Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trinidad, Oberá, and Seeing Red

Jesuit ruins in Trinidad, Paraguay. I think the main reason tourists come to Posadas, Argentina, is as a launching point to visit the Jesuit Mission ruins in Trinidad, Paraguay. A two-night stay is enough for the visit, as a day is all you need to get to the ruins and visit them.

You take a bus from within Posadas to Encarnación, Paraguay, for 3 pesos. You can catch it at the terminal or anywhere along its route through the city. To get to Paraguay, you have to cross the Río Paraná (Paraná River) and pass through customs—the river forms the border between the two countries and is the second longest in South America. There doesn't seem to be any problem Jesuit ruins at Trinidad, Paraguay. getting through customs if you just want to visit the ruins. Get off at the bus terminal in Encarnación—just ask someone on the bus to let you know when you've arrived at the terminal, as it's not obvious.

From the terminal in Encarnación, catch the bus to Trinidad. It costs about $1.50, which is 6,000 Paraguayan Guarani—you can change your Argentine Pesos for Paraguayan Guarani at the terminal in Encarnación, if you need to. Good grief, people! Print some new money with smaller numbers on it (one-thousand Guarani amounts to about 25¢)! Make sure to tell the driver you want to visit "las ruinas" and ask him to tell you when to get off. The ruins are not at any terminal, so you'll just zip on by unless you know when to get off.

Oberá, Argentina. The day that I visited the ruins, the weather was miserable—think winter in Washington. It was rainy, windy, and cold. You have to walk about a half mile along a rock road to get to the ruins. By the time I got there, my feet were soaked and I was generally pretty unhappy. There's a restaurant just a stone's throw from the ruins and I hoped they were open. I was very pleased when the door swung open with a gentle push. I entered, used the bathroom, ordered a hot chocolate, and spent about 30 minutes sitting next to the fire drinking my pitcher of super-heated liquid (10,000 Guarani). This was so nice and just what I needed to prepare me to wander around the ruins.

Oberá, Argentina. To get into the Jesuit Mission grounds will set you back 5,000 Guarani, or about a buck-and-a-quarter. These ruins are a World Heritage Site, by the way. You'll want at least a couple hours to thoroughly investigate the area. It was fun to let my imagination run wild picturing these men in the wild frontier piling these rocks one on top of the other and creating these beautiful structures—much more fun for me than for them, I'm sure. Now, much of the material is missing, and the rest is falling apart and defaced by visitors with little respect for the past. Nevertheless, if you're in the area, this is a must see.

There are more ruins in Jesús, about 20 or 30 kilometers farther on, but apparently you'll need to take a taxi, at least part way. The lady in the restaurant told me that no buses run to them. They are much smaller, I was told. If you've got time and feel like being thorough, go for it.

Nice house in Oberá, Argentina. If you're an observant reader, you will have noticed that I implied you might have problems getting through customs if you want to do more than just visit the ruins. I discovered this today after packing my bag, checking out of the hotel, traveling on the bus through Posadas to the river, going through Argentine customs, crossing the river, and talking to customs in Paraguay. By this time, my left arm was numb from the 50 pounds on my back. Apparently, Americans need a VISA to get into Paraguay. I don't have one. The Fiesta of the Immigrant, Oberá, Argentina.consulate doesn't open until Monday and I don't want to stay in Posadas any longer. So I burned a couple hours and a couple spaces for stamps in my already-crowded temporary passport for no reason.

The guy at Paraguayan customs did tell me about something I could do in the meantime, assuming I wanted to pick up a VISA in Posadas in a couple days. There is a fiesta in Oberá. The official name is "XXIX Fiesta Nacional del Inmigrante," or The 29th National Party of the Immigrant. So, I went back across the river to the terminal in Posadas and caught the next bus out to Oberá. I didn't even know where Oberá was—I'd never heard of it, in fact—and was hoping this guy knew what he was talking about.

Well, 10 pesos, 110 kilometers, and 2 hours later I showed up in Oberá. It's an interesting city. It's got the usual run-down buildings and junk lying around that you find all over Latin America, but it's also got some surprisingly nice houses, sidewalks, and streets. It had a different look and feel to it than what I had yet seen.

Fiesta of the Immigrant, Oberá, Argentina. Another interesting observation applies to this whole region of northern Argentina, and probably at least to southern Paraguay. You see red dirt everywhere! The bottom half of many of the cars is solid red, and the clay gets caked onto the tires of bicycles, and, especially with the rain, your shoes become a mess and you can't help but track the red goo inside with you.

Thankfully, Oberá also has a nice little tourist information center not far from the bus terminal. I made a visit to it after swinging by a hotel across the street from the bus terminal and being told there weren't any rooms in town. The lady in the tourist information center called around and found a hotel with a vacancy for me. I also grabbed a map and a pamphlet describing the fiesta. After walking the few blocks to the hotel and checking in, I set out for the festival. NOTE: The tourist information center at the bus terminal in Corrientes appears to be abandoned.

Fiesta of the Immigrant, Oberá, Argentina.The festival reminded me of the Puyallup Fair which is also going on right now. I don't feel like there's a whole lot I miss about "home" but the Puyallup Fair is one of them! Although I never used to be able to imagine living anywhere but the beautiful Pacific Northwest, the longer I'm on this trip, the more I'm convinced that anyone can grow to view any place as home.

Anyhoo, the fiesta certainly wasn't up to Puyallup Fair standards, but I enjoyed my brief time there. There was one main stage, an area with various international foods, Girls giving away yerba samples—Fiesta of the Immigrant, Oberá, Argentina. and...well, that's about it. There weren't a lot of people, the schedule of performances on the stage was pretty slow, and it was cold. I caught a taxi back to the hotel for fear of rain. What a change from 2 weeks of 70-degree weather in Salta!

At this point, I'm not terribly motivated to jump through the hoops to get into Paraguay. I'm having my vaccination sheet mailed to a friend's house in Salta, then I'm going to head to Bolivia. At least I can tick Paraguay off my list, since I did visit the ruins.

Food at Fiesta of the Immigrant, Oberá, Argentina. Fiesta of the Immigrant, Oberá, Argentina.

3 comments:

workhard said...

Very nice post.. Great description you have given here...But wht is the significance of red again?



Argentina Consulate

Jay said...

Thanks!

There was red clay everywhere. It's in the post. :)

Kimberly said...

Hey! It seems your trip was a blast! I would love to cross the border line and experience a day in Paraguay. When I travelled to Argentina, I rented one of those buenos aires apartments and I didn´t went to the provinces because I wanted to get to know BA in depth. Now I think I´m ready for the other cities which I heard they have nice landscapes with amazing natural formations!
Kim