Saturday, 10 March 2012

Argentina and Uruguay

Day 10 to 15                 Countries 2 and 3 Argentina and Uruguay
                                     To Buenos Aires

Eadie offering me Mate
Tasting Mate - very bitter
From Iguassu Falls we went south west to a ranch in a village called El Dorado. It was run by a woman, called Eadie whose grand-parents from New Zealand and the UK had settled in Argentina in 1908. The soil there is completely red and the area with this soil (called Missiones) is the only place that can grow Yerba. Yerba is a tree that is used to make Mate a kind of tea that it would seem all Argentinians drink. It is always served in a special cup with a metal straw with a seive at the bottom.  Eadie told us stories about growing up on the ranch and gave us lunch. 

We then went horse riding and saw some of the lands. They now grow pine trees and keep cattle, rather than Yerba.

We have been travelling entirly by public bus which to date have been very comfortable. To get to the farm from the town we went on a brilliant rickety old bus which added to the experience.

We stayed the night in a town called San Ignazio di Mini a place known for its ruins of a Jesuit village.  The Jesuits seemed to find a way of living with the local Guarani people that gave mutual benefits. The Jesuits converted the people and the people were protected from Portuguese and Spanish slave dealers.  The ruins are really interesting.

In the afternoon, some of us went Kyaking on the river Parana. The river is really wide and forms the border with Paraguay.  The river flows very slowly and languidly and it was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon, enjoying the lush green scenery.

From there we took an overnight bus to a place called Concordia on the banks of the river Uruguay and crossed the next morning into Uruguay, stopping in the town of Salto.  This was a very pleasant little town with thermal baths. We went there in the afternoon, but the weather was so hot we did not really want to sit in hot baths!

Posing with a low voltage light bulb!!
That evening was the Salto Carnaval - not sure why it was at a different time than everywhere else.  It was a really fun afair - nothing extravagant like Rio - but a fun local event.  It started at 11pm and (apparently) went on till 4pm, but I was in bed long before then!

From Salto we went on to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.  it seems like a pleasant city, but we were there on a Sunday and virtually everything was closed. It made the city feel a little like a film set.  the old market was open though as it was full of tradional restaurants where locals seemed to go to eat Sunday lunch.  The local fare is very meaty with lots of beef and pork on flaming grills. In the afternoon we went to the beach and watched a Pan-America´s beach handball championship which happened to be going on there.

Looking at the map of Uruguay, I noticed that one of the cities is called Fray Bentos- presumably the place the company was named after!

Our hotel
River Plate (rather muddy)

Our last stop in Uruguay was a beautiful, rather small colonial town called Colonia di Sacrimento on the banks of the Rio Plato (River Plate).

This is a lovely gentle place with lots of historic buildings including an old light house and some interesting shops and restaurants.

I could happily have spent a few more days here, however, we had to move on and the next morning we caught a ferry across the river (about 30 or 40 miles) to Buenos Aires and the end of our tour.

Our last group dinner

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