San Ignacio was our first stop, since it is the best restored mission in Argentina. When we arrived early afternoon, the city was baking. There were no people in the street and no sound to be heard, not even a dog barking. We checked into Hotel San Ignacio, one of four accommodations in town and the first hotel we passed, actually the most comfortable one. It was quite a funny place, a hotel & bar and pool hall in the evening. You could also buy mobile phones at the reception. There we hid until 7 o’clock, when it had finally cooled down enough to visit the very sight.
There is a small museum that very tastefully displays various objects and explains the history of the missions. At 21:15 o’clock, there was an equally well done sound and light show with a brief lecture on the architecture of the church, called Guarani baroque.
The ruins are slowly being restored with the most impressive remnant being the enormous red sandstone church, or what is left of it. The portal of the church is especially intriguing with its exquisite carving. The side walls of the church are supported by wooden beams. Most amazing is that large parts of the original floor tiles were recovered, naturally this part is fenced off. Also many living quarters and workshops have been restored. None of the remnants has a roof though. We were the last ones to leave after the light show. This was truly magic to be alone in this large wooded area lit with a few golden lights hidden in the trees.
The next day we took the bus to Santa Ana, got off at the wrong place and walked 6 kilometers altogether to finally see the ruins. There is very left to be seen, parts of the walls of the church have been freed from the vegetation and small trees that have literally grown into the stone walls. Here also lived over 4.000 Guarani, but only two Jesuits.
What is most fascinating about Santa Ana is the location in the middle of the rainforest. This makes it an almost mystical place. There is no sound to be heard, except that of birds and noisy crickets.
Next to the church there is the old cemetery from Jesuits times, but it was used by the local population until 1985. Now it is abandoned and nature has taken back this place like it did with most of the buildings. The cemetery is truly groovy, the doors of some of the old crypts are open and you can see the coffins on the shelves.
Being fascinated by graveyards, Heidi checked the tombstones closely and discovered an “Ing.” behind the weed. Being Austrian where adding a title to your name is an obsession, she became more curious. She removed the weed and here we go: Ing. Juan Brunner from Tyrol is buried here, the tombstone giving all information in German. For non-Austrian: after graduating from a technical high school and three year of experience in a job, you are allowed to carry this title.
What we also enjoyed about traveling in the northeast of Argentina was the fact that there are very few tourists, and those you meet are from Argentina or Brazil.