We are driving on a long long sandy road. A road without any crossings. There aren’t any because left and right there are only swamps as far as the eye can see. We are driving to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. The only village in the middle of the National Park Esteros del Ibera which lies in the province of Corrientes in Argentina. It is time to submerge ourselves into the local flora and fauna like Mother Nature has indented.
The marsh is a 13,000 km2 area covering ⅙ of the Province of Corrientes. It has been a national park since 1983 and here you can find a variety of birds, crocodiles, Capybara, deer, fishes and jaguars. Nature can do its thing undisturbed in the thousands of canals, waterways, rivers, lakes and islands. Ibera means ‘Shining Waters’ in the language of the Guaraní that still life here. And it is a place we have been looking forward to for a long time.
We were in luck. On Saturday Juli 2nd there is going a Minibus from Mercedes to Pellegrini. The last of the week (they don’t drive on Sunday) and we were in it because Jolien was persistent. There was only one seat left in the bus and well, last I checked we are with the two of us. We talk to the woman and say to her we would not mind to sit on each others lap if this would mean we could get on the bus. Luckily this meant we could go along. The bus would leave in just 15 minutes just outside her lottery store. We were so happy we stood up early that morning. And we were double in luck, we did not even had to sit on each others lap. There were many small children in the bus and they were the unlucky ones. The ride took about 4 hours and it only went over a dirt road with a lot of holes so you can images how happy we were that this was the case.
The night before we arrived just after 8PM in Mercedes. In this town life around 35.000 peoples. At the time we didn’t have a place to stay for the night but we found a reasonable cheap B&B called Hay Lo Que Hay. And man, it was worth every penny. The owners were so nice and, YEAH, they speak English. Our private room was decorated with all sorts of antiques and the bed slept great. Also the breakfast was made with love. In the end it would not have been such a crime if we had to stay another night in Mercedes. The towns central square has a nice feel to it and on Saturdays the Gaucho’s (Cowboys) ride into town, fully dressed.
Time to camp
The weather was perfect, just around 27 degrees during the day and at night around 19 degrees. So we decides to camp in Pellegrini. We were so happy with this choice. The campground have roofed asado (BBQ) places and we place our tent next to one of them. En outside our tent we saw the Ibera lake. Also there are a lot of birds on the camping. On the camping you can book a tour into the swamp. We will make sure to do this the next couple of days. The camping also has warm showers. But only at night because then the water is heated by a fire. Of course you can shower in the morning but then the water is freezing cold. ‘Es muy frio’ says the owner with a big smile.
We decide to do nothing the rest of the day. We pitch our tent and enjoy the suns rays falling down on us. With a view like this you don’t need much. We make a stroll over the campground and just make a quick stop at the Tourist office to get a map of the town. But after we returned quickly to enjoyed one of the best sunsets we have seen in a long while. And we saw this with in our hand a nice refreshing white wine from Argentina of course.
Our first Caiman
On Sunday we first slept in a little but at breakfast we discovered that we actually need a small pan. A pan to cook water in with our small water cooker that we brought along. The day before we could borrow one of our neighbors but they left early in the morning. So we have a mission for today: we need to find something that can function as a pan. Our breakfast of crackers and marmalade was just fine. This is what we bought in Mercedes because there aren’t any stores (just a few kiosks with just the bare necessities and 5 restaurants) and ATM’s so you have to bring everything with you. And that is what we have done.
Off we went to Pellegrini with our map. The town looks really small but the city plan is long and wide. We walked quite a few kilometers that day past Posada’s, ranches and meadows. A fun fact is that we are the only ones who walk. The locals all use their car of motorcycle and the look at us real funny when they drive past. But everybody is happy and smiles. We asked around and find a nice posada to spend the night the next day. Our bus back is planned at 4AM on Tuesday and this way we don’t need to rush packing our bags and tent before we leave.
That afternoon I notice that I still want to see more. Beside the town we haven’t seen much of the park. We have booked a tour for tomorrow but we decide that it is a good idea to walk to the foresters house on the other side of the lake. It is only 1,5 km walking. While we hit the jackpot. We saw a lot of Capybara’s grazing on the grass and while we were walking over a wooden footbridge we saw our first Caiman lying in the reed. Whaaah, did we really saw one in real life for the first time. Yes, we did. And in the forest we saw our first small deers.
Tour on the lake
Because of our experiences the day before we longed even more for our tour on the lake. Everybody said we would see even more from the boat. Via the owner of the camping we booked a tour for Monday. And we were the only ones that day which meant we had a private tour. This did cost 200 pesos more then normal but it also gave us more freedom to talk to the guide more easily. When we would share the boat with Spanish speaking persons this mostly means this becomes impossible.
The tour was great but we did feel slightly disappointed. We expected a little more but you get what you deserve, right? A maybe we should not complain that much because this is what we saw that morning: 2 different species of Caiman, the black and broad-snouted, a nest of baby Caiman, several herons and vultures, the Great Black Hawk, a lot of Capybara’s and more waterbirds. So actually we did see a lot. The tour took 2 hours and dropped us of at the campground. After this we teared down our tent and went to our Posada El Yarace.
After this we still had the entire afternoon so we decided to return to the foresters house. We had the feeling we didn’t see all yesterday. The was one trail were we couldn’t go further because a bit pool of water kept us from going further. But the water was not deep and this time we took off our shoes and walked the rest of the trail bare-footed over sand, gras and Capybara droppings. And it was all worth it because we saw the other big deer species that lives here and an Armadillo just walked out of the long grass in front of us. But Ibara saved the best for last, just in front of the foresters house were Otters playing in the water. But they disappeared real quick when they noticed us.
When you are in the neighborhood make sure you come here. You will enjoy it a lot and it is worth the detour. We will continue our route going south. Tomorrow we leave for Rosario, a town just 4 hours above Buenos Aires and the birthplace of Che Guevara and Lionel Messi. We look forward to our next adventures.