The Red Soil Chronicles
The bad part of it, is that it ended up way shorter than we expected (and paid the Hostel for) so there were several places we wanted to visit but couldn't, including the San Ignacio Mini. The good part was... everything else.
Friday Sept 20, very early hours:
The travel started out a bit messy and the bus arrived late because some idiot in Buenos Aires forgot to deposit the money he had to <<. Luckily, the drivers agreed to start the travel anyway (though it departed at 2:30 am instead at 00:00), so at first we were all scared of having to cancel it, if the bank closed before the guy deposited the money (because having to go to the bank in San martín de los Andes is easy... but BsAs is huuuuge). Fortunately, he was able to so we all gave a breath of relief. The travel is long, it took 40 hours counting the delay but we made it pass, driking Yerba Mate, talking, reading, singing (a few of them brought guitars), and obviously, sleeping as well. We also smoked pot every time the bus stopped by the gas station... because my Uni is made of hippies.
It went pretty uneventful, until we made it to Puerto Iguazú by Saturday September 21, around 8 pm. One of the first things that caught my attention first, and I had forgot when moving to Patagonia, is that in the North the lenght difference bwetween day and night swings alot less with seasons, at by that hour it was closed night already. There was another thing I "forgot", is that nights there are warm. It was snowing in San Martín de los Andes when we left, and it was easily past 15 centigrades (convert to your unit) in Misiones early Spring night.
The poor organization of the travel jumped by again there, as a bunch of us learned just by then that we'd only go to the Hostel by Monday... so we actually started looking for a place to rent, and a woman overheard us, and offered three houses she had for tourists. 21 of us suit fine in two of the houses (we were 26, but the rest had some previous reservation so went on their own) and everything went fine, the houses were really pretty, comfortable, and by downtown. So we went, and a group went to the supermarket as the rest (me included) stayed to take a shower, drink even more mate and talk. Eventually, a few of them went to buy drinks.
Now, there's a lovely thing about careers where most students are male: the males will always cook for the females, and do the dishes as well. We ended with the 8 girls in one house and the 13 guys in the other, and they invited us to eat by theirs. Then later at night, a group went to the Discoteque and I joined them, but I was tired and a few of us came back around 3am (I was never a huge fan of the disco).
Sunday, Sept 22:
Our attempt to wake up at 7:30 obviously ended up being at 9:00. The initial plan was the entire group to go, naturally, to Iguazú falls. But more than half of them had come at 6am, and one of the girls whined about being sick (I may be the only person to ignore an illness if I'm in an awesome place, but eh). We decided to go anyway, obviously. There's constant buses to Cataratas so it wasn't hard to find one. We arrived by the falls somewhere around 10:30-11 am, I think. Oh, and the day was rainy. BOY did it rain, so the photos turned out dark. Also, commited the mistake of not loading my camera (it had two full bars out of four, which is usually more than enough, but I just came to learn there that then run out faster in darker conditions, and with a foggy lens). But oh well. There, we bought some rain clothing and took a lovely train thingy to Garganta del Diablo. As we waited a few minutes for the train, a troup of coatis greeted us. But I'll go back on coatis later xD. Here's photos (be forewarned, first and second day are heavy in pictures) :
The place was a dream for someone like me. The lush vegetation is to die for, and I won't bore you listing all the birds and plants I saw in this short walk, but a red-fuffed fruitcrow (Pyroderus scuatatus), the largest passerine, gave me a more than warm welcome with its sole presence. We walked by a track through the rainforest, till we reached them. We ended up soaked like crazy, and so did my camera, unfortunately.
