecture.

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Jesuit Cathedral, Plaza San Martin, Cordoba

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Later we found a decent looking restaurant for dinner, but were surprised to be the only customers at 8pm. An hour later people began to file in, and by 9.30 prospective diners were being turned away - we came to realise that Argentinians dine late, with a meal starting any time between 9 and midnight being normal practice.

Tuesday 18 July

Our intention was for Cordoba to serve as a base whilst we went out walking in the nearby Sierras Chicas mountains. Straightforward enough, we thought, as we headed to the Tourist Info centre. Not so. Information on walks in the area was scant, and the only organised walks available didn't fit in with our schedule. A lengthy walk through the hot city to a hostel that can usually organise hiking trips also failed to come up with the goods, and it gradually dawned on us that our detour to the middle of Argentina had probably been unnecessary.

Wednesday 19 July

Frustrated by the tantalisingly close mountains and yet seemingly unable to reach them under our own steam, we resigned ourelves to the fact that the walking would have to wait for another day. Still, the weather remained sunny and so we decided to make the most of things by exploring the town further, catching up on all those important little tasks (OK, laundry) and generally chilling out.

Walking around the square again, there seemed to be a couple of political demonstrations going on; nothing particularly major, so we just assumed they were local affairs.

Later that night though, we heard fireworks and people chanting and singing in the streets. Was something of importance happening in Cordoba?

Thursday 20 July

Time to move on again, with another dreaded overnight bus to catch. Cordoba had been perfectly pleasant, offering the same sort of buzz that Buenos Aires has, but we couldn't help feeling slightly jaded by our failure to get out and enjoy the surrounding landscape. Knowing that we would be unable to fit in an evening meal before the bus, we consoled ourselves with an outrageously good lunch at a restaurant called AlCorta; sometimes you just have to do these things.

Today, the political activity seemed to reach fever pitch, with the roads around the city centre teeming with hordes of marching demonstrators, fireworks being let off every few minutes and armed police becoming increasingly conspicuous.

Still oblivious to the cause of this stirring of political emotions, we left behind Cordoba for adventures new. Just as Cuban leader Fidel Castro arrived to pay the city an historic visit...

Posted by andymoore 09:43 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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