|01-20-2011, 04:11 PM||#91|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
Wow, you are all so nice! Your kind comments really mean a lot to me - thank you very much!
Sorry that I haven't posted for quite a while, it's been a bit busy the last few days... The next instalment is in the making!
|01-20-2011, 05:06 PM||#92|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
From Uruguay to Argentina
The following morning the nice landlady at the Hostal Canela served breakfast in my room - did I mention my fabulous room? - with fresh media lunas (half moons - croissants), café con leche and zumo de naranja natural (freshly pressed orange juice) - hmm!
I thanked her very much, promised I would recommend the place to everyone I know (done!) and everyone I would meet on the road, and set off towards Argentina. But no, I couldn't leave this lovely country without a Uruguay sticker for my moto! So I stopped at the next filling station in Salto. The guys were really friendly, offered me a sticker of their fuel company but unfortunately they couldn't help me further. But the shopping mall three blocks further down the road would certainly sell the object of desire.
When I pulled into the car park, I was immediately approached by a security guard - of course, I had done a U-turn and was going into the wrong direction of a one-way system... No, he just wanted to point out that it would be much safer for me to park in the underground garage. Muchas gracias, Officer, and off I went into the underworld.
Again, another security guard came over straight away, reassured me that his colleagues would have a close eye on my DRZ and then he accompanied me through the whole shopping centre on the hunt for a Uruguay sticker. Unfortunately no shop was stocking such a thing. I tried the motorcycle shop across the street, another filling station, the supermercado - but nothing. My security friend was really sorry and sent me into the city centre. We parted shaking hands: suerte y buen viaje - good luck and a safe trip.
Great, I wasn't even aware that I had missed the actual centre of Salto the evening before. So a brief sight-seeing tour was on the menu.
I stopped at the Oficina de Turismo, the most obvious place you would think, but they didn't have any stickers either - a kiosco would probably be a better bet. So I looked for a parking space for my bike – “Over here, Señora!” and three young men busied themselves lifting and moving lots of motorcycles about that were already stacked in a tight row by the side of the road. But, oh wonder, soon there was space for my fully loaded DRZ. One of the guys, Nelson, offered to accompany me on my quest for a sticker and together we roamed the shops of Salto. Well, I should have come during the World Cup, then I would have been spoilt for choice but now? “Lo siento, no hay”, - sorry, we don't have it.
Then, I had almost given up hope; we found a small and pretty unlikely shop that sold stickers of Uruguay - hooray! Nelson was obviously proud of our success and back at the bike I gave him one of my London pens as a little thank you. You know, the ones where a tourist walks over the Tower Bridge when you move it. Nelson was really pleased and again, we shook hands like old friends when I left.
Then it was off to the Salto Grande Reservoir and the dam that connects Uruguay and Argentina.
The officials at the border didn't seem to know what they were supposed to do with me and the temporary import of a foreign motorcycle but after half an hour I was on my way again - not without asking this driver if I could take a picture of his peculiar truck.
Back on the Ruta 14 the ride was pretty uneventful. The countryside was still flat, the corrupt police at kilometre 341 (who even have a dedicated thread in the South America Forum on Horizons Unlimited) had taken a day off and waved me through, and so I turned right onto the Ruta 129 towards Monte Caseros searching for more excitement. The road was dead straight as well but now I could feel a strong side wind, which made the riding a bit more 'interesting'. Shortly before I reached the town I noticed a dirt road branching off to the north (which was my ultimate direction).
In Monte Caseros the tarmac disappeared and I ended up in front of some military barracks - probably not the best point to stop and look at the map. The road was so curved that I couldn't bring the loaded bike to a safe halt without risking falling over, and therefore I didn't consult the map at that point; otherwise I would have known that I should have searched for the Ruta 47 towards Paso de los Libres... But so I turned back to the gravel road that I had spotted earlier, the Ruta 25.
There I had my excitement - ruts, gravel, sand and corrugations... But the countryside was nice and everyone greeted each other when meeting on the road, which I liked very much.
