Another post! Another place! We are off to location 62 of 92: Eldorado, Argentina. Welcome to the jungle.
We’re going to start with an update today. I realized that it has been a long time since I posted an updated version of my map. I should have included it in the last post, but that one was getting long already. So here is the post-La Paloma map, 61 of 92 completed.
Alright! Back to the story!
Tuesday, June 26th
I packed up and exited my little spot in the woods (…looks like I lost my pictures).There was an optimistic sense of finality as I hoped it would be my final frigid night in the tent. I had been watching the weather for my next stop and knew that warmer climates lay ahead.
I pointed Sonic into the northern sun and got ready to follow it for awhile. I have to say, having the sun in the northern sky has really messed with my sense of direction. I never realized how often I do little subconcious calculations to determine which way I am facing. I often exit a building and walk in the absolute wrong direction down here.
After the rough roads in Uruguay, I was thankful to be back on a smooth Argentina freeway:
Route for the day:
My ride was remarkable unspectacular, which was exactly what I was in the mood for. I did appreciate being able to progressively shed some of the layers I was wearing. I’d been bundled up for so long that I had a hard time remembering the proper places in my luggage for all of my warm clothes.
I did reach a milestone, though I didn’t notice it at the time. Annie crossed over 100,000 kms (62,000 miles). I keep my display in miles so I can better track my remaining fuel, so I didn’t realize it when it happened. Congrats, Annie! Not many sub-700cc bikes get to reach this level.
In the afternoon I rolled into Posadas, my home for the night. This town is on the Parana River, which divides Argentina from Paraguay.
This was another city in Argentina where I was very impressed with the road system. They’ve done a great job of planning out traffic flow in this country. My home for the night was Hostel Costa Mosquito. It was a very friendly place and was only $8.
Argentina was actually playing in the World Cup when I arrived. They scored an amazing goal to qualify for the next round. People were setting off fireworks and driving around honking for the next hour or so. That’s the kind of craziness I want to see!
I had a productive evening and a restful night.
Wednesday, June 27th
I asked if I could stay around a little beyond check out time, as Sweden was playing at 11 am. Since it was the last game of the group the two games to decide who was going through happened at the same time. Having two screens is essential.
A fun connection was that the referee for the Sweden-Mexico game was actually from a small town on the Parana River, just about 30 minutes away.
Lots of craziness ensued and Sweden and Mexico qualified for the next round, while South Korea and Germany were eliminated. The dream lives!
Realtime update: On to the final 8 with a 1-0 win over Switzerland! Such an accomplishment for such a small country.
I only had a couple hundred kms to cover on the day. I would end up in song place 62 of 92: Eldorado.
So what is El Dorado (“The golden one” in Spanish)? A legend? A myth? A person? A kingdom? All of those things?
In the 1500s a legend developed that there was a hidden place that was full of gold and treasures beyond one’s wildest imagination. The Spanish were already in the process of taking everything that they could carry from the South American continent, so many expeditions were launched to try to locate this mythical site. The legend, like man’s greed, has had some real staying power. Searches for this site continued for almost 400 years.
Because of this notable legend, many places bear the name “El Dorado” or “Eldorado.” There are at least a dozen places in the US alone that bear this name. But one should visit an Eldorado on the continent where the legend began, right? In addition to being in the right place, Eldorado, Argentina, was also the most populous of all of the places with this name. (I think…I’m not going through the numbers again.) Why was it named Eldorado? You’ll just have to keep reading. 🙂
I should maybe mention one more personal connection: Eldorado (pronounced with a long “a”) is the last name of my Aunt, Uncle and three cousins from Lincoln. They are Swedish, so how they got this name is an interesting story. I don’t have a picture of them with the bike, but I have where they signed:
I had a wonderful ride:
Misiones Province is an interesting little appendage on the northeast of Argentina, surrounded by Paraguay to the west and Brazil to the east. In red below:
This would be my last area in Argentina. Accordingly, it felt like the country was trying its best to entertain me with unique countrysides. Further south there are plains and thick forests, but as one continues north the scenery and humidity begin to say “jungle.” When you start to see jaguar warning signs, you know you’re not in Nebraska anymore. 🙂
Misiones is also one of the main production areas of yerba mate. The fields are really pretty.
I hadn’t found many great lodging options ahead of time, so I decided to book an AirBnB. This one was $15, a little more than I like to spend, but I really wanted a home base to explore the city. Unfortunately, their house didn’t have wifi and I had no cell signal in the town. Other than that, it was great.
I started my time there by just riding around for an hour or two. This is a very inexact way to explore a place, but it often gives me a good feel for where I am. West of town there was a really nice park on the Parana River. (Paraguay is on the right bank)
I won’t get to visit Paraguay on this trip (they have a $160 entrance fee for Americans), but at least I could take some pictures of the country.
