Going Up The Country To See Some Wild, Wild Life
The Gaucho Griffs riding free in the Esteros de Ibera in Corrientes Provence, Argentina
On Monday Feb 1, we left t Buenos Aires by bus at about 9:00 PM. After an all-night bus ride traveling northeast to Corrientes Provence, we arrived in the small rural town of Mercedes at about 6:00AM. I hadn’t spent an overnight on a bus in many years — the last time was probably somewhere in South America in the ‘70s. The buses then were often crowded, the seats were hard, uncomfortable and barely reclined from an upright position. When crossing the pampas back then, I can remember being woken up by intermittent stops at military checkpoints for the mandatory ID checks by arrogant and not-so-friendly militars. This country and the bus service have come a long way since then. We booked what are called semi-camas, almost beds; they are wide, soft and recline 160 degrees with an extension for your legs. You are supplied with a blanket and pillow, a hot meal in the evening, and a boxed breakfast in the morning. There are video monitors above the aisle which allow you to watch a movie if you wish. Our stewart even passed out the latest edition of Gente magazine so I could catch up with the glamour of Argentine celebrity life.
After arriving in Mercedes, we were met by the driver from the Rincon de Socorro who drove us another hour and a half over a red dirt road to the nature reserve. This part of our adventure was arranged by our daughter Bryna, who works in conservation and knows some of the Argentine staff that administer the reserve. The Rincon de Socorro is a private nature reserve which is part of the dream of Doug and Kristen Tompkins, two American philanthropists who have, since the mid-‘90s, been purchasing vast land tracts in Chile and Argentina, developing conservation plans for each and then turning them over the governments of those countries to be established as national parks, which will hopefully insure that they will be protected in perpetuity. Socorro sits in the middle of the Esteros de Ibera, which is a vast area of grasslands, marshes and ponds that comprises about half of Corrientes province. Our Lonely Planet Guide calls this place a: “stunning wetland reserve that is home to an abundance of bird and animal life, and is one of the finest places to see wildlife in South America. In the past, much of it was used for grazing cattle; now, because of the efforts of the Tomkins and others, there is a concerted effort to return much of it back to its original and natural state. The Tompkins have also sponsored programs to reintroduce to these lands species of wildlife that were long ago hunted to extinction. The jaguar, peccary and giant anteater are a few. Already resident in abundance are the cayman and capybara. There are also over three hundred species of birds here including the large flightless rheas that we see every morning grazing on the lawn outside the house we are staying in.
Our estancia at the Rincon de Socorro
My spacious studio
and let me introduce you to a few of our neighbors: This is one of the local groups of Capaybara, these were the most ubiquitous mammals in the Esteros region, they are the largest members of the rodent family, that's right, giant rats! But actually they are very sweet and timid, strangest little critters you'll ever see.
Capybaras also have a weakness for mud baths,
and I mean serious mud baths
One of our other neighbors was so much more regal and elegant than those promiscuous Capybaras, this is the Nandu', or the South American Rhea, a relative of the Ostrich and like the Ostrich is a flightless bird, there are many of these in the Esteros.
This friendly one would graze outside our house all day
There were many others in the area and one morning we spotted a flock of the little ones passing through. It is the male Rhea who actually tends to the chicks after the eggs are hatched.
What fabulous photos! It's wonderful to share your journey. I've never seen baby rheas . Very cool that the males do the childcare!
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