Argentina - Misiones
April 1, 2006
The road from Buenos Aires to Posadas is about 1000 km. A bus needs about 12 hours. I wake up at about 7 am. We will reach our destination in about an hour and a half. So, I relax and watch a flat landscape with pastures alternating with wild bush and cacti. Cities are dozens of miles apart. Food (included in fare) is distributed on the bus, like on a plane. My neighbor - an Argentinian craftsman who sells his products at a market in Buenos Aires and now travels home - is making mate (with water from a vacuum bottle) and drinks it with a traditional straw called bombilla. After eight, we arrive at Posadas. The bus terminal is in a suburb. After a few questions, I find a city bus and go to the center. The city is not very attractive (which is usual in Latin America). Even an archaeological museum, recommended in a guidebook, was closed short time ago. The most notable from the tour was Parque Paraguayo with Aníbal Cambas Museum that shows the life of Guaraní tribe, the original inhabitants of the region. I was finished with the city at around noon.
Where next? There were two options. According to the orignal plan, I should have continued towards Iguazú waterfalls and in the following days take a shortcut to Salta via Paraguay. However, on the bus, I got another idea - Posadas borders with Paraguay, where there it is possible to take a tourist train from the suburb of Asunción to nearby Areguá once a week, on Sundays only. To catch it, I would have to go to Asunción first, get there on Saturday evening, take the train on Sunday morning and then travel back to Iguazú. What would be better? After a bad experience from Honduras, I decided not to risk and tried to call the head office of railroad, which organized the trips. However, it was Saturday and nobody answered the phone. It is a pity that I got this idea so late. I also tried to call a botanical garden where the starting point should have been, but the number found on Google belonged to a golf club where nobody knew anything. I gave up. As it showed up later, the train really left as scheduled, but I did not want to risk the rest of my plans because of it. Argentina may not repeat again.
I came back to the terminal and took a modern bus of Horianski (Slovak, or Ukrainian?) about 30 km to the ruins of San Ignacio Miní. The bus stopped on the main road, reaching the monuments required about a 20 minutes walk across the village. The ruins of a Jesuit mission from the 17th century are listed as UNESCO World Heritage, possibly because there are not many similar imported constructions in the Americas. Jesuits tried to introduce the Guaranías to European civilisation and may have even been successful, had they not been expelled from the Spanish Empire in 1767. The locals, used to a different lifestyle, returned to the forests afterwards and stone constructions gradually disintegrated. Surprisingly, the activities of Jesuits are still considered positive, promoting education, culture and social justice. They do not get blamed for the excesses of Inquisition and Counter-Reformation.
There are more similar ruins in the area (also in Paraguay), but after seeing San Ignacio (the best preserved and easiest accessible), I was watching the time because I wanted to reach Iguazú on the same day. The trip would take another five hours and if I chose to stay in San Ignacio, I would reach Iguazú tomorrow at noon and the day would almost be lost. I walked back to the main road and waited. A slow bus took picked me up in about half an hour. On the way, I asked a fellow passenger - a doctor from a local hospital - whether there was a risk of malaria in the area. She answered no, diseases treated in the hospital are "normal", not tropical. On the other hand, local inhabitants are vaccinated against malaria. I reached Puerto Iguazú after 9 pm. According to a guidebook, there was to be a cheap hotel (below 15 ARS) close to the terminal. When coming there, the cost was 40 ARS. Prices have probably risen since publishing of the guidebook, as expected. I did not want to search for other options in the darkness and paid for two nights.
© Jan Peula, 2006