(my panoramic attempts mostly failed ^^; and the thing was too big to fit in a single photo)
Aftert the Devil's Throath, we walked back, at something and took the train back in order to make the Upper Trail ,and the Lower trail to Cataratas. Coatis came again... it's a problem in the park because they are far too used to people, and tourist dumbly feed them thrash. I'll go back on that later, but here's photos:
(this one dark one below had a very dominat attitude, so I guess she's the leader)
(more coatis, and line to take the train)
Notice how my lens was already suffering in the picture above. We went for the Upper trail first, then to the lower. The lens was crying with all the wet:
And it was around this when my camera went on strike and refused to turn on again :(. Fortunately, I was with a small group (5 plus me) so I could retrieve photos from their cameras. Mostly from one girl, so you'll notice the differences. In my pics, everything looks less bright than it was IRL, and she switched her camera to a mode where it looks brighter than it was. So, imagine a middle point :p and have some out-of-order pictures:
All I can say about the waterfalls is, i fell so "in my place" there! It's wonderful.Have you ever had the sensation, when you see a place from the distance, and feel a sort of tingle in your feet, in your whole body, because you want to be in that place so badly? This is exactly what I felt when I was arriving and we'd see the Atlanting rainforest from the bus, and the visit here did not dissapoint at all. It's not just a matter of visuals, so a photo does not even begin to make it justice. It's the sounds, the textures, the scents of wet, the warm temperature. It's being surrounded by all of that, trapped in nature's clutches, feeling your feet step on grass, the red soil, reaching against the railing to be soaked by the falls, and it feeling actually great. It's moving your angle slightly to find an entire little new world among the vegetation. It's beautiful, far too beautiful for words. It's the kind of place I can never get bored of.
Between the Lower and Upper trail, we had an experience with Coatis... and learned they are FAR worse than ten dogs and ten cats combined together xD. (adding experience later!)
Then we went back to the houses, our feet ached and we were all wet and dirty, but as happy as we could be. There we learned that, out of those who stayed, a few went to a wildlife rescue center (that I visited another day), a few made a wonderful thing I would have loved: walked by a random patch of jungle to the river, and met a Guarani -aboriginals- community in the progress, even got a couple of kids to accompany them. Then other boring asses stayed and slept all day. Bleh, that's not what you travel 40 hours for xD
And yes, the males cooked and washed for us again. Life is sweet.
Monday, Sept 23:
Another rainy day, albeit less than Sunday. This day, the remaining group went to Cataratas, and my small group vother activities, described below. We woke up, had breakfast and went together for official accreditation -whatever it's called, basically officialising the previous registration and confirming we are attending- (hey! we totes went for the Forestry Congress, remember? xD), and got given a bag with things (every congress gives you a Happy meal I swear xD), and the credentials that would allow us to move around the multiple salons where the talks were given. But, none of them that day, so we went to enjoy the place. And before that, we moved our things to the Hostel. We all missed the two houses, but the hostel was pretty nice too.
First, Puerto iguazú is a really pretty city. And this is what a vacant lot within the city looks like there:
And a couple of city pics, loving the pavement and how everything is stained red.
We walked to an "orquidiario", a place where they cultivate orchids. (not sure what it's called in English?). Saw my first rare hummingbird there.
Then, we walked to the triple Frontier, and bought some souvenirs, mostly Yerba and bijouterie made by Guaranís in my case (lovelovelove bijou made with wood, rocks and seeds).
Besides taking a small nautical stroll (sp?) with a brazilian guy, who got us into the confluence of he rivers Paraná and Iguazú, and told us some history. And yeah, we saw some illegal transporting boats. Commonplace there 0_o;
(left: City of East, Paraguay)
lovely vegetation by the coast.
Neat mural relief thing:
Going to the boat:
Attempt of a panoramic (we took a small boat, not the catamaran)
Brazilian side, notice the Eucalyptus plantation. Sadly, the Atlantic rainforest is almost dissappeared in that country (not that's in excellent shape in Argentina, far from it, but it still has the largest remaining forest masses when originally it only had a small portion of them. Go figure).
Small lovely waterfall in the brazilian side:
Bridge between Argentina and Brazil
paraguayan Hito, from the river
And back to the Argentine coast, for a neat stroll and moar neat vegetation.
Then we ate, strolled some more (Puerto iguazú is lovely, I insist) and one friend and I went to a place called Hummingbirds Garden. You would never have guessed I'd visit that place xD. Lighting was bad due to weather, and the hummingbirds were excited (excited for a hummingbird, go figure) because the weather made them prepare for a "cold front", so photos weren't an easy task. Still, the sighting was great and I added six new species to my checklist (this, not counting the species I had already seen before).
Then, we strolled again and called it a day.
Tuesday, Sept 24:
Wake from our first night in the hostel, and had breakfast. I didn't remember the last time I had breakfast outside, mornings are too cold here even in the middle of Summer. That day was warm, sunny and amazing.
