To get to the falls of Iguazú, we reunited with our friend Mario Andretti, I mean Ariel, and took off over the treacherous clay roads tucked into our 4 x 4 yet again. (It had been raining before our trip, so the passage seemed a little bumpier than our way into Iberá.) Everyone heaved a big sigh of relief when we hit a two lane paved highway after about 2 hours.
Sadly, that relief lasted for a mere moment, because Mario immediately began passing people like a crazy man.
As we were driving, we noticed rather large mounds of dirt everywhere; it was as if oversized moles had been at work in the fields surrounding our passage way. Turns out, they were termite mounds and boy were they prolific. For some reason, we found their being ubiquitous to be rather creepy, so we tried not to think about it too much.
Three hours into the trip, we took a break for some lunch and a tour of las ruinas de San Ignacio Miní, a mission built by the Jesuits and the Guaraní dating from the late 1600s.
At lunch, we talked with Ariel a bit more about Iberá and tourism to the area. He said that about 70% of the visitors are from Europe and 30% are from Argentina. Us Norte Americanos are not well represented, apparently. He did note that they have seen a downward impact on visitor levels from the global recession.
The visit to the Mission was pretty dramatic. As you can see here, there is little left, but what remains shows you the impact of the clay red sandstone used to build the front of the church. Walking through the buildings and the central plaza, you can still get a sense of the grand scale of the community. The priests’ living quarters, which weren’t large, had lovely stone floors, huge windows and a door out to a generous terrace — it must have been truly stunning. (A partial picture below.)
Also, off the terrace was the largest “cactus tree” I’ve ever seen, which is pictured below as well. (A note on the pix, they present very washed out as thumbnails — click on them to really see the richness and detail of the construction.)
Anyhow, I am sitting in Ariel’s truck as I write this on the last leg of our drive, hoping we will make it to Iguazú alive — it is pouring rain, the terrain has become quite hilly and visibility is rapidly deteriorating. Unfortunately, bad driving conditions have not stopped the aggressive driving nature of our conductor. *sigh*
I believe I may have left indentations of my fingers in the Z’s legs as I clutched with fear during the near-accident we were just involved in as Mario passed yet another car.
I think it’s time to close my computer.
(Tom thought my blogging in the back seat was so funny, he took a picture of that as well!)