Thursday, June 20, 2013

Crossing the plains

We left San Rafael with about 3 weeks to make a loop through a bit of Uruguay and to check out Iguazu Falls.  The days filled up quickly, and involved more riding in a straight line than we would normally choose, but that seems to be a necessity to cover any of eastern Argentina, home of the pampas (= plains).

At least we enjoyed some nice hilly roads on our way through Córdoba. Turns out we weren't the only ones on the road those days. It was the start of an official 5 day weekend covering Easter sunday (some national holidays combined with some religious days off) and the Argentine travel spirit took hold. It was nice to see so many people out on the road, but there were 2 particular places that this caused a bit of an issue: gas stations, which tended to run out of gas, and campgrounds, which just about ran out of space.

The first night we camped in a little town near San Luis. The first campground we came to looked really nice, seemed to be located on a fairly luxurious, mansion-filled road, and wanted us to pay the price for it, something around US$15 (okay, maybe not exorbitant, but we know what camping prices should be in Argentina...). A small little kiosk just a couple of km up the road had camping for a few bucks and we had the place to ourselves. A fairly early start the next morning took us through Mina Clavero, along with many other people.

Lunch stop, Mina Clavero
(Lunch stop in Mina Clavero)

Camino de los Artesanos, leaving Mina Clavero
(Camino de los Artesanos, leaving Mina Clavero)

Camino de las Altas Cumbres, outside of Mina Clavero
(Camino de las Altas Cumbres, outside of Mina Clavero)

The municipal campground in Alta Gracia, just outside of Córdoba was a gem. There were lots of activities at the neighboring park in the evening (that actually quieted down when it got dark, rather than picked up) including soccer (of course), BMX riding, asados, and plenty of people just drinking mate.

Alta Gracia happens to be the childhood home of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. We passed the museum, located in his old house, randomly when trying to follow the gas station attendant's directions to the campground. However, in the morning the place had an entirely different feel.

crowd outside of Che Guevara musuem, Alta Gracia (outside Córdoba)
(tour groups in front of Che museum, Alta Gracia)

Che Guevara musuem, Alta Gracia (outside Córdoba)

The crowds seemed a bit much, so we kept on kepting on. Turns out that on display there is a replica of the bike that Che and Alberto rode on their South American adventure in this museum, but we have only seen pictures online.  Next time, next time...

Not knowing exactly where we were going to stay, we started eyeing a little town on one of our tourist maps that showed hot springs - La Paz. That little town was a perfect stopover. We ended up squeezing into the municipal campground along with a whole lot of Argentines, many who had set up for the full 5 day holiday. A 10 minute walk took us to a nice hot springs complex that was also quite full of Argentines, but big enough to find a comfortable spot to soak.

Setting sun at La Paz hot springs
(setting sun at La Paz hot springs. The water had a lot of salt in it, making it easy for even Mike to float (he's a sinker) and leaving a flaky white crust on you when you got out. But their showers were hot, so no problem)

That night we knew that it was raining while we slept. It turns out it was raining hard. So hard that some people woke up and left in the middle of the night, and those that we saw leaving in the morning were having trouble getting through the mud. 4x4 pick ups made it okay, but anything else caused the passengers to get out, push, and get covered in mud. Our neighbors across the road were our saviors on that extremely wet and cold morning. They invited us into their porch, giving us coffee and bread, and even let us pack our saddle bags in their porch too.

The La Paz municipal campground was packed with people.  This nice Argentine couple were our saviors on an extremely wet and cold morning - inviting us into their porch, giving us coffee and bread.  They were sweethearts
(We can't remember their names it's been too long, but these two sweethearts saved our day. Argentines are great!)

Back on the road the weather cleared and we hit the main road up towards Posadas.

Nice, even load on a truck.  Somewhere near Posadas
(nice, even load that keeps people from passing on the right)

We found a nice little hostel in Posadas that just about kept us there for a few days. The young couple running the place was very accommodating and there were a few guests (from Spain, USA, Argentina, and elsewhere) there for a long stay that were good company. But with only 3 weeks for our loop, we continued on the next day towards Iguazu.

An even better hostel was awaiting us in Foz do Iguassu, Brasil. We knew of the place through the HUBB and looked forward to checking out the waterfalls from a comfortable place. It worked out perfectly!

Rodolfo and Adriano are excellent hosts, and the boxers were good company, too.  If you are traveling through the area, check out Iguassu Motorcycle Traveller's Hostel:

Rua Nilópolis, Nº.666 - Jardim Lancaster - Foz do Iguassu/Pr - Brasil
Coordenadas GPS: S 25.29.557 / W 54.33.047
Telefone: (45)9956-1091 / (45)9137-1743
Face: iguassu hostel (grupo)
Skype: iguassuhostel

Jill with the boxers, Iguassu Motorcycle Traveler's Hostel, Foz de Iguacu, Brasil

We really enjoyed the hospitality offered by our hosts there.  Even though the hostel is located in a neighborhood outside of town, downtown is easily accessed by bus (or by bike, of course), and there is enough within walking distance (grocery, restaurant, etc) that you won't need to go to town that often.  You'll soon see why we liked the place so much...

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