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Undiscovered Argentina - Oli in Misiones and Ibera

My first trip with Last Frontiers saw me jetsetting off to the north-eastern provinces of Misiones and Iberá in Argentina. The focus of my trip was to investigate the development of tourism in this relatively undeveloped region. Yerba Mate (a popular Argentine tea), tobacco and pine are the three main commodities to come out of Misiones. Yet, as the drive for conservation gathers momentum the pressure to restore and preserve the country's natural assets is ever-increasing. With each new location I visited, the enthusiasm and pride of the local people to support this movement became more and more apparent. This truly beautiful part of the world has plenty to offer, not just for tourism but in terms of history and ecology.

La AripucaLa Aripuca

My trip began with a guided tour of the Iguassu National Park, visiting not just the Falls but the surrounding forest as well. This is an aspect of the park which is often overlooked by visitors but allows one to understand the ecological reasons for the park and not just the spectacle of the falls. I also visited La Aripuca, a giant wooden structure made from reclaimed tree trunks resembling bird traps, built by the Guaraní Indians. A truly impressive structure created to support the idea that by cutting down trees we are trapping ourselves. Surrounded by small shops and stalls where you can buy Guarani handicraft as well as ornate wooden furniture (which would fetch a handsome price in London) as well as very tasty mate ice cream. An hour or so from Puerto Iguassu lies Puerto Bemburg, a beautiful hotel nestled against the river bank offering tours on the Paraná river and an excellent asado.

San Ignacio MiniSan Ignacio Mini

Heading further south through pine plantations and yerba fields I ventured deeper into the jungle for a stay at Tacuapi Lodge where the main activities include jungle walks and bird watching. Oscar, the chef, is both vigilant with meal times as well as talented and producer of surely Argentina’s greatest empanadas! From here we travelled to the Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio Mini where we were interviewed by the local press and attended the impressive sound and light show, with projections alongside impressive 3D holographics and a good synopsis of the history of the site as well as giving an insight into mission life.

Oli and the cattleOli and the cattle

My next port of call was the wonderful Estancia Santa Cecilia, a working family-run estancia with over 5,000 cattle and 300 horses close to the state capital of Posadas. After meeting owners Sylvia and Charlie I was given a hearty home-cooked meal and was regaled with stories of gaucho life. The morning saw a new challenge for me: alongside Charlie and the other Gauchos I helped drive 250 cattle across eight or so miles of rolling countryside on horseback (not my favourite place to be). It was an unforgettable experience and the highlight of my trip. Despite my initial concerns with what was described as a 'spicy' horse I found myself shouting and whistling alongside the herd, rounding up strays and making sure that they all made it to the pasture on the riverside. After the ride, I returned to the house to be greeted with a traditional asado with meat so tender that only a spoon was required to cut it.

A capybaraA capybara

From Posadas I took a 4 seater Cessna to the Iberá wetlands to visit Estancias San Alonso and Rincon del Socorro. Both estancias are in the National Park of Esteros del Iberá, a 3.2 million acre reserve made up of grassland, marsh and lakes and home to over 500 vertebrate species and more than 4,000 native plant species. The ranches are working with conservationists to re-introduce native species such as pampas deer, giant anteaters and hopefully jaguar in 2013. Both farms are well-equipped to receive tourism and have a variety of activities on offer such as riding, boat tips, biking, night safaris and bird watching.

El Ateneo bookshopEl Ateneo bookshop

Upon retuning to Buenos Aires, I took in the sights and visited a few places which were slightly off the tourist map. I was taken to Tortoni's famous coffee shop, established in 1858 and the oldest in the country. My guide, Claudio, also showed me an incredible bookshop which was once a theatre and was saved from demolition and turned into a successful business. This demonstrated to me the pride the Argentines have over their heritage. Being my third visit to Argentina I thought I had a fairly good idea of the country, but this trip proved to me that there are plenty of gems still to be found.


How nice that you went to Corrientes!!
Comment by: Mariana on 28 Apr 2011 14:45
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