18. Imprisoned by the rain.

The last big city in Argentina I'd pass through would be Posadas - in the province of Misiones - at about 300 kilometres away. From the image, the area above the blue line is Paraguay -  its capital Asuncion being seen, to the left, and 'dog's leg' right is Argentina whilst wrapping around that on the right is Brazil. 
The first evening I arrive at the village of Ramada Paso. With locals informing me there was a lakeside campsite I head for it, upon arrival I see a swimming pool, shelters, barbecue pits and toilet / shower facilities so all looked most pleasing but I was soon informed it was not actually a campsite but merely a lake fishing / pic-nic / swimming pool area. A shame as it would have been just perfect!...nevertheless I cycle away disgruntled, in search of elsewhere.
Snooting around the village I notice a barn-like building nestled between two buildings, asking a lady in one of the building if I could camp there she said yes. Inside the buildings were a few wheely-bins and several street-lamp posts laying on the concrete floor. A door at the barn's rear led onto a grassy lawn area along with a small toilet and a sink, this was perfect! Setting up I cook dinner and call it a day.
Awoken in the night by hard rain I hoped it would pass before the morning but as the day broke the rain hadn't and had actually rained so much the ground was squelchy sodden. Not even considering the possibility of rain I'd set my tent in a slight dip and subsequently the water was starting to pool over my ground sheet! Before my down sleeping bag would get wet I had to move the tent, but where?, everywhere was drenched. My only option was to move everything inside the barn. As I start doing so a few vehicles pull up outside the other building and a couple of people approach me asking me what I was doing. It turns out it was a municipal council-like building for whom they worked in the neighbouring office unit. Quite clear I was merely seeking shelter from the rain they were happy to let me stay and even gave me their WiFi password!
The clouds were clearly set to stay so consequently so was I! Camping in the barn that night I started questioning what I was actually doing. Pitched in a cold, concrete-floored barn in a tiny village surrounded by grey clouds that had rained all day. I started to mentally plot a route to Buenos Aires airport - to fly home!
The next day, bloody rain! Emailing my twin sister she boosted my spirits and helped to re-focus my thoughts and get back-on-track. A walk to the local shop for supplies was the peak of the day's excitement...at least they'd got a cat I could fuss.! 
The next day...RAIN!!!!! Part of me said go, part said stay. It was heavy rain and even with my waterproofs I'd soon get cold, knowing it wouldn't clear it would've been silly to ride, at least I'd got WiFi so I could do some blog-writing or see what newly listed Matchbox cars were on ebay! The weather forecast showed it clearing the next day so fingers crossed I could crack-on....another day in this barn would drive me insane!...imprisoned by the rain, this place was the definition of penultimate boredom!
Awaking the third morning the clouds were lurking in the distance but with the road dry it was time to go! Packed up pronto and on the road it felt so good to be moving again and soon the tiny village of Ramada Paso was behind me, along with my tour's glitch of depression. With a reasonable pace I clicked away the kilometres and for the first few hours the weathers was good but the distant grey clouds gradually moved over head, soon a fine drizzly rain started and I was lucky to be passing by a few buildings to take shelter, one being a church with an open sided shelter.
Whilst cycling later in the day heavy rain started again, soon damp and cold I passed a house with people at it so I invited myself through their gate and was welcomed to shelter under the family's car-port. With the rain on and off the husband said I could camp at his house, under the shelter, agreeing it to be best soon the family offer me some meat and potato food!
A while later and the grey clouds had been replaced by whiter fluffy ones along with patches of blue...with  four or five hours of daylight remaining and only sixty three kilometres on the clock I was far too eager to crack-on, grateful for their kindness I bid farewell and was off down the road! Other than a couple of bridges, having spent more than a week on a road that was as flat as a pancake with only an occasional few degrees bend it was a photo-moment when I reached this;
By the evening I'd made it to the village of Ita Ibate a satisfactory days ride of 110 kilometres. The campsite was perched high on the bank of the River Parana but with the past few days excessively high rain fall finding an easy way to reach it was like a trip through some of Congo's roads! The paved road around town's central plaza was flooded with huge puddles everywhere, the following morning street-sweepers brushing it toward the drains...surely a sign of no more rain? 
