Got up early and had breakfast with Ingrid. Then caught our group tour van to a precious gem mine and some 17th century Jesuit ruins, further out in the Misiones province. Our group consisted of two older ladies from Mendoza, a younger couple, and a Venezuelan woman and her daughter who live in Buenos Aires. After about a half hour drive we arrived at the Wanda Mines, founded by a Polish immigrant. We walked down a ramp into a large open pit. In it, geodes were just there, coming out of the ground. All over. They mine quartz, amethyst, citrine, and multiple colors of agate there.
Every few steps there was another large cluster of sparkles in the ground, or the wall of the pit. You could also see the vein of mineral deposits they follow to know where to dig. Our new abuela, who Lisa was assisting occasionally to get over the rocky ground, came and spontaneously posed for a picture with us!
On one side of the area there were four holes that looked like caves, where they were continuing to dig into the earth. We walked into one of them and saw more sparklies in the walls, floor and ceiling. So cool! In the one next door, we could hear machinery and people working, mining away. Something that would probably never happen in the US, with all our liability laws!
Back up at the top of the ramp we saw the pile of the rocks that they had pulled out of the ground. Next to these were the carving and polishing areas. Lisa saw some familiar equipment in this area. Then inside, we were offered the opportunity to purchase all sorts of things that had been mined there. Well, Lisa could obviously not help but buy some beads. I mean, come on! And a pendant. And Chris got a keychain. It was really cool to know we had been where these came from out of the ground.
Next we had about a two hour ride to the ruins of San Ignacio Mini. The countryside was beautiful, although we did have to drive through several unexplained military checkpoints of some sort, and the driver liked to go fast and pass people. Seems to be the norm there. San Ignacio Mini was a Spanish Jesuit mission city, also populated by the local Guarani people who they converted. A small museum building had examples of some of the beautiful artwork made there, as well as a history of the location (it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as are the falls parks), and audio examples of the Guarani language and music. Behind this museum is the small city of ruins, all based around a central square.
The main facade of the large central church is held up with large buttresses, but everything else seems to be free standing. We were allowed to walk into all the areas, except where the original floor is still intact. We saw lizards in the ruins, heard lots of bird calls, and walked back to the entrance under the shade of gorgeous old trees on the sunny day. Unfortunately we had a little bit of a miscommunication with our group, but we finally found them at a restaurant a little later, just outside the exit.
We joined the other ladies in our group for lunch. We had milanesa, which we had to have explained to us by our companions in broken Spanish and English. Turns out it is meat, pounded really flat, and breaded. We had veal served just like this on our anniversary trip last year in Milan! Chris had chicken milanesa with fried eggs on top, and Lisa had a beef milanesa sandwich. And we had a liter of Quilmes beer too. The waitress originally offered us Budweiser. We declined. (The only beers they seemed to have up in this part of Argentina were Quilmes (the local Argentinian beer), Budweister, and Stella Artois.) We had fun chatting with our dining partners. The little girl, who was seven, was in a bilingual school, so she practiced her English with us, and we practiced our small, but growing, Spanish vocabulary and conversation skills. After lunch we napped on the long drive back to the hostel.
When we got back, we got a bottle of Trapiche malbec and joined Erin while she worked at her computer and chatted about our days. Then Lisa went and had a massage (yes, they offer massages at the hostel six days a week for a very reasonable price!) for an hour, while Chris chatted over pictures with Erin, and they were joined by a Dutch girl, Roos. Lisa came back in time for dinner and for another bottle of Balbo malbec. It was another asado night with free caipirinhas (they do it three times a week), this time inside, and with a Samba show. It started with a man in a shiny shirt, doing a comedic dance routine with a little drum. Next he was joined by a woman in a Brazilian carnival-type bare-butt sparkly outfit. They got men up out of the audience for a special little show by this woman, and of course, Chris with his boisterous laugh, was the very first person picked! After their tu-tu-tu show, all the other men were given a kiss on the cheek and sent back to their seats, except Chris.
He got to have a one on one samba dance with the woman, and then got a lipstick kiss on his forehead before getting sent back. Very fun. Of course, this was the one night we had left the camera in our room. Our new friend Erin was kind enough to take pictures for us, and will hopefully be sending them soon. As soon as they arrive, they'll get put up, don't worry. Later there was a second female dancer in a similar outfit, and other audience participation.
At the end of the show, the performers got almost everyone in the room up into a conga line, which then turned into holding hands and snaking around the whole room. Next this turned into a bridge line, which we went through several times, then limbo and line dancing. We both danced with various and sundry partners from various and sundry countries. It sounds silly, but it was *incredibly* fun. After the dancing, we were so hot, we went and dunked our heads into the pool to cool off. We were up much later this night than any other, but finally tumbled to bed, exhausted and smiling.