After 25 kilometres I joined the Ruta 14 again and decided to stay in Paso de los Libres that night. As it would become a habit during this trip, I did a little sight-seeing tour of the town for orientation purposes and for finding a hotel. I asked a nice lady with her tiny daughter on a quad at the traffic lights and she pointed me to the Hotel Alejandro. Mmm, it looked pretty expensive - and so it was indeed: 180 Argentinean Pesos, which is roughly £30. Are there any cheaper hotels around? Yes, said the friendly receptionist, the Hotel Imperial two blocks from here. And he was right, bed & breakfast were only 80 Pesos (£13.30) there and aparcamiento seguro (safe parking) was available as well.
Now I have to confess that I rode to the car park without a helmet and on the wrong side of the road (well, the entrance was on the left!) and of course, at that particular moment in time a police car came round the corner. Fortunately, they didn't even bother to give me a reproachful look...
Showered, shaved and changed, I went searching for an internet café in order to upload photos, write an email to my one and only Possu and catch up with my blog, where I was still stuck in Buenos Aires… It was just before midnight when I left the place, realised that I had forgotten to eat dinner, that the streets were deserted and that I had lost my sense of direction.
But I didn't feel uncomfortable at all in this friendly town. At a corner I saw two men standing around and when I approached them asking if they knew where my hotel was, they were very helpful, chatty and pointed me into the right direction. Tired and hungry I got back to the Hotel Imperial, hoping that next morning's breakfast would be plentiful...
|01-23-2011, 09:27 PM||#95|
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: New Hampshire
So nice to see you living your dream and to see the preparation that went into it. Also the support you got from your partner--congratulations to you both. An inspiring and entertaining report. Thanks!
"Quality is not a thing. It is an event." --Pirsig
|01-26-2011, 08:46 AM||#96|
I'm a Yorkshireman thanoz
Joined: Jan 2008
Location: Up North In The UK!
Come on, more please
|01-29-2011, 04:19 PM||#99|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
On a mission
In the 16th century, priests of different religious orders set out to evangelize the Americas, bringing Christianity to indigenous communities. The colonial governments and missionaries agreed on the strategy of gathering the often nomadic indigenous populations in larger communities called reductions in order to more effectively govern, tax, and Christianize them. Reductions generally were also construed as an instrument to make the Indians adopt European lifestyles and values, which was not the case in the Jesuit reductions, where the Jesuits allowed the Indians to retain many of their pre-colonial cultural practices.
San Ignacio Miní (minor in Guaraní to distinguish it from its bigger homonym San Ignacio Guazú - great) was one of the many missions founded in 1632 by the Jesuits near present-day San Ignacio valley, some 60 kilometres south of Posadas, Misiones, Argentina.
In the 18th century the mission had a population of around 3000 people, and a rich cultural and handicraft activity, which was commercialized through the nearby Río Paraná. Nevertheless, after the suppression of the Society of Jesus of 1767, the Jesuits left the mission a year later. The ruins are one of the best preserved among the several built in a territory today belonging to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and one of the most visited due to its accessibility. (Source: Wikipedia, slightly edited)
San Ignacio Miní was my destination that day, some 250 miles / 400 kilometres away, but first I had to find my way out of Paso de los Libres. The bigger towns in South America have a sophisticated one-way system, i.e. in one street you can go west and in the next, one block further, you can ride east. The same applies to north and south, with some roads being two-ways thrown in for good measure. This concept helps to avoid congestion, makes it easier for vehicles to stop and for pedestrians to cross but it doesn't necessarily assist the navigation for the foreigner.
After several involuntary sight-seeing tours circling around the centre of Paso de los Libres, I finally pulled over and asked an official looking señor in uniform for directions. He sent me a completely different but actually straighter forward way which led me to the Río Uruguay again, from where I could see the city of Uruguaiana in Brazil on the other side of the river.
The Argentinean-Brazilian border post ahead...
... but Brazil would have to wait until the Iguazú Falls - today I wanted to go to the Argentinean province of Misiones. On the Ruta 14 I passed the town of Santo Tomé, another Jesuit reduction.
... and then the notorious Ruta 40, which runs along the Andes through the whole of Argentina from La Quiaca on the border to Bolivia in the north down to the Atlantic near Rio Gallegos in Patagonia.
Of course, here in Corrientes we were too far east and the Ruta 40 was only a provincial road. The real thing would have to wait until I crossed the Andes from Chile into Argentina again...
All over the country you can see richly decorated shrines by the roadside, most of them dedicated to Gauchito Gil, a legendary character of Argentina's popular culture.