Back to the main road the next day the sky was clear blue, perfect! I no longer felt negative and with just two more days I'd reach Posadas whereby a WarmShowers host was expecting my arrival, as ever a preferable way to be in a city.
Part of the days route passed through a large forestry area, miles and miles of tall trees set back from the road, a few villages dotted along the way so I took a lunch break in one of them, with just twenty five kilometres remaining until the planned town I had time for more of a chilled lunch and even time to hard-boil some eggs - a change from my normal 'routine'.
From this photo along the forested road, who'd of thought just two days ago I was stuck in that dull barn!
Considering the camp sight at Ituzaingo was WiFi-less and a municipal one, 130 pesos seemed a bit expensive for a rather drab and dreary, cold-showered, grass-free pitch but with little between here and Posadas and lately preferring camp sights against free-camping I reluctantly coughed up the sum. Pitching under the shade of the big trees perched [again] on the bank of the River Parana.
The next day a few welcomed hills came my way and after ninety kilometres I arrived at the big city of Posadas. Contacting Silvina we meet at her flat. Welcomed to spend several day's there the first night she cooks a nice dinner and the Friday was Saint Patrick's day and [would ya believe it] there was even an Irish bar in the city that had an British band playing music.
Her best friend Manon worked for a Mate' company (Pipore) as an accountant so one afternoon organised a visit for a tour around it's workings. Mate' (pronounced ma-tay) is made from the evergreen kiln-dried Yerba-tree leaves. The leaves are then rolled and crushed so they become smaller - similar, but not as fine a tea. To drink, the ground leaves are put into a special cup called a Gourd, along with a metal straw - called a Bombilla - this has a bent and flattened mouth end, whilst a 'sieve' at it's bottom end prevents the leaves being sucked up. As the cup only holds a mouthful of water, after each drink the Gourd is then topped up each time.
Depending on the type purchased Mate can be drank hot or cold and is a social drink and sharing the Gourd between several people is standard, even if a stranger approaches, he will be offered a drink (the fist time this occurred to me was at the farm near El Chalten where I nearly lost my flag...thousands of kilometres back!). Then there's the etiquette. Passing the Gourd to someone with the Bombilla facing away from them is considered rude, almost as if the person offering doesn't actually want you to have any! The Argentine Mate' business generates millions each year - the largest importers in the world being Syria and Lebanon - of which Pipore supply.
Yerba leaves straight from the pickers, these have to be dried immediately before they start to decompose, becoming sweaty and rotten. Dried in a huge rotating cylinder, sieved, sorted, crushed and packed. The factory was process after process right up until the warehousing where automated machinery drop empty packets, filled, then shimmed along to the bulk shrink-wrapping process.
At the end of the tour I was given a bag with some of the company's marketing goods inside, including a large packet of their Mate'. After the factory tour we visit some ruins from the original missionaries that the province (Misiones) is named after. The history behind it and the problems the Spanish invaders / conquesters imposed upon them proved interesting and has even been a Hollywood film produced about it staring Robert de Nero 'The Mission' (1986).
The next day I meet Manon’s step brother and parents and we visit a scenic waterfall an hour’s drive from the city. Another evening we attend a beginner’s tango dancing lesson - now bearing in mind I can’t understand Spanish it was most certainly an interesting hour! On the final night we visit Manon’s new flat for some fine home cooking along with their friend Pablo.
From start to finish my stay in Posadas was a absolutely great! A welcomed busy break from the saddle and along with being introduced to lots of interesting people Silvina and Manon made it really special, a good friendship was struck which made cycling away from the city not so easy and to this day I still keep in touch with them. Thanks girls!
In the next post I finally reach the waterfalls!,
then cross into the tour's third country.
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