(in those white plastic tables)
After breakfast, we went to the congress like responsible people (?), whose talks were spread between three luxury hotels and a conventions center.
Since the hummingbirds garden was really close to our hostel, and one of the Congress's hotels, I escaped an hour alone to see more birdies. they were excited again this time xD for there was a Swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) flying around. Which, by the way, was yet another addition.
Have Birdies (I love all hummingbirds, but black jacobins may be my favourites):
(Swallow-tailed hummingbird, new species for Argentina)
bathing Bananaquit, quite a common species in the city.
And yeah, the day went with congress, more strolling, a good shower and eating. The Hostel's dining room was quite large and confortable. Also, we laid by the swimming pool and talked, with a few beers in between. And mate, and pot, both overwhelming presences at almost any given time.
Wednesday, Sept 25:
Was the most "normal" day of all, mostly spent on the congress. At a point, found one of these hotels had a patch of forest by a side, which had a track to a plant nursery, where they cultivated butterfly-attacting flowers. Also, just as I arrived I saw a paca, which ran and quickly got lost into the bush. Also, they had a ton of hummingbird feeders, which gave me a new species report (and there were tons of other birds around, too). Unfortunately, by then my batteries had ran out again (this time, out of usage). I may be the only person on Earth who dislikes luxury (I find it sterile-looking), and that hotel was a five stars, everything emited a golden glow, no kidding... and yeah, it was very pretty but not my cup of tea ^^; awesome garden though, and I liked the artificial pond.
One remarkable thing about the congress itself, is that a guy spoke in English and we had these devices that automatically translated his sentences into our ears. It was REALLY clear, surprisingly enough.
By that night, there was an official lunch in the Conventions centre, orchested by the congress itself, free for everyone who attended to it. do I need to mention we all went? xD. Also, we sort of didn't expect the dine to be so... well, luxurious. There was also a ton of desserts (including mousse and stuff) and there I learned about edible wood. YES, the wood of a certain species, Yacaratiá (Jacaratia spinosa), is edible, and in fact delicious in honey and syrup. And there are wood bombons. You only wish I was kidding! (delicious as well).
One thing, there was a bus system to take people for free around the four (distant) places where the congress took place, and worked constantly during its schedule. Hence, keep in mind one would visit the same place a couple of times a day, and one or teo of the others at least once.
But yeah, shortly after taking a pic to the pond my batteries died.so have a Blue Dacnis couple that was in the Hostel's garden that morning and the following two (probably nested there) :
Female, love this photo ^^
(the couple, male at the right)
Thursday Sept 26:
Time to skip Congress to derp around a tiny bit into Brazil and Paraguay. Again, buses all the time so we didn't have to wait much, and first we bought a ticket to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.
The bridge is painted half light blue and white, and half green and yellow. Because obviously.
We didn't stay long in Foz. Mostly, couple of my friends bought sandwiches in Subway cause they hadn't had breakfast (I found both the place and the sandwiches themselves to be gross and awkward... sorry but I have an intense dislike towards chain food companies. If I go eat to Brazil, I want food made by brazlians, not standarized overprocessed crap that's the same all around the globe, and of whose ingredient's origin I'm extremely iffy about. Sorry about the rant xD and yeah, it was the first -land last- time I try Subway). Then we visited a small municipal zoo, and took a bus to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Some photos:
Bridge to Paraguay
then we went to Ciudad del Este. It was a bit dissapointing in the sense that Paraguay is a super interesting country, with plenty of places I'd love to visit (City of East not one of them, I'm afraid), but my buddies only went there to buy techno stuff, so I spent most of my time holding their bags. One of them even bought a tablet not even knowing what she wanted it for, just bought it because it was cheap enough. Sigh. (a thing I dislike about us argentinians is how pointlessly consumistic our people is). I bought nothing there (at least nothing technological), especially when one of the sellers started eyeing my credit cards when I took my wallet out to burrow one of my friends some money. "Hey you have cards, why don't you buy something?" haha, no. Though I bought fruit to a few of many vendors that milled around the very busy streets, and even got to have a small conversation with a very old lady that was selling bananas. I have alot of sympathy for the so-called "low class" people (I despise those stupid hierarchical labels invented by those on the "high" class, only to stroke their own inflated ego), they usually have lots of stories to tell, and one can really tell they enjoy your company. Also, people kept thinking we were chileans, because of the accent. We also went, in the afternoon, to a shopping and ate Chinese food, which was delicious.