Inside the shrine
As John had warned me in advance, the landscape within a radius of 500 miles / 800 km around Buenos Aires is mainly flat Pampa but once I had passed that mark, the countryside became hilly and more colourful.
At some point I turned off the main road to have a closer look at the Tierra Colorada – the red earth.
Near San José I finally entered the province of Misiones and left the Ruta 14, joining the Ruta 105 north towards Posadas. Only 325 kilometres left to the Iguazú Falls...
San Ignacio Miní lies 60 kilometres north-east of Posadas on the Ruta 12. I soon found the Campsite ‘La Familia’ and pitched my fabulous tent (a present from John as well as my MSR fuel stove).
My activities were closely watched by two little kids, Matí and Dante, who were asking lots of questions about my moto, the tent and why I was doing what in that particular way.
The two were the sons of Claudia, a Historian, and her husband Matías, an artist who makes jewellery and objects out of natural products such as seeds, potter's clay and semi-precious stones, and sells them to the tourists visiting the Jesuit ruins. The family lives half of the year in the province of Buenos Aires and the other half in a cabaña - a cabin on the campsite in San Ignacio Miní.
Some of Matías's work
They invited me to drink Mate with them and I learnt a lot about the Guaraní culture, environmentalism in Argentina and the living conditions of the rather underprivileged people in the country.
At some point I had to leave for the centre of San Ignacio to get some dinner and visit the internet café. Unfortunately I found the latter before the restaurant and when I had finished all the usual updates (Route-log, SPOT message, photos, emails to the loved ones, etc) I realised that the village had closed down in the meantime and it was going hungry to bed again!
At least I got a photo of the Jesuit ruins by night on my way back to the campsite.
Tomorrow - at the Iguazú Falls - I would eat a whole piglet on toast, so I promised my growling stomach...
www.pumpernickelontour.com - Four months through South America on a DRZ - Ride Report: One day... you have to live your dream
Pumpy screwed with this post 01-29-2011 at 04:34 PM
|02-09-2011, 05:59 AM||#100|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
A couple of falls…
The next morning Claudia invited me into their cabaña for a coffee. So I went to one of the little kioscos on the corner that sell (almost) everything to buy bread, butter and cheese for breakfast. We talked a lot about the current economic climate in Argentina, the education system and her career perspectives as an academic with two young children, and then I suddenly realised that I was late for another appointment –
Arriving at the campsite the previous evening I had arranged for my clothes to be washed and dried overnight by Carola, a lovely local lady who runs her business 'La Lavandería Suave' a few blocks away from the main road. She had asked me to be at her place for 9.00 am and when I remembered it was already 9.20. So much for German punctuality…
And right, Carola already waited for me on her doorstep and asked if I could give her a lift into the town centre on my bike, as she was late now due to my delay.
No problem at all, just that the road was slightly curved and muddy and of course, the inevitable happened: Carola didn’t swing her leg over the seat, as I was expecting, but used the footpeg to mount the bike, putting all her weight onto the left-hand side of the DRZ where I had only a still weakened limp to hold the load. Well, after a fruitless attempt to save the situation, my foot gave way, all three of us went over and Carola, not wearing any protective gear, was buried under the bike – oh my God!
Fortunately, she was unharmed and just laughing about our stunt - but I wished the ground would open up and swallow me… And my foot hurt like hell again! Anyway, after dusting us off, I pushed the DRZ to the bank, asked Carola’s boys to hold the bike upright while she was getting on and off we went into San Ignacio. You bet that I used all the kerbs and stones I could get hold of every time we stopped on Carola’s round. She was obviously proud to be seen on such a ‘big’ moto and still laughed when we reached her final customer. She even gave me a pair of nice earrings as a token of our new – yet already tested – friendship.
Still utterly embarrassed I returned to the campsite, packed my stuff, said goodbye to Claudia and the chicos and hit the road.
