On to San Ignacio for the Jesuit ruins

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March 18th 2013
Published: March 21st 2013
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18th March ’13 Puerto Iguacu

Got up late, did nothing all day, it rained a bit, said goodbye to Jennifer my new Argentinian friend who was going back to college in Buenos Aires, saw lots of cockroaches, had dinner – Argentinian bbq which involved black pudding, kidneys and intestines mmmmm nice, think we are the only guests left in the hostel and went to bed.

19th March ’13 On to San Ignacio

Got up, had breakfast (definitely think we are the only guests left) and said goodbye to the Hostel Nuelia. We walked to the bus station and found the stand for our Rio Uraguay bus to San Ignacio. It’s supposed to take about 3 ½ hours to get there so we had packed a sandwich for the journey but at 12.30 a packed lunch was handed out!! And a cup of bright yellow pop to wash it down!

About 15 minutes away from our stop the heavens opened and it really poured down heavily. By the time the bus stopped it was thundering and lightening and we had been put off on the main road next to a closed tourist information office. First thing we did
Adventure Hostel - it's a bit wet!Adventure Hostel - it's a bit wet!Adventure Hostel - it's a bit wet!

...and the drain has flooded!
was get out the raincoats and put the rain covers on the rucksacks. Luckily there was also a restaurant which was open so we went in and asked in broken Spanish for a taxi. When they found out we were going to the Adventure Hostel they were all smiles and said two minutes.

Soon a pickup truck pulled up with the hostel name on it and we met Juan the owner of the hostel. He said it usually rains for a couple of days each week so looks like the visit to the Jesuit ruins might be a wash out!

The hostel is all on one level and spread out over quite a large area, there are beautiful grounds with a big swimming pool (which is full to the brim now) and the room is really nice – what a shame about the weather! At least we have our packed lunches for tea so we don’t have to go out for food.

Well after five games of table tennis (I nearly beat Howard….once) it finally stopped raining so we got out for a walk around this tiny town. We found the main square, a church, a social
San IgnacioSan IgnacioSan Ignacio

The centre of town
club, a couple of hotels, a casino!!!, a few shops mainly selling clothes and a couple of closed restaurants. Carrying on we found the road leading to the Jesuit ruins and as there was supposed to be a sound and light show at 7pm we legged it down.

It was actually a fair old walk but we reached the exit and a long row of closed stalls and followed them round to the entrance, which was shut. We were peering through the gates when a man came over and spoke to us in rapid Spanish but we recognised manana and noches, he then mimed raining and our suspicions were confirmed – it was cancelled.

Wandering back to the hostel we spotted a shop with fritas written on the wall so hoping this was the local chippy we went over only to discover it actually said productas fritas and there was definitely no frying tonight…..ah well sandwiches it is.

Let’s hope things improve tomorrow!

20th March ’13 San Ignacio to Posadas

Apparently there was a massive thunderstorm and torrential rain last night and I slept right through it! Ah the joys of a proper mattress, thank you Adventure Hostel! After a breakfast of toast and homemade jams we set off to visit the ruins of San Ignacio Ruins this time in almost sunshine.

These ruins are part of what was the Jesuit Guarani Mission of which there were 30 spread over Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uraguay between 1609 to 1818. In 1732 there were registered 141,182 people living in them – the Guarani are the local Indian people.

There was an interesting museum at the entrance which had English as well as Spanish explanations and showed the rise and falls of the missions and had some artifacts. There was also a short film with English subtitles talking about the missions and how wonderful they were. It was quite telling when a young Guarani lad was talking about a workshop he attended at the San Ignacio Mission and how much he learnt about them as the local elders found it ‘very difficult’ to talk about this period in their history.

The impression you got from the place was that the Jesuit’s had come and provided a place of safety for the local tribes, defending them from Brazilian invaders and Portuguese Slavers, whilst teaching them skills and crafts. In addition they let them keep their customs and traditions and merged them with Catholicism. They also recognised the tribal hierarchy and housing reflected the traditional way of life. I did find one reference to tribes who didn’t agree with the priests deciding to go back to live in the jungle.

Anyway although they are ruins, large portions are still intact and there are information boards in different languages which you can listen to that describe the areas you are in and what you are looking at. The cathedral still had some lovely stone carvings on doorways and pillars and the sketches of how the sight would have originally looked gave you a real sense of what it must have been like.

Without getting into the rights or wrongs of it all, it must have been a beautiful place. The mission was moved here from Brazil following attacks by bandititos. Until 1767 it was run by the Jesuits but they were then expelled from the Spanish territories by order of King Carlos III. Later between 1816 and 1819 they were destroyed in Portuguese and Paraguayan invasions and subsequently plundered.

There were hardly any other visitors to the site so you could really soak up the atmosphere which was great, the downside for the town though is no one was around to buy the souvenirs from the little stalls or spend money in the small restaurants.

Sitting outside of one such small restaurant we did actually see one small bus of tourists heading towards the entrance but that was it! We tried Empanadas for lunch – a kind of small pasty filled with mince meat which was delicious and another one filled with egg which wasn’t so good.

We are now back at the hostel sitting in the grounds while away the time before we need to hike down to the main road and catch the bus to Posadas. Once there we have to hang about until 8pm for the overnight bus to Buenos Aires, I hope the rain holds off!

Additional photos below
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San Ignacio MiniSan Ignacio Mini
San Ignacio Mini

The entrance to the Cathedral

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