The Ibera Wetlands of Argentina

January 8th – 9th

Ibera Wetlands

Departing Buenos Aires on the 8th, we caught a flight to Posadas and then had about an hour drive to Ituzaingo where we checked in to Cezeta Hotel. This is another quite basic style lodging. I am not overly impressed with the quality of some of the hotels that Intrepid chooses, but they do get high marks for location. 

Cezeta Hotel

Concrete floor was quite dirty and I don’t think it had been swept or mopped in some time, but the bed was comfortable, sheets clean and we slept well.

Bathroom

With a late arrival, we all shared a meal of empanadas that Juani had picked up for us on our way to the hotel.

The next morning our group was picked up by our local guide, Sebastian, and drivers. We are split up into three separate 4-wheel drive vehicles to be able to navigate the roads that will take us into the Iberá Wetlands.

Map of Ibera Wetlands

The Ibera Wetlands are located in the northern region of Argentina.

“Spanning more than 15,000 square kilometers, the Ibera wetlands are roughly the size of Belgium, which gives you an idea of how much there is to explore. The biodiversity is incredible, and the swamps, lakes and lagoons are home to such creatures as otter, alligators, deer, wolves and black howler monkeys, just to name a few.” ~ Intrepid Trip Notes

This is also a bird watchers paradise with over 350 local species! Anaconda, swamp deer, armadillo and rhea can also be found during certain times of the year.

Turning off the highway, we went down a sandy dirt road for about 30 minutes, passing through private lands.

With frequent stops to open and close gates along the way, we passed by herds of cattle, horses and the occasional sheep. This is baby season here in Argentina and I really enjoyed seeing how fertile the animals were, as babies of each species were in abundance.

Each gate separated another farm

Pine trees are cultivated in this area as well. They reminded me of our Lodge Pole Pines with no lower branches. I’m not sure if these are the same variety, or just a distant cousin. Buckets are hung low on each trunk and the pine resin is collected.  Turpentine is one of the primary products that can be produced from pine resin.

Pine trees with attached buckets

“Turpentine can be used as a solvent (a substance that dissolves other substances) and to produce varnish. It can also be mixed with beeswax to make a high quality furniture wax. Turpentine can be burned in oil lamps and can be mixed with ethanol to make “burning fluid”, an illuminate. Turpentine is mainly used today, once it has been processed, as synthetic pine oil. Pine oil is used for fragrance, flavoring, and in cleaning agents to give the “pine” odor. ~ tcpermaculture.com

Periodic photo stops were made so that we could inspect the ponds for creatures, take a closer look at the flowers, and simply admire the beauty of the area, which is a mixture of marshlands, lagoons and savannah grasslands.

So much to investigate…

Sebastian looking up names of birds and flowers for me

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eventually we made it to the National Park – Parque Nacional Ibera

Parque Nacional Ibera

Our first short walk was through some overhanging trees where we spotted a family of Howler monkeys. The lone black male dominated his harem and his territory. Many babies scampered overhead, sometimes dangling from their protective mother. We were warned not to stand right below them to prevent getting peed on.

Howler monkey family

A fabulous BBQ lunch was prepared by our drivers and we feasted well.

Food on the grill

Team Aussie –  Sarah, James, Peter, Leyna

Team UK – Uma and Mehul

Our drivers and guides (Juani in front, Sebastian in solid blue shirt)

After lunch, our afternoon drive and walk-about allowed us to explore more of the park.

One of the most interesting animals we got to see was the capybara.

Capybara

Also known as water hogs, it is the largest living rodent in the world, and can get close to 175 pounds (80 kg). They may look a little intimidating, but are in fact quite docile. We wandered amongst them, and took our fair share of pictures as they simply chose to ignore our presence.

Joanne and Capybara

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mommas with babies in tow were a little more reticent as you might expect. They can have large litters, up to a dozen or so babies at a time. The largest grouping I saw was eight little ones.

Eight babies and momma Capybara

Sadly the babies make a tasty meal for the local alligators and some of the large predator birds.

Two Yacare Caiman

Marsh deer

Horse in the water

Returning to the picnic area, we learned about the local custom of drinking Mate (pronounced maw.tay). For the Argentinians, this is both a cultural and social tradition, as common as sharing a cup of Starbucks back in the states.

I’m holding a mate cup

Served in a cup (originally a calabash gourd bowl covered in cow hide), it is made from pouring hot water over chopped up herbal mate leaves (Ilex paraguariensis), and one drinks it through a shared metal straw that has a filter on the end of it.

After the cup is filled with the loose chopped leaves, the “server” puts their hand over the cup and shakes it several times to remove the powder residue. Then hot water is poured in on one side (perhaps 1/4 of a cups worth). Then the metal straw is inserted with the spoon-shaped filter end down into the water. The first couple mouthfuls are often spit out, as it is initially quite bitter.

Preparing mate

The cup is then refilled with a similar amount of hot water and passed to the first person or guest who you are sharing with. It is common for several people to share the same straw/cup and no one seems the least concerned about sharing germs. While riding in the car, I was invited to join in, and I gladly accepted the honor of being asked to try it.

Mate cup and metal straw

The drink was a little bitter with a strong herbal, grassy taste.

