November 3rd, 2019
We crossed the border in the rain from Paraguay back into Argentina for one last time. Border crossing took just over half an hour and that was only because for some reason the border patrol officers issuing the TIP in Argentina saw some “holes” in our border activity – like an open (never cancelled) TIP from back in July. We were glad that that didn’t see the kerfuffle we’d encountered a couple of weeks ago when we switched to our US passports – when we entered Paraguay last week, we had to switch back to our Canadian ones as that’s the passport that our Paraguayan visa is in (the visa for US citizens costs even more so we’d used our Canadian passports). We have decided now to continue with our Canadian passports to avoid more confusion in the future and hope that the officials will use the blanks in Fran’s passport when the final page is reached.
Since the recent election, the Argentinian peso has been suffering; when we first came to this country in October of last year, the peso was about 37 per USD; when we left Argentina the last time back in July of this year, it was around 48; now it’s hit 60. They’ve also put limits on how many USD locals can get. It’s really hurting the citizens. The blue market for USD is on the rise once again.
Local legend: Driving along the roads in this part of northeastern Argentina you will periodically come across roadside shrines with red flags and votive offerings. These shrines pay homage to a “gaucho” from this region name, Antonio Gil. He was a “Robin Hood” like figure and his burial place is south of Iberá national park in the town of Mercedes. His grave attracts thousands of pilgrims each year on January 8th, the anniversary of his death.
He is affectionately known as “El Gauchito”. He was born in 1847 and after the war of the Triple Alliance refused to join the Federalist Army. He and a few other deserters roamed the countryside stealing the cattle of rich land owners and sharing them with the poor villagers.
When the law finally caught up to him he was to be hung and beheaded by the tree where he is now buried. All this is not so unique until this part: Gil informed the executioner that he must be buried – which was not the custom for deserters – because if he was not, the executioner’s son who was gravely ill, would die. The executioner returned home to find that yes, indeed, his son was in fact seriously ill and expected to die. He returned to the hanging site and buried the body. It is said he son then fully recovered.
If you come upon one of these shrines, the story goes that you must honk your horn, or else suffer long delays on the road, or worse: never arrive!
Now our plan was to stay in Posadas a few days waiting out this wet weather with the idea to visit Iberá National Park. However, upon arriving here and checking the weather, it looks like it will be over a week before the rain stops completely and then only for a day – the park has sandy roads to get into it and iOverlander check ins recommend not doing it unless it’s not been raining for at least two days.
So….being flexible like we are, we have decided to make our way to Uruguay earlier than planned but we’ll do it slowly.
The campground we’re at tonight is small with old bathrooms but they are clean and there’s hot suicide showers and decent Wi-Fi. There was a French family of three when we arrived and a French couple (their friends) arrived later. They spent the evening socializing in French.
It was cool enough last night that we didn’t need AC but we did have to use fans a bit later in the night. We awoke to rain around 6am and after it stopped Doug went for a run, Fran exercised in Tigger and we left to head towards Iberá NP. Our plan was to head to the nearest town, check with the locals and spend the night in order to check the weather for Tuesday.
Enroute at the provincial border between Misiones province and Corrientes Province we were stopped by the Federales. They claimed that we had to drive with not just our daytime running lights but with our headlights too. We’ve been in and out of Argentina for more than a year and we’ve never been told that! At least they didn’t fine us; we just switched on the headlights and away we went. We have decided to cover the sensor on the dash to trick the truck into thinking it is dark outside, so that automatically, both sets of lights will come on. Once we leave this country we can stop that and we’ll also put the spare tire and high-lift jack back on the front bumper.
We did find a tourist information office in the town of Ituzaingo and the weather began to clear. The people in there told us that the camping area in the park has flooded so really we could only go in for the day so we thought, “what the heck, the weather is getting better at least we can check out the road” that we’d heard was sandy and not to do when wet.
Here is a map of the park: the red circle is Ituzaingo and the purple circle is about as far as you can drive in the park – just past the campground.
We go to the turn off just before 11 am and we had 30 km / 20 mi to go to reach the end of the road – the campground/ registration office. The first 12 km were gravel with some washboard so no big deal but we did stop and air down to make a more comfortable ride.
Parque Nacional Iberá is a wetlands wilderness comparable in size to Brazil’s Pantanal. Notable wildlife includes caiman, wolf, howler monkeys, otters, capybara and marsh deer. There are more than 350 species of birds including storks , egrets and ducks. The word “Iberá” comes from the Guarani and means “bright water”.
After you pass through the first of seven gates (there are “estancias” (ranches) in the park and they don’t want their herd crossing property lines) we hit sandy track in grass.
As we’ve had a fair bit of rain lately, on and off, there were plenty of puddles and a few slippery sections so at times, Doug used the 4WD at times to be safe.
On this drive, we saw:
Parakeets flying by:
White faced Whistling ducks:
Egrets and herons:
Lots of Capybaras:
Black and white Tegu lizard:
Large billed tern:
Grey necked wood rail:
and more! check the galleries.
