The Jesuit Missiones Argentina

The bus station was straight forward. We had another packed lunch of cream cheese and egg sandwiches (we also took about 20 of these for later use to go into our food pot as things like this always prove massively useful when we are on the road or have no easy means for other food). This time there is no screaming or noise, smells or anything else unpleasant. We are thankful, but reflect on the fact that the best bus journies always occur on the short bus journies! We dozed and pondered our total budget for a while. There comes a point where understanding your total expenditure for all countries to date is important and not just what you spend per country. After 8 months of travel we are at that time. Especially with ongoing Barclays bank issues we need to regain a grip of our finances. But sleeping was better at this point…

We arrived at San Ignacio what seemed like less than an hour (1.5 hours in reality) and left the bus in sweltering heat on the side of the major road- Ruta 12 that stretches for miles from Iguazu to Corrientes in the main body of Argentina.

We came here to be tourists for 2 days. After skipping the Jesuit history in Bolivia took the opportunity to learn about the non-violent domination of the large local tribes by a handful of Catholic missionaries in the 1500’s. Argentina is large and like the United States spread out. Tourist information opposite the bus stop was vaguely useful for accommodation and pointed us to the 5 blocks which was around 2 km away. Sweating hard with backpacks down the road the place is not cheap. We were being told of places for 50 to 80 pesos per night (with the 6.7 pesos to the pound exchange rate this was 8.50 pounds to 14 pounds a night). San Ignacio was also small with visitors only really being interested in the ruins that lay here. The place we were reccommended was in good shape, like most things we have seen in Argentina so far. Simple but effective. With our Spanish still coming back to us the lady gave us a room for 40 pesos per night as we told her we didn’t have the 50 she was asking for. For a triple room and no one else there, this was the best deal we would get. We could also use the kitchen available for the camp site they also have. Immediately after check in the heavens opened and the loud constant rumbling of thunder began. We were thankful again for our luck with the weather.

So instead of heading straight to the ruins we made some hot tea, also aquired from the hostel and egg and cream cheese sandwiches while watching the storm move over head. 2 hours later we headed out to see what San Javier, the first “real” Argentine town was like. Small, quiet and insular would be the description. A photocopy/ camera shop and few small shops mixed with places where people sat to drink Yerba Mate (the typical herbal drink drank in Argentina either hot or cold), with flask and metal cup with straw equiptment required. The antique childs playground in the square green was empy due to being Siesta time (between 2 and 5pm). With nothing open we scoped out the ruins themselves, which were open and fairly busy! with Argentine only tourists.

After wandering about and having a drink we ended up missing the day’s opening hours. Perhaps sub conqsciously as the foootprint guidebook told us early morning was quiet. After the rains the mainly red mud roads (only the two main roads are tarmac), the same mud as Brazil stuck to our flip flops and caked our feet. We headed for a beer and early night via a full looping ‘tour’ of town.

Next morning we were up and out by 7:30am to catch the guided tour at 8am. The guidebook lied once more and there were 4 buses with 3 times the number of tourists as the previous evening. We are getting bored of taking “information” from all guidebooks at this point as despite being updated yearly they clearly do not check the previous years information at all. Useless. The good thing was that being the only foreigners meant we had our own personal guided tour, which meant I could again ask all the questions I wanted to satisfy my knowledge of the Guarani people and exactly how 2 priests managed to control hundreds of people and got them all to work to support their laidback; luxurious lifestyle. Same as usual really. Fear and a heirarchical societal structure that empowered some and seperated the priests from the commoners enabling them to be seen as sitting on a pedastal.

The ruins were interesting and well reconstructed. For 30 pesos or 5 pounds it was worth understanding the lives and beliefs of the people and how two completely different groups of people integrated peacefully for over 100 years.

Straight after the ruins we grabbed our bags and were back at the station. We were not too sure of where to go, but as we had another Helpex volunteering place we needed to head South to one of a few destinations near San Javier. That meant we were going to head to Alem or Obera, but needed the Internet to sort out banking before working for a month. As Pousadas was the regional capital we felt there was better chance to achieve what we needed there. Fried meat empanadas in hand and our 24 peso bus journey to Pousadas was sealed.

A 3 hour journey later we were in Pousadas and a large bus station, cafes and shops complete that signals a developed town or city.

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