Week 107 - Heading to Humidity!
We said a fond farewell to Lisandro and Julieta, and all the doggies, and set off towards Paraná. We tried one Hostel first, who unfortunately didn't have any room so we moved down a couple of blocks and found Paraná Hostel. The only thing was that we'd have to sleep in separate rooms because the only spaces available were in specific mens and women's dorms, so we took it as we just couldn't be arsed to find another place, and they had decent parking and a comfortable communal area, so all was good. They also had a small, cute dog but it has super sharp, razor teeth!
By the time we'd sorted ourselves out it was 5pm and we were super hungry. Being Argentina it meant that nothing was open in terms of eating establishments, and rather than wait until 8pm we decided to head for the McDonald's. I personally really don't like McDonald's food that much, however it was a means to an end, and having not had lunch I was borderline hangry, so Kelvin was very keen for us to get some food ASAP, lol! We ended up with the 'Daily saver combo', which actually wasn't too bad, before trundling back to the hostel for some more puppy cuddles and bites.
The next day it was off to Esquina. We stayed two nights at a country house on the river Paraná called La Mansa, and to our delight we also saw a tiny little bike shop where we were able to pick up a few essentials. The town had more of a feel of Bolivia / Peru / Colombia as it was far more indigenous, less affluent, for us this was much better. We definitely got stared at a lot because it didn't have the same touristy vibe or attractions like a lot of other places in Argentina, and on a route that isn't on the standard 'tourist trail' I don't think.
The view of the river was awesome, especially at sunset, and being at the very edge of the town meant it was so very quiet. The only downside was that there were mosquitos galore and mosquitos seem to love my blood! There was a bit of damp in the place, I guess a downside of the location and humidity, plus the cost of maintaining such a large building.
We spent a lot of our time Chilling out with the three dogs...Gina, Azul and a street dog of no name. Maria was the perfect host and we were given coffee and cakes on the first day and coffee on the second day, plus we had breakfast included, which is always a bonus.
We talked to Maria about the road ahead, and tried my best to make a plan based on the weather forecast...always a challenge!! Apparently there were going to be lots of mud and sand roads ahead (oh the joy!), so hitting in the rain wouldn't be much fun!
Our next stop Mercedes, and the route there was all tar, plus it stayed dry. It wasn't the most exciting trip, however we were very much looking forward to what would come after this, when we got even more off the beaten track. We ended up staying at a place called Hostal Gitanes. The place had lovely owners, tonnes of parking and a comfy room...what more could we want! Again, we were told that the road ahead that we planned to take would be fine if it's not raining, and weather forecast looked good for the next two days, so I was feeling optimistic.
We headed off to the square in the town and found some 'Lomitos' (basically a meat sandwich) at a fast food truck, being the only real place available for food, and ate them plaza side, which made for good people watching. It was quite hot and humid but not too bad overall, and something we'd definitely need to get used to again.
We then wandered off to find a shop and came across a little supermarket. To our amazement, when we got to the counter to pay we found chain lube! It's funny what you find some places. In the clothes shop they sell snacks, and you can get phone top up in the pharmacy....lots of random purchases could be made in the most unlikeliest of places. It reminded me of way back in Colombia when we managed to find a fuse for my bike in an audio shop after we failed to find a fuse of sufficient ampage in any of the vehicle shops!
The next morning we headed off to Carlos Pellegrini and got there by midday, so nice and early in order to be able to really make the most of our time there. We'd seen a stag just before we arrived which was a welcoming introduction to the area, which was a haven for wildlife. Much to my dismay, the sky appeared cloudy and stormy, but after not too long it all cleared and there was bright sunshine. Bliss!! We found a place next to Lake Iberá called 'Camping Municipal Iberá', and it was a steal at only £4 pp. It was absolutely stunning! It was a well kept, lakeside campsite complete with tables, a hot shower, shelters, a small shop and surrounded by wildlife. We managed to book on to a boat ride that would be leaving at 4pm for abut £9pp (Reserva Natural Esteros del Iberá Tours). Before that we wandered off to the village in search of some lunch and found a little place that did a typical dish of the area based on beans and chickpeas. It made a nice change to the fast food that was often the only option available, and it was really tasty!
It was then time for our boat ride and it did not disappoint! It was truly spectacular. We headed out on the lake and under the bridge which carried the RP40, then up the river into the wetlands. There was life everywhere!!! We saw Capybaras, Caimans, tonnes of different types of birds, flowers, plants, and insects. It was just amazing, especially the Caiman basking in the sun with it's mouth open showing off it's pointed teeth.
We got back in time for a glass of wine and a beautiful sunset. Quite a few people had come along to photograph the sunset because it was such a calm, clear day and the sunset was extra special.
The next day packed up slowly. We could have spent so much more time there because there was so much to explore, however the weather forecast was that it was going to turn quite wet and we didn't relish travelling up the mud roads during or after rainfall as it'd be a slippy slidey mess! We'd spoken to a couple of other travellers that had been in the area in the wet, and they'd spent a good bit of time on the floor!!
As we were packing up we saw a Caiman near our camp and heard a splash as it dived back in to the water. It then stayed quite still after turning around and just stared at the bank and us. We left by 12pm and headed North to Posadas, and much to my delight the sun was shining and the weather was holding.
We took the RP40 and RP41, both mud roads, until we hit the RN12. In Posadas, the border town between Argentina and Paraguay, I'd managed to find a place with excellent prices called Avemar Apart Hotel.
The following day was my birthday and we headed to plaza after Kelvin got the key stuck in our room door. The hotel threatened we would have to pay to have the lock replaced (and/or door replaced if damaged), but luckily the handyman got it out. I could have hugged him and I said thank you about a million times!! To be fair, they were totally shit locks, with a wierd key that we'd seen in several places we'd stayed, but these had the most subtle indication of which way up the key should go, so it was an easy mistake to make. I wish I'd taken a photo of the key to show just how hard it was to differentiate top from bottom (you put it in the lock horizontally).
We went for some toasted sandwiches near the Plaza 9 de Julio, with the Estatua de la Libertad, at a cafe called 'Vitrage'. and saw lots of people camped in plaza. It looked like they'd been there a while and had set up some large covered areas with tarps. There were also some lads with empty boxes asking cars for stuff. I don't know what exactly, possibly money or food maybe, but we couldn't make it out.
We walked around the town and then back to the hotel. In the evening we went to King Dom Chinese restaurant for a birthday meal and they had very yummy spring rolls. It was overall a nice meal however it took me 20 mins to pay by card, before venturing back to the hotel.
The next day was a completely lazy day in the hotel with Netflix because it was torrential rain, then a Lebanese meal in the evening once it'd subsided a little. I was so full after chips for starters. Doh! We took our leftovers because there was quite a lot and gave them to some people in the Plaza to eat, as it seemed a shame for it to go to waste, and they were very appreciative so I was glad we'd made the effort. One more sleep and it was then time for a mini Paraguayan adventure!!