Waiting in Mercedes

Mercedes Travel Blog

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My plans to visit the Esteros del Ibera have been aborted due to vehicular impracticalities.
The Esteros are not exactly on the main tourist thoroughfare. The wetlands are situated 150km down a poorly maintained dirt road from the town of Mercedes, itself a remote community huddled on the prairie. There is no direct bus to Mercedes so, on Saturday night, I took the night bus from Cordoba to Pasos de los Libres. Since Paso de los Libres is on the border with Brazil and I was heading considerably north, I expected to awake in a paridisical world of jungle and heat. I did awake in a different world but it was not warm or tropical. The cosmopolitan cities of middle Argentina have been replaced by squat, visibly decaying towns. The bus station parking lot was about the only thing paved in Paso de los Libres and at 7am on Sunday morning it was also the only thing open. The bus terminal in Paso de los Libres has six ticket booths, a mail room, and a cafe. Outside, under canvas tarpaulins vendors hock goods to Brazilians who cross the river for cheap cigarettes and alcohol. In the 5 hours I sat in the terminal (a small excursion to the town was unsuccessful) studying the movements of the ticket booth employees, which consisted mostly of congregating on the central bench in the station and drinking maté, there were 7 customers. My bus to Mercedes took me down a straight flat road past habitations constructed out of scrounged materials and fields of domestic animals.
The hostel in Mercedes is very nice but on the first night I was the only guest. The lady at the hostel in charge of tours came and arranged for me to go to Carlos Pellegrini the next day but she said it would be cheaper if I waited to see if anybody else showed up that I could share my activities in the Esteros with. Mercedes is a town where the majority of cars have large portions of the body rusted entirely away. It is just as common to see people riding ponies, atvs, crammed onto mopeds, and sitting in lawn chairs in the back of pickup trucks as driving cars. The majority of the roads are not paved and after a little rain become an impassable mire. This town of 35,000 is what I expected South America to be but still, it is the first time in my travels that I have encountered a place so different from my own city (and they still have running water, electricity, and icecream).
I waited a full day in Mercedes and was assured that I could leave the next morning for Carlos Pelligrini. It rained all night and the road to the Esteros del Ibera became impassable. This morning I decided to abandon my plans for the wetlands and this evening I will travel to Iguazu Falls instead. I am a bit disappointed that I did not get to see the wetlands after I went out of my way to visit them but at the same time I am relieved since it was becoming a rather pricey excursion.
My tips for people wishing to go to the Esteros del Ibera are:
1) Find somebody to go with. All excursions are cheaper with multiple people 
2) Go during the dry season (the road can become impassable and you may not be able to get in...or out)
3) You can reach the Esteros from either Mercedes or Posadas. The bus leaves twice a day from Mercedes but only 3 times a week from Posadas. If you don´t time your trip correctly you may have to wait somewhere.
4) You do not have to sleep in Mercedes. If you are lucky you can take the bus to Carlos Pelligrini the day you arrive.
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photo by: CaptPugwash