It was hoooot there, easily around 30 centigrades. So I took my boots off when we stopped for a rest (Also, that bag was bought to the Guarani, the bracelet and the seeds necklace too. I love their works).
Spiced-up rice wrapped on eggs. Don't remember the name but it was awesome.
Back to Argentina!
Then there was the usual, strolling and stuff, till the following day. I bought some things, mostly Yerba mate and aboriginal craftmanships. We also befriended a Guarani kid who sold small wooden animal figures during our multiple strolls. Yes, bought him a few :p as well as rocks taken from the mine, of which I'll talk on Friday. Visiting a Guarani community and getting to know their people better is one of the multiple things I wanted to do and couldn't in the end, but I really want to visit Misiones again in a relatively near future.
Friday Sept 27:
Day for outings in the congress, I didn't attend to any for they were expenssive. But the day was certainly not wasted.
First, I visited the wild animals rescue center. It is not a zoo, and the animals are realeased back to the wild, when it's possible. (there were, for example, animals hit by cars, found wounded by dogs/cats, animals who were rescued before being sold illegally as pets, or donated by families who bought them years ago and found out they can't be domesticated). They get released once they're back in shape, and when this isn't possible (crippling injuries or excessively tamed), they stayed at the centre as reproductors. But it was a really neat thing, for example, raptors are trained every day to fly, felines kept as pets are trained to hunt, and baby monkeys were given to a substitute mother to raise. Photos! and yes, Guyra/Güira means "bird" in Guarani)
And yeah :'D that, in the morning. I came back at midday.
And at the afternoon, it was time for the Mines. We went to a lovely village named Wanda, built around the mine. It was a really.. pintoresque place, and I loved it ^^. First, we were greeted by a Yerba mate plantation (yes, it's weight is a little too big in our culture, but it's not something I complain about). Bad lighting, sorry ^^;
It would say "Mina Tierra Colorada" there :u
rock crystal or white quartz (there were of the two)
I love being inside caves, did I ever mention it?
Many of these geodes had water inside, water that's been trapped inside for millions of years. Yes, I drank a bit <3
At a point, we all were told of a Guarani ritual, consisting in, with our right hand, touch any of these rocks. And orient the left hand, the one closer to the heart, to the Sun. And yes, of course we did it.
Geode within a bigger geode. Boop.
And there, it was the first bijou I bought to non-aboriginals.
and, after that, we traveled back to puerto Iguazú, to have our last night.
We went to a restaurant all together for dinner, and then stayed by the Hostel to make the bags again, talk, play cards, play the guitar (the ones who know to do it) and sing, give a nocturnal stroll and again drink some beer. We were planning on skipping sleep, but I slept from 3:30 am to 5:00 am.
In the bus, I tried to stay awake till we left Misiones, but got knocked along with most of the others and at least I, slept until Midday.
The travel back to San Martín was mostly uneventful, cept when we stopped by El Palmar National Park in WEntre Rios, but it was unfortunately very late. And the bus went really fast. To the point that, half an hour before arriving to Junín de los Andes (the nearest city to SanMa, 40 minutes from it in bus), the bus took a narrow bridge too fast, and got a flat tire in the collission against the protruding thingies at the base of the bridge (guys, I'm far too tired to look for their name xD). The tire had to be changed, which delayed us one hour and half, but it was done and yeah, we arrived fine. And yes, the following morning it snowed again in sanMa xD.
There are more photos here: http://s220.photobucket.com/user/LobaFe
Overall, and unforgettable trip and wonderful experience that I'm extremely glad I could participate in. I'm graduating in March 2014 at the latest, and I gotta admit, I'm going to miss Uni a ton. And this was, definitively, a great way to celebrate it in advance, with all that awesome people :)
I'm aware the entry is excessively long xD not sure of anyone will look at it until the end. But, like I said, I mostly wanted the report for myself C:.