Just before the last gate, we met some park rangers, who advised that yes in fact we could camp if we wanted to and told us of a 4 km “vehicle trail” we could take from the office.
We had more or less decided that we weren’t going to camp here due to the amount of bugs we were seeing midday (dusk would have been way worse) and that although it was a pleasant drive, it wasn’t spectacular after being in the Pantanal.
When we arrived at the “office” there was a stone archway over the road that looked like we might not make it under so we decided then not to camp but Fran went in to register while Doug backed up to the start of the vehicle trail where we had some brunch.
The weather by now had cleared considerably and we were fortunate to have blues skies with some clouds. The temperature kept rising though; when we left in the morning it was 21 C / 72 F and by the time we left at 3, it was 33 C / 92 F.
This extra piece of road had lots and lots of capybaras on it including babies:
We then began the 30 km / 20 mi drive back to the highway seeing no new animals but enjoying the capybaras
We got to a gas station where there was a gomeria (tire repair shop) and got Tigger’s tires and air bags topped up and asked about a car wash as Tigger was filthy now after that road. He directed us back into the town of Ituzaingo but we tried two places and struck out. As it was getting late in the afternoon and we knew rain was on the way, we found a campground with all services but internet and settled for the night just before the rain started.
The last two weeks have been the wettest we have the entire 5+ years we’ve been on the road; it’s spring down here so it’s rainy season in Argentina and probably will continue into Uruguay. We’re not complaining (much!) just actually thankful how fortunate we’ve been.
Tuesday, we just wanted to get somewhere with services to chill for a couple of days. Didn’t have much luck and had to drive quite a distance to a decent YPF station with WiFi – 350 km / 220 mi – more than we like to drive in a day. We’d checked out three places enroute here and they didn’t seem worth it. This part of Argentina does not have a lot to offer; it’s basically a good highway between Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls.
We filled up the gas tank (note: we are getting much better mileage on Tigger – in Paraguay the gas has ethanol in it and our mileage sucked!), parked in the back and went into the little café to use the WiFi and have lunch. We spent the night here. The gas jockey told us we could park in the back and there was a power outlet on a lamp post – score! Not that we have to have power tonight as the temperatures have cooled with the rain and it should drop into the high teens overnight.
Now if any of you have been following us for any length of time, we have some overlanding friends, Joe and Josée (he’s American, she’s Canadian) whom we’ve traveled with on and off since Honduras. Well, the last time we saw them was July 2018 back in Cuzco, Peru and then our paths diverged after that and they went home for four months which slowed them down. They were close behind us when we went to the Pantanal but they had truck issues. They also skipped Paraguay and after Iguazú (before us) they went to hang in Buenos Aires for a month. We’ve kept in touch and as they are about to leave to head to Ushuaia for the South American summer and then their journey will end sometime around April/May, we’ve made a plan to meet up about 250 km north of BA and before we cross south into Uruguay next week.
So today we pushed through and drove towards the city of Gualeguaychú to get together one last time on this continent. This city is over 400 km / 250 mi from where we spent last night. When we stopped for gas about 100 km from there, we got a message saying they’d be delayed a day as Joe had to see a dentist and couldn’t get in until tomorrow morning. So we checked the WiFi here and decided to spend the night. They have hot showers as well and we were due to get “shiny and clean” so that worked out well.
The weather today is nice and warm and sunny without any major heat and we’re supposed to have an even cooler night than last night, so we don’t need power. Turned out to be a relatively quiet night despite it being a truck stop.
Thursday morning we finished our drive to Gualeguaychú, tried find a car wash and were unsuccessful so when we arrived at the campground, we asked about using a hose to wash Tigger ourselves, Rodriguez lent us his power washer and we got it done. Then we moved over to a camping spot on the river with the same name as the town. There is a large group of teenagers so it could be noisy tonight but they are apparently leaving tomorrow.
We heard from Joe & Josée that they should be here in time for happy hour. We picked a spot where both our campers could fit. We enjoyed sitting outside Tigger, reading by the river until they arrived.
It’s always nice to meet up with overlanders and especially when you’ve met many times before on the road. We got Joe & Josée parked and settled in for happy hour and catch up time.
That night the teens had a huge parilla/asado (BBQ) set up (see the photo at the top) and Joe added his steaks to it when it was hot. They later had a bonfire not far from our camp spot so it was a bad night’s sleep but it was only one.
Friday mid morning we all walked into town to see the malecon along the river. Speaking of the river, it had risen overnight from the all the rain accumulated recently making its way to this river. The little sandy beach near our camp spot was now under water and the beaches in town were flooded too.
We stopped at a river side restaurant and had an okay lunch but the view and the company made it nice.
We had another chatty afternoon happy hour and evening catching up and helping Joe & Josée plan their route to Ushuaia and back up the east coast.
The weather had been quite pleasant the past few days, no humidity, quite warm afternoons reaching into the high 20’s and nights in the teens. We are happy to be away from the humidity and hope it lasts for a while.
