Sunday, July 31, 2011

Destinations 2 & 3: Wanda and San Ignacio

I am currently trying to put together a schedule of classes to attend for this two-week "tryout" period.  It is way more complicated than it should be.  So many of the courses that are recommended for extranjeros are at the same time!  Not cool, guys.  Not cool.

So to pick up where I left off in my traveling tales, Sunday morning, Maria and I got on a bus to Wanda, about an hour away from Iguazu.  We got dropped off on the side of the road, at the end of this dirt driveway where there was a little ticket booth and some guys milling around.  When we got off the bus, they approached to offer us remise (hired car) service to the mines, which were what we had come to see.  We asked if it was possible to walk, because we didn't want to spend the money.  They said sure, it was possible, but a group of people had just been robbed walking that road.  We decided fifty pesos was not at all a bad price.  Don't be too impressed by the idea of a car service.  It was just this guy's personal car, a dumpy little sedan, and he drove us a few miles to the mines.  He was very friendly, though, and before he left we arranged a time for him to come back for us.

We took a brief tour, ooh'ed and ahh'ed at the beautiful stones-- quartz and amethyst, mostly-- and actually got to walk through the tunnels.  The guide told us about how each stone formed and how the miners extracted the stones with dynamite.  It was pretty interesting, and the stones were absolutely beautiful.

I wish I knew how to rotate photos...

After touring the mine, we started to walk through the "Parque de los mitos guaranies," which, as cool as it sounds, was, to be blunt, kind of half-assed.  It was a self-guided tour with recordings of myths at each stop.  Pretty boring.  Instead we spent the remainder of our time (before Alberto, our driver, came to pick us up) in the gift shop.  We each bought a few things, mostly gifts for friends.  At 12:15, Alberto arrived.  He drove us back almost to where we were dropped off, but when we told him we were headed to San Ignacio, he stopped at a bus shelter on the side of the road.  It was unmarked and standing completely alone on a long stretch of open road.  Alberto told us that a bus would arrive within fifteen minutes.  We could buy tickets when we boarded, and it would take us to San Ignacio.  We waited there with what appeared to be a few locals, and a couple of backpackers.  Finally the bus-- a very small one-- arrived.  It was crowded and there was no A/C.  This certainly was not the same bus experience that we had had between Buenos Aires and Puerto Iguazu.  This was four hours of sweaty, smelly passengers boarding and getting off, seats that hardly reclined, and hot sun beating down through the windows, despite the closed curtains.  But somehow it was exciting.  We were in Wanda and just hopped on a random bus to get to our next destination.  And four hours wasn't so terribly long.

Finally, at around 5:00 p.m., we arrived in San Ignacio.  The backpackers who had gotten on the bus with us in Wanda also got off in San Ignacio.  We walked across to the tourism office, which we could see from where we were dropped off (not at the bus station, but again sort of on the side of the road).  The guy in the tourism office could not have been more helpful or nice (or adorable...but, you know, that's irrelevant).  He told us about all the available activities in San Ignacio.  Everything fell perfectly into place here.  We would go to the light show at the Jesuit ruins that very night, then back the next morning to tour the ruins during the day.  After that, we would take a "tranquilo" (peaceful) bike ride to the provincial park Teyu Cuare, where we could see beautiful vistas of the rio Parana and Paraguay on the opposite shore.  This guy even told us we could leave our bags at the tourism office with him, since we would be checking out of the hostel early in the morning.  With all this in place, we made our way to the hostel.