After riding around I felt just a bit frustrated. I just wasn’t “getting it” yet. I had no idea how to define what this place was. I decided to find some internet at a gas station and get a little bit of work done.
A guy walking by saw Annie as well as my watchful eye upon her. Through hand signals, he asked if he could take a picture and I walked out to meet him. This was how I met my new friend, Shorshi (or George, or Jorge). I can’t imagine meeting a better person to help me understand Eldorado.
He had blue eyes and spoke great English with a German accent. Still, he was a local. I’d read before my arrival that Eldorado had had a real influx of European immigration in the 1920s and 1930s. His family was one that left the Stuttgart area of Germany after the first world war.
He spoke German at home growing up (real Swabian German, not that mamby-pamby Hoch Deutsch) and didn’t learn Spanish until he started going to school. His family has farmed in the area (mostly lumber and mate) for generations and he has continued the tradition.
We talked about lots of things and he was super helpful. He even showed me a video of some “stray cats” on his property:
He made sure that I had his number in case I needed anything. Unfortunately we were unable to meet up the next day, but it was a wonderful coincidence to meet him.
I finished up an update before returning back to my house for a good night of sleep.
Thursday, June 28th
I decided to walk around for awhile in the morning. Even though the city felt very “Latin American” (I’m sorry I can’t define that better), there were lots of little European tidbits around.
Below is a name which you can probably only see in Eldorado:
I retrieved Annie, packed up and continued on two wheels. I was still searching for my quintessential Eldorado picture. Shorshi had told me that there were some good signs coming into town on the east side. That’s usually a good place to start.
One of the things that stuck out to me about this area was the red dirt. Indeed, Annie is still wearing quite a bit of it.
I saw one more sign picture that I wanted, but wasn’t sure if I would be able to capture it with my 10 second camera timer. I clicked the button, bounded at full speed and got this:
I saw some different parts of the city. Though the center of town was pretty nice, the outskirts almost felt like being in a third-world country.
Up next was a museum that I had seen the day before: The Museo del Fundador (Museum of the Founder). This was the residence of the person behind Eldorado, Adolfo Schwelm. Here, I would get an even greater understanding of this place.
The staff were really friendly, though the nature of my quest seemed a little to confusing to them. (It’s OK. It is to me too sometimes.) They invited me to look around and see all of the interesting pieces of history.
They also had a film (in English!) that they showed me on the history. OK. Let me see if I can summarize:
Schwelm, who was born in Germany but was a naturalized British citizen, had a dream to create a European colony in the New World. He bought the harsh jungle land at an auction and named it, auspiciously perhaps, after the fabled city of gold.
What happened next was a real impressive campaign of propaganda and mis-information. Schwelm created publications showing a beautiful city in the South American jungle. Only problem was…the city didn’t exist.
El Dorado, indeed.
Many families from Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and other countries, decided to buy into the dream and escape the post-WWI poverty in their home countries. It was not until their arrival to Argentina that they realized they’d been duped. They didn’t have money to return, so they had to make due with their situation.
These Europeans were ill-equipped to handle the climate and develop agriculture in such a strange land. They were helped immensely by indigenous tribes from the area. As in many Latin American places, these cultures have merged to give Eldorado its current flavor.
I walked around the grounds a bit and took some pictures.
One of the nice ladies agreed to play photographer for me, so Annie and I could get in on the pictures.
Maybe the above photo says “Eldorado” better than any other: The little slice of Europe trying to keep from being swallowed up by red dirt and dense jungle. Despite the complicated history, one must still consider this experiment a success.
Before leaving town, I mustered my courage and went to eat at a Tenedor Libre (literally “free fork”). This was an all you can eat buffet for less than $4.
With a belly full of empanadas and a mind full of memories, I rolled out of this interesting place. I felt very glad that I had chosen this El Dorado to be part of my story. Though I may not have found a hidden city of gold, it was a truly rich experience.
Stay golden, everybody
Realtime update: Still in Foz do Iguacu. I’ve really liked my hostel here, so I’ve stayed around longer than I was planning. Tomorrow, I’ll start going east towards the coast. Maybe I should learn the language here?
I wanted to close with a couple of shout-outs. Perhaps you remember this epic picture from northern Peru:
This image has been used in some creative ways. You remember my friends Brett and Natalie and their kids in Alabama, right?
I’ve now found a place on their wall. I feel truly honored. This picture is sooo cute. Brett is a really good photographer:
Additionally, someone on ADVrider (the motorcycle forum where I post this story, LINK HERE) took it upon himself to make this a magazine cover. The attention to detail is staggering. 🙂
See you next time!