Thursday, September 11, 2008

Corrientes—People, not Places

The peotanal—pedestrian street, common in Latin Ameircan cities—Corrientes, Argentina. I wanted to see something new in between Posadas and Salta, so I stopped off in Corrientes, about 4 hours and 33 pesos ($12) West of Posadas. When I arrived, at about 8:15 P.M., a lady at the bus station saw me staring at the map on the window of the abandoned tourist information booth and asked what I was looking for. She ended up telling me that there are some Jesuit ruins nearby that I could go see. The next morning, I asked 3 or 4 other people about them (so I could figure out how to get there) and no one had a clue, nor any recommendations about what was worth seeing here in Corrientes. Way to get rid of the influx of money from the tourists!

Instead of staying another night, I bought a ticket for Salta on a bus leaving that night Río Paraná waterfront, Corrientes, 8:45, then decided I'd just bum around town for the day before continuing West. I hopped on a city bus, got off downtown, and spent the afternoon walking around and enjoying the nice weather and the Río Paraná which separates the Chaco and Corrientes provinces and on which the city of Corrientes is perched. I ended up talking to some folks who were passing the day fishing and another guy training on his bicycle.

Ricardo, fishing in the Río Paraná. The Corrientes waterfront is pretty nice and quite active, with many burger trailers and parks. There were no roller-bladers—the surface is a bit rough for that—but there were lots of joggers and walkers. At some spots, there are beaches or areas where one can descend down near the water's edge. One in particular seemed popular with some folks doing a bit of fishing. I never did see anyone pull in a fish, but had a nice chat with a few of them. One fellow comes here when he's between work, and apparently things are slow right now. There were a couple families sort of making a picnic out of it—a nice way to pass the time.

Fishing simply in the Río Paraná. Another fellow, a bit older, Ricardo, comes here regularly and proved you don't need the latest high-speed gear—carbon fiber pole and uber-expensive reel—to go fishing. His fishing equipment consisted of a bamboo stick wedged between some rocks and two or three pieces of rebar stuck into the sand. You'd be surprised how far out you can throw a line with your hand. Swinging about a 4-foot length of line with lead on the end gives you a fair amount of inertia. He got a good 50-foot "cast" out of it. Ricardo speaks Portuguese and knew a few words of English, too. Something he was a bit less educated on was American politics. Many Latinos want to know what I think of George Bush, for some reason—I think I'll start asking them what they think of their president. That's some fodder for good conversation!!! Ricardo didn't ask me that, but Fishing with only a line and hook. did ask about our political parties. Which party is Bush from? How many parties are there? Just two? Political conversations don't thrill me like they used to, and I'm glad this one was uneventful. After Ricardo gave me an orange, he mentioned that there was a zoo just a short walk from here and that admission was free. A few minutes later I headed out.

When I was within striking distance of the zoo, some girls who had been fishing with bamboo Half moon, Corrientes, Argentina.poles earlier—mainly for kicks, while mom did the serious fishing, with no pole of any kind, just the line—came along in the opposite direction. Apparently reading my mind, they told me the zoo was closed. With that, I headed back in the direction of city center to catch a bus back to my hotel, pack up, and get across the street to the bus terminal.

On the way, I ran across a plaza—not hard to do in Latin America, as there are normally several in every city. In this one, there was a guy doing some tricks on his BMX bike. He was amazing! Daniel actually competed in the Latin X-Games in 2002 and was invited by ESPN to compete in the full-blown X-Games in Brazil in 2003. After that, between marriage, having a son, and the pressure of practicing 7 hours every day, he gave it up for a bit. After giving Danial, practicing in Corrientes. his heart and life to God, he is living a more balanced life and is happy. He's practicing a couple hours every day and wants to get back into competition. He's thinking about moving to the States or Europe some day where there are more opportunities to compete. He has also started is own bicycle frame-manufacturing company, and I saw him testing his own product. I was really impressed!

Although I didn't see any great tourist attractions in Corrientes, I met some great people—even better!


 Building in Corrientes, Argentina. Danial, practicing in Corrientes.There were 50 (!) of these ads next to the sidewalk. I think they get the message!!!  Danial, practicing in Corrientes. Daniel, showing me his own frame design. Daniel, international competitor, Corrientes, Argentina.Danial, practicing in Corrientes.  Father and daughter, getting around in Corrientes.

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