Adventure Hostel San Ignacio was not as impressive as Hostel-Inn Iguazu, but we really only needed a place to shower and sleep, so it did just fine.  And we met some interesting people during our stay.  There was an older gentleman who wanted to impart his great wisdom about the Spanish language, and told us we would master it quickly.  As entertaining as he was, his condescension got to me pretty quickly.  We also spent some time chatting with two younger guys, one of whom was on vacation and actually works in Buenos Aires, in a building really close to where we took our intensive review course.  After chatting with them for a bit, we started walking to the ruins to see the light show.  It was well done: it told the story of the mission settlement in San Ignacio, how the guaranies and the Jesuits came together to form a community and how that community was destroyed, fell into ruin, and was rediscovered.  They projected, I guess you could call it, onto walls of water.  It was really interesting and made the projections look like ghosts, which was kind of appropriate.  After the show, we went to a little restaurant that the tourism guy recommended.  It was delicious, of course.  We went back to the hostel and did some research on Rosario before going to bed, as it was to be our next destination.

The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, checked out of the hostel, and headed to the tourism office.  We dropped our bags, got our bikes, and also got confirmation of the seats that the guy had booked for us on a bus to Rosario for that evening.  We hopped on our bicis and headed to the ruins.  It was still early, around 9:00 a.m., I think, so the sunlight was really beautiful, and there was dew on the grass, and it was such a tranquil place.  We walked around for an hour or two admiring the ruins, which were absolutely fascinating.  We also chatted for a bit with one of the security guards, who showed us to the wine cellar/pantry of the ruins, a little underground room that I'm not sure everybody is allowed to go in.  It was really cool.

Seriously annoyed that rotating photos is apparently not possible...

The view from inside the pantry/wine cellar
We left the ruins and rode through the town to Horacio Quiroga's house.  We read "El hombre muerto" in a Spanish class last year and figured, why not check out the author's house?  I am so glad we did.  It was really interesting and I love walking around knowing that someone famous/important/cool once walked/lived in this place.  I actually felt like I was walking through one of his stories, since the one we had read was about the land where he lived.  Here's the view from his backyard, which in itself explains (to me, at least) why he kept moving back to la selva even when his family wanted to go back to the city:

Seriously.  This was his backyard.

After Horacio Quiroga's house, we started on the trail to Teyu Cuare.  It was 8km, which Maria told me is about 6 miles or something...?  I am absolutely useless at estimating/visualizing distance, so I had no idea how far or how painful this ride was going to be.  We rode along the road for awhile before we even got to the trail leading to the park.  This trail was the typical red dirt of Misiones, and completely full of rocks and puddles.  There were times on this eternal trail that I wished I had accepted the ride in the back of a truck offered to me by random strangers.  I wanted to curl up into a puddle and lie there until some sort of animal carried me off into the wilderness.  I was in full-on whiny six-year-old mode, throwing a little tantrum inside my head.  Finally we got to the park rangers' station, where the ranger explained the trails to us.  We hiked up a sixty-degree incline of giant rocks and I continued to whimper...until we reached the vista points.  While we stood up there, looking out on THIS

I put the pain and hunger and irritation in the back of my mind.  I tried not to think about how awful the return trip would be.  We strolled down on the lower trail and ate snacks/lunch on the banks of the rio Parana, in the most beautiful sunlight.  Seriously, this was incredible.  We headed back up and ended up chatting with the park ranger for a long time about all sorts of things.  He gave us oranges and we talked about learning other languages.  It was really interesting.  Then he helped me fix my bike chain before we re-mounted those damn bicis and started the agonizing trek back into town.  As it turned out, the return trip was much easier and seemed much shorter.  Before I knew it we were in the tourism office returning the bikes and heading to the restaurant next door.  We ate, picked up our bags, said goodbye to our friend in the tourism office, and walked up the hill to the bus terminal, where we would board a bus that would, fifteen hours later, drop us in Rosario.  Stay tuned.  The final installment of this travel log is coming tomorrow.


  1. Sarah, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog! Also am jealous that I am not there! Went to Nas Head for aweek, but the heat was worse than I have ever encountered. Your Aunt Joanne and I actuall had to leave the beach! Love you. Be safe. Grandma Lois

  2. Really nice post. I am enjoying how you mix your writing with the photos, which are very beautiful. You're developing an excellent record of your travels. Nicely done!