I liked it.

In fact we have already researched and found that it can easily be ordered on Amazon when we get home. It seems to act as a digestive aid, and it may have been my imagination, but it helped my reflux, if only for the day.

It is also very common to see people walking down the street carrying their Mate cup with a thermos of hot water under their arm.

Another fun activity was learning how to make tortas fritas (fried bread). Similar to Native American fry bread, a simple version is made with a mixture of flour, animal fat and/or butter, oil and water.

Rolling out the dough as Sebastian supervises to make tortas fritas

Cutting a hole in the center

The dough is mixed by hand, shaped into a flat circle and eventually rolled thin almost like a pie shell. We used an empty wine bottle as a rolling pin. The dough is then fried in oil, cut into wedges and served hot.

Fun and delish!

Juani also taught us how to play an active participation game, which I so wish we had taken a video of, as it stimulated the body and vocal chords with loud shouts, jabbing movements, fierce competition and much laughter. I have no idea the name of the game, but perhaps someday I will find out and can update this page.

I was the first one eliminated in our initial game. My performance ranked kind-of up there with my dancing skills, lol. But I did manage to hang in at least half way on the second round. 🙂

Even the insects were cute!

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for such an interactive day, where we got to see the wetlands environment, spotted too many different birds to count, stand next to a capybara, watched howler monkeys as they watched us, sampled mate and shared in the ritual offering, crafted my own fry bread, observed caiman from a safe distance, and played a silly game, all enjoyed with our new friends. A full and fun day indeed!

NEXT STOP: Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall complex in the world. We invite you to join us!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,241 other followers

About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
This entry was posted in Argentina, South America and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to The Ibera Wetlands of Argentina

  1. Kelly MacKay says:

    Great trip. Thanks for sharing

    Like

  2. sheilsm says:

    Another interesting post! What a full, fun day you had!

    Like

  3. I love mate! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. 20 years ago when I came home it was really hard to find in the states, but it has certainly caught on here now. Those cabybara are adorable!

    Like

  4. Terry says:

    That day looked like fun.

    Like

  5. tippysmom2 says:

    Looks like another fun day! I would enjoy seeing all of the birds. I think the Marsh deer looks a bit like a long legged fox. It’s so cool that you can get so close to the capybara. They do look pretty intimidating. The babies were adorable, but then, all babies are. Looking forward to your waterfall post.

    Like

  6. Maxxtrails says:

    Wow that sounds like a great day! I love the pictures of the Capybara and her babies. It is really neat when you can get involved and hands on with the culture in the areas you visit, to me those make the best trips 🙂

    Like

  7. Widdershins says:

    Some magnificent memories there! 😀

    Like

  8. Fun trip Joanne. I was particularly interested in the Capybara. That’s one big rodent! –Curt

    Like

  9. looks to have been an awesome experience. Thanks for sharing

    Like

  10. Peter Buller says:

    Jo & Tim,
    As the father figure (literally in 2 out of 3 cases…) of Team Aussie on the Iberian Wetlands, let me say the travel experiences we have shared over the last couple of weeks have been so much fun and more importantly, culturally and environmentally enlightening.
    The two of you are very friendly and quite lovely to have as companions on the fascinating on-going journey of world discovery.
    I look forward to continuing to follow your ever-entertaining travel adventures and certainly hope that our paths will cross (once, twice, thrice, many…) times again during our globe-trotting tours.
    Thanks for the great and enduring memories.
    Peter

    ps my FB account is a pseudonym.
    It’s Pedro Torosbagliare
    (an Italian play on words of my actual name; just for fun…)

    Like

    • Peter, we too enjoyed having you and your daughters as travel companions. It was wonderful having such an easy going group who meshed well. I hope the three of you are enjoying your last moments in Rio and will have smooth and safe travels on your long journey home. We have just arrived in Atlanta and should be back in Los Angeles in about six hours. It will be wonderful to see our son and give him a big hug. I’ll zip over to your FB page shortly to check out your photos and comments. Big hugs to you and the girls!

      Like

  11. usfman says:

    I notice from your picture that mate makes you very happy. Can you mix it with alcohol?

    Like

  12. joliesattic says:

    Cool. Those capybara are so cute. Too bad they’re rodents. Do they carry disease as regular rodents do?

    Like

  13. Aunt Beulah says:

    It sounds like another great trip, Joanne. Your voracious curiosity and interest make you a good traveler and an interesting blogger.

    Like

  14. Bindu says:

    Much learning for me, without travelling! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  15. agnesstramp says:

    This place seems so charming and lovely, Tim and Joanne! I am definitely adding Iberá Wetlands to my bucket list after reading your post. Is this a good summer destination?

    Like

  16. curvyroads says:

    What a fun day! I don’t know if you have ever watched the Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle, but mate played a significant role, as apparently, it is difficult to make well.

    Like

  17. I am missing your posts! Sounds like you are back home and I am sure enjoying a well deserved break, though. 🙂 Of course I can’t talk – I haven’t posted on my blog since last June. Gotta get my mojo back. haha Taking the boys to the Caribbean for spring break – maybe I’ll get inspired again. 😉

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.