I have to confess now that - as it was already late, very hot and still 260 kilometres to the Iguazú Falls - I gave the famous Jesuit ruins a miss. Even though it meant that I didn't see Matías again who was already at his stall offering artesania to the visitors of the World Heritage Site. If you want to have a look at some images , please click here – otherwise you will have to go there yourself or wait until I return to Argentina one day…
Heading north on the Ruta 12 I saw a lot of trucks carrying the main ingredient of the Argentine national drink – Yerba Maté
Stopping at a filling station near El Dorado, I met the third motorcycle traveller on my trip: Hans from Chile on his 650 V-Strom. He was roaming for four months as well and invited me to visit him in Viña del Mar when I would be passing by in a few weeks’ time. We exchanged tips about accommodation, services and sight-seeing and then headed off into opposite directions. I didn’t meet Hans again, as he was still on the road when I finally came to Chile.
Mid afternoon I arrived at Puerto Iguazú and did the usual city-tour for orientation purposes and to find somewhere to stay. The South America Handbook had recommended the campsite 'El Viejo Americano' (the old American) on the road to the waterfalls but I found that the camping fee was no longer US$ 3.00 as stated in the travel guide but a whopping US$ 15.00!
However, the facilities were great and in immaculate condition: clean and spacious bathrooms, hot water all day, swimming pool, supermarket, restaurant, internet, tourist information and a safe at the reception, the bus stop right at the front door, and the people working there were all very friendly and helpful.
In good spirits and full of excitement that I was going to see one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world the next day, I started to pitch my tent. Oh no, how could that have happened?
In the morning all had been fine still! No problem, I thought, for situations like this I brought the right tools:
But for some strange reason, things didn’t work out as they were supposed to – maybe because I had never used ‘Chemical Metal’ before or completely misunderstood the term ‘plastic padding’ or just didn’t get the proportions of the two components right or maybe the temperatures were just too tropical for the chemicals to bond properly. The result looked like this:
In the end I had to take drastic measures and smash the piece that was broken off the line, thereby shortening the pole considerably, and bandage the rest with duct tape…
Apologies to John for such an abuse of his generous present. Still, the tent was holding up well – if a little asymmetrical – for the rest of the journey.
That evening I broke the rules of my vegetarian regiment of 30 years for the first time of the trip: starved after having missed dinner the previous evenings, I went to the campsite’s restaurant and ordered the Menú turístico with all the trimmings. I think the only dish that didn’t have meat in it was the dessert… No photographic evidence though, as I still felt a bit guilty at that point and didn’t want to tell Possu…
Despite my cardinal sin the sun set beautifully over the land…
... and full of anticipation I slipped into my sleeping bag - tomorrow I would spend the whole day at the Iguazú Falls...
|02-09-2011, 12:59 PM||#101|
Joined: Sep 2007
Location: Belgium, wrong side of the river
Tomorrow? Great, I'll be here, after work.
Honestly, have you ever heard of somebody looking back on his life thinking: "Oh, I should have travelled less and mowed the lawn more often"? (Pumpy)
want to save on Smugmug? use this code (VoUO8M1ukmnMY)
|02-09-2011, 08:09 PM||#103|
Joined: Jan 2008
Your excellent dream adventure
It is such a pleasure read about your dream trip and see the sights with you. Gladdens my heart to know how meaningful all this is to you. Best, Dave
|02-09-2011, 10:53 PM||#104|
Joined: Apr 2007
Location: Under the Texas Sun
Great report and valuable details. Thanks.
Your photos tell a story too, adding to your words. Good job
Looking forward to a glorious adventure tour.
Ride to Alaska on a URAL Blog
Ride Report: Texas to Deadhorse to Key West in September
|02-17-2011, 07:06 AM||#105|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
A day at the Iguazú Falls
The famous Falls of the River Iguazú define the border between Argentina and Brazil and can be visited from both countries. Two thirds of the waterfalls lie in Argentine territory where a well developed infrastructure gives access to the majority of the 275 falls.
The previous day I had already ridden to the entrance of the national park to see if I could catch a glimpse of the waterfalls, but the only road available took me to a big gate where I was told that the entrance fee was AR$ 85.00 (at that time approx. £15.00), they would only be open for another hour and I should rather come back in the morning, preferably by public transport, as they couldn’t guarantee the safety of my bike in their car park. I agreed, it would also be much nicer to walk about in civilian clothes than in motorcycle boots and my relatively heavy suit.