Next morning Joe and Josée packed up and left for their journey south. We wish them the best and hope to meet up again one day! Enjoy Patagonia and Antarctica amigos!
We spent the next few days hanging here in Gualeguaychú; our camp spot is lovely and fairly cheap and we have plenty of time to get into Uruguay, visit around and find parking for Tigger while we fly home for the holidays.
The internet here began to crap out Friday night and by Sunday morning was non – existent – we complained and they kept trying to reset it but it never seemed to last long, if at all. They gave us the password from the neighbouring hostel but it barely reached our spot. We were not impressed but data is cheap here and we bought some for our unlocked phone (just over $2 USD for 2GB for 7 days).
On Sunday, the lady in charge her told us another group of kids was coming in for one night on Tuesday; this time they were preteens. They arrived late morning by bicycle – there were maybe two dozen young teens and for some reason they chose to camp on the river bank like us not too far away (unlike the older ones last week that camped in the trees far from us). While this group was louder that the other group during the day, the night was much quieter.
Early morning calm:
Doug went into town today to run a few errands, one of which was to find a mechanic to work on Tigger’s emergency brake (it’s not working well again!) and make an appointment for Thursday when we plan to take Tigger out to do grocery shopping and/or leave. Turns out the one he found had time to take it right then so he returned while Fran was out on her walk and took it in. Seems there is no room for adjustment anymore and the turnbuckle needs to be replaced but it was now lunchtime so Doug came back to the campground, met up with Fran, we had our brunch and he returned at 3 to get the work done. Total costs: $23 USD! With the peso the way it is, we often offer to pay in USD and mostly are taken up on that option.
Fran wandered around the pretty town:
The river level has gone done significantly since last Friday when it rose so much:
Thursday, we decided it was time to move on with the biker group coming in tomorrow so we packed up and went to the Carrefour to get some groceries. As we were putting the stuff away, a German unimog pulled up behind us and we met Wolf and Illiana who have been on and off overlanding for twenty plus years (they often go home for the German summer). As we left we saw that a French RV had pulled in behind them but they were not around.
We drove a short way out of town planning to spend the night at the last gas station in Argentina before the border but after spending a short while there, it became quite breezy and it being a dirt lot, the wind caused way too much dust; while the breeze kept the temperature comfortable, the dust meant we would have to close the windows!
We thought, what the heck, lets head to the bridge and cross the border.
The total we’ve driven on this dip into Argentina was 1,031 km / 641 mi.
So we say “adios” to Argentina; you’ve treated us well, we’ve seen and done too much to list here and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed your many landscapes (and your wine, alfajores and choripan!).
Sidebar: What is going on in South America?
We’re sure you’ve heard something about protests and political problems down here on this side of the equator. We’ve said to ourselves a few times lately, that we’re glad we’ve already visited most of these countries before there were issues.
Bolivia: President Morales has resigned and taken asylum in Mexico. He changed the constitution last year to allow him to run for a fourth term and there were some questionable irregularities in last month’s election and the people have spoken. The army asked him to resign and he quit “for the good of the country”.
Paraguay: While we saw none of the protests or even much of an inkling, the citizens of Paraguay are angry with their government over the proposed new agreement with Brazil concerning the Itaipu power plant. Stories say an impeachment process has begun for President Abdo.
Peru: President Vizcarra has dissolved congress in an attempt to force new parliamentary elections. He did this through a small loophole in the constitution and this has caused several demonstrations including blocking access to one of the country’s major copper mines.
Ecuador: The price of gasoline in this country has been subsidized since the 70’s and a few months ago President Morena withdrew the subsidy due to an agreement with the IMF. This caused the price to skyrocket.
Chile: This was considered the country in South America with the highest human development index and one of the highest GDP’s. It is now facing a huge crisis with the widening gap of the rich and the poor. The first trigger was the increase in subway fairs in Santiago and the peoples revolt began. Despite President Liners rolling back the increase, it sparked a flame and the protests continue around the country involving pension and education issues.
Venezuela: the world knows the humanitarian disaster there and it is so sad for the citizens; Not sure if we’ll see much of that country but we hope to at least visit the southeast corner to visit Angel Falls and Mount Roraiama next year. We have met SO many Venezuelans who’ve left looking for a better place to live including encountering busloads attempting to cross borders.
So that leaves Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay of the Latin American countries. The former continues to have issues with FARC and cocaine but as of now, this does not seem to be disrupting travel. Argentina’s recent election will bring changes to the country after the newly elected government takes over next month but should not be an issue. Brazil elected a right way government last year and at present other than protests about the Amazon burning and the previous president being released from prison while he appeals, it too continues to be safe for travelers. Uruguay as well had elections last month and a runoff election will be held later this month to determine a winner; seems things are peaceful.
Sidebar: We did not keep a tally of our mileage in Chile alone as we knew we’d be crossing the border with Argentina several times. So now that we are done Argentina, the total mileage we did in the two countries was: 25,363 km / 15,760 mi – which is 20% of the mileage we’ve done on this entire PanAm journey so far!