From Roque SÃ¡enz PeÃ±a, Ruta Nacional 95 heads north to Ruta Provincial 9 and JJ Castelli. The flatland is occasionally broken by farm fields, cattle pastures and the splash of a small lagoon.
Upon entering Castelli, the archway welcomes visitors to the Portal del Impenetrableâ€”and this is precisely what this town is: the gateway in the Chacoâ€™s El Impenetrable. From Castelli, one road goes north to Villa RÃo Bermejito on the northeast edge of the region and another highway west to MisiÃ³n Nueva Pompeya and other settlements in its interior.
This part of the Chaco plains were inhabited for many moons by the Qâ€™om and WichÃ indigenous peoples. The first white colonists came from Salta in 1910. At the hand of these newcomers, cotton bloomed across this landscape between 1919 and 1923. Castelli town began as a settlement of some 40 families raising cattle. Once the Resistencia-Roque SÃ¡enz PeÃ±a railroad was completed, 300 Russian-German families made their ways the last hundred kilometers to make this home. Later, other Eastern and Central Europeans came. The town was officially founded October 3, 1936 and named for Juan JosÃ© Castelli, a revolutionary