So after a delicious breakfast in the campsite’s restaurant, I just stepped outside to the bus stop and caught one of the colectivos that run every 30 minutes between Puerto Iguazú and the national park for AR$ 5.00 (£0.90). The park is open daily from 8.00 to 18.00 (8.00 to 19.00 1 Apr to 31 Aug) and the South American Handbook 2010 stated that the entrance fee can be paid either in Argentinean pesos, Brazilian reais or US$. Relying on this information, I had already reduced the amount of Argentinean cash to just a few pesos, as I was leaving Argentina the next day and could pay campsite and food with my credit card.
But – when I finally reached the top of the queue, the guy at the ticket counter told me that they would only accept Argentinean pesos – no US Dollars, no plastic, which was all I had. Mmm, what can I do? There was a cash point inside the park and the rangers even let me in. Unfortunately the machine was out of order… Arrrgh, I had made such an effort to get up early and be here at 8.00 but now it meant that I had to go back to either the campsite to change money there or even to Puerto Iguazú to find another ATM. Hang on, didn't I see a MasterCard sign on the door of a souvenir shop? Could I buy something and have some cash back? No problem, señora, but you have to spend at least AR$ 40.00. Mumble, mumble, mumble, alright then. So I bought postcards for AR$ 40.00 (which I had to do anyway at some point…) and received my AR$ 85.00 for the entrance ticket. Phew. In.
Due to my little mishap the previous day and all the limping around at speed, my foot had started to hurt again, and so I went into the visitor centre to enquire about the best routes through the park that were accessible for the handicapped. I was expecting some rough directions or scribbling in my map from the friendly advisor but no – he made a phone call and two minutes later a sort of electro mobile stood in front of the building, ready to chauffeur me to the station from which the train leaves for the waterfalls. Not that I really felt that bad but what a superb service! I chatted with my driver about self-inflicted injuries, our beloved hobbies – in his case it was football that had given him a damaged knee – and what a wonderful workplace he had.
The ecological forest train took us to the Estación Cataratas first, from where the Upper and the Lower Circuits start, but I wanted to see the largest of the falls, the Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat, before it got too crowded. From the Garganta station a one-kilometre catwalk leads to the park’s centre piece – you can already spot the spray in the distance.
The national park is home to an abundance of wildlife – which can easily be watched from the walk-way
Of course, everyone who was on the train had overtaken me by now – but there it must be:
The Devil’s Throat – La Garganta del Diablo!
The mandatory tourist shot…
And then I was just standing there, looking at the overwhelming power and beauty of the waterfalls and the tears were running down my face. How lucky was I to be here and see this wonder of nature with my own eyes…
A heron on the way back to the train station.
I have to say that the park’s infrastructure is well developed – each train is used to its full capacity (and they run every 30 minutes), access to the facilities like bathrooms and restaurants is nicely organised and sign-posted, but you also pay for it. Not only the hefty entrance fee, but for some strange reason I had forgotten to take water with me and had to hand over AR$ 12.00 (US$ 3.50) for a half-litre bottle! So if you go to the Iguazú Falls yourself, bring your own supplies…
After returning to the Estación Cataratas I first walked the Upper Circuit (Circuito Superior) which takes you along the top of the waterfalls.
Just see the tiny people at the bottom to get a sense of the scale.
And the wildlife...
The flora isn’t bad either.
The butterflies seem to be used to humans around here.
On the way to the Lower Circuit (Circuito Inferior) I came across these little fellows – Coaties:
They are not shy…
… and for the protection of both visitors and animals, feeding the latter is strictly forbidden (as you can see in the third pictogram).
Then the stairs went down, down, down…
Along more waterfalls...
From the bottom you can spot the Garganta del Diablo in the distance – and the walk-way on the Brazilian side…
The crowd had spread out by now and I had the place almost to myself.
… and the butterflies, of course.
Then I reached the platform that you have seen earlier from the Upper Circuit.
I carried on to the riverbank and the jetty for the boats that take you to the Isla San Martín, an island that lies right in the middle of the action.
Unfortunately and due to the low water level, the recommended tours were suspended for the day but I’m not sure if I had met all the criteria anyway…
It was nearing closing time when I made my way uphill to the train station again. I had been limping about for at least seven kilometres and ten hours that day but the pain was only a small price to pay for this awesome experience.
If you ever get the chance to visit the Cataratas del Iguazú then go. If you don’t – well, then you will have to make it happen one day...
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