Stuck in Paraná

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, November 14, 2005

According to an old saying, trouble comes in threes. Well, we're not sure what number we're on, but we sure hope it's three! After successfully negotiating the customs and immigration formalities at the border (where, for the first time on the trip, we were rather half-heartedly solicited for a 'consideration'!) we crossed over the international bridge into Argentina, and headed up Ruta 130 and RN 18 through the bustle of spring seeding activities. We enjoyed a smooth trip from Paysandú of about 300 km - with DC3 cruising very nicely, and idling when necessary with no cutting out - and arrived at the Paraná municipal campsite by mid-afternoon. As we set up camp we noticed a bit of a dusty, oily film on the outside of the back door of the van. Upon investigating further, we found that the engine was covered in oil and the dipstick was down about 3/4 litre! It appeared that the oil seal between the motor and the flywheel assembly had failed, and had been spraying an oily mist everywhere that it is not needed. Shoot!! Looks like we will have to take the motor out or drop the transmission to replace this seal! Just what we don't need!

We spent the next couple of days checking out workshops and looking for spare parts. The local VW agency spun us a line for several more days before we realized that they really had no intention of helping, and so by then we booked an appointment at a small independent garage with good facilities and e-mailed our trusty technical support team to send the necessary parts down by FedEx. In Almonte, Frank had the package in the system in less than 24 hours and it only took another 30 hours for it to reach Buenos Aires. Sounds good so far! But, as unlikely as it seems, it will require another 5 days to reach the deepest, darkest heart of the continent - well, 500 km up the freeway to Paraná!!

Meanwhile we have put in our days honing our skills in the genteel art of patience, exploring the hidden delights of the laid-back colonial capital of Entre Ríos province, and its rather more modern, but unendearing, twin sister city of Santa Fe across the river. Although the campsite is 10 km out of town, we are lucky to have the #10 bus coming right to our doorstep, on an hourly, if somewhat haphazard, timetable. Everyday we made an excursion into town - the first few days were spent elucidating the idiosyncrasies of the 'colectivo' system, as it seemed that the #10 headed for two entirely different destinations at some apparently inexplicable whim of the driver. The rest of the trips we marvelled at the skill of the driver weaving in and out of the traffic whilst waving at all his friends along the way, or, as on one occasion, watching a crucial soccer match on small tv hidden on his lap!

Saturday mornings we joined the throngs promenading in their best finery around the plaza and along the pedestrian mall, and Sundays watched all the activities along the 'costanera' under the magnificent flowering jacaranda trees beside the mighty Río Paraná. This was the week of the Summit of the Americas, hosted by Argentina in the seaside resort of Mar del Plata south of Buenos Aires, and anti-Bush sentiments were suddenly in evidence everywhere. Posters covered any spare wall or pillar space, boisterous demonstrations were held in front of the 'Casa de Gobierno', and police reinforcements were brought in to prevent excessive displays of disapproval against such symbols of Uncle Sam's insidious interests as Walmart and McDonald's. We searched the local media high and low, but surprisingly (or maybe, unsurprisingly) found no mention of Paul Martin or the role of Canada on the Americas stage.

Although we grumbled and complained somewhat in the beginning about our bad luck at another enforced delay, we soon discovered that our timing was pretty good, as this was the week of the Paraná Opera Festival. We located the ornate 3rd of February Municipal Theatre on 25th of June Street (down from the 1St of May Plaza and along 9th of July Avenue, past the General José de San Martin Mall - every road and square seems to be named to commemorate the date of some victorious battle, or else after a military hero) and purchased tickets for several events. Even though we are not generally avid opera fans, we were quite grateful for this diversion and amazed at the excellence of the performances. Mozart's Requiem Mass, staged as an opera/ballet with a unique choreography, was absolutely stunning and held us totally spellbound - and will now compete with our very special memories of the Requiem in the magically lit Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen many years ago. Both the dazzling spectacle of Orpheus and Eurydice - set in a night time open-air natural amphitheatre - and an extravagant enactment of Bizet's Carmen staged at another outdoor location, attracted quite large and appreciative crowds.

Luckily, we also had our Wordsworth Classics to hand, so have been whiling away some time exploring the subtle intricacies of Fielding's 'Tom Jones' and Dickens's 'Little Dorrit'(Miss Nielsen of Fairfield Grammar would be so proud!). Sunday afternoons we have sought out a quiet spot to watch the yacht racing and recover from sleepless Saturday nights tossing and turning to the mindless and ear-shattering bass beat of the huge disco adjacent to the campsite. As in northern Chile, it seems as if parks and campsites in Argentina north of Patagonia are regarded as ideal locations for weekend parties, and full volume from radios in several adjacent sites competed with the disco for our attention from 10:00 pm until 7:00 the next morning. We do our best to be culturally sensitive, but sometimes we find ourselves stretched to the limit!

It has also been a time to catch up on correspondence, laundry (even Mr. Snuffles got his annual bath) and other clean-up chores. As usual we have been encouraged by supporting e-mails from friends at home, and especially this time from our Uruguayan friends. One highlight of each visit to the internet café is another short e-mail from our faithful pen-pal Diego, as he practices his English writing to us and reading our Travelpod entries. The latest suggestion by our adopted Gregorio family back in Paysandú is that maybe our van had been bewitched over Hallowe'en and now gets to decide whichever place he fancies to stop awhile. Hopefully DC3 will shortly have had his fill of sitting gazing out over the Río Paraná, and we'll be on the road again by the next full moon!
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frankandrita on

First to comment - Ha !
Gerry and Sharon, just found some spare time to catch up reading your stories. DC3, well, that' amusing. Sure glad it's back on the road and you do seem to be enjoying so all is not lost. There must have been an ultierior motive to being stuck in Parana. So where are we now ? I just finished setting up a TravelPod that Rita and I will use on our journey into Mexico and back. You'll get a message soon with details. Meanwhile, it's real winter here, cold, cold, cold and snow. The CPR Christmas Train stopped in Almonte last night, Rita and I bundled up and went to see. Wayne Rodstad, Randall Prescott, The Moffots and Amanda Stott were on board. Quite the show. Sure nice to see CPR spending some of their dollars on the People. Cheers from Almonte, Frank & Rita

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