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El Impenetrable

Argentina’s mythical El Impenetrable is a land known to few outsiders. Covering over four million hectares, the flat land is yet covered with more than a million hectares of virgin forests bearing the hardest woods known to man and thorny underbrush—truly an impenetrable area. Only in the early 20th Century was this region conquered by the whites. For millennia, though, this has been the home of the Wichí and Q’om nations.

El Impenetrable has a semi-arid, sub-tropical climate. Only 600-700 millimeters (24-28 in) of rain falls per year, mostly November-February, though it can extend into April. Winter temperatures are 19-22ºC (66-72ºF). In summer it gets up to 45-54ºC (113-129ºF). It is said to be the hottest region in South America.

The main gateway into El Impenetrable is JJ Castelli. To the north is Villa Río Bermejito, which lends access to the northeast sector of the zone. The center hub is Misión Nueva Pompeya, with El Sauzalito and other small Wichí settlements to its north and Fuerte Esperanza, Reserva Natural Loro Hablador and Reserva Ecoturística Tantanacuy to the south.

In El Impenetrable, services become scarce. None of the towns have tourism offices. The municipalidad (city hall) may be able to provide basic information. JJ Castelli is the last town of note where supplies can be picked up at reasonable prices. It is also the last place with ATMs.

El Impenetrable is a place best explored on tour or with your own vehicle, as public transportation only arrives to the major points. Backpackers with time and patience can ask local police or other public agencies for rides to the region’s other hamlets. If you are up for an adventure into uncharted territory, try taking a boat across the Río Teuco and find a mototaxi or other local transport to destinations in Formosa Province.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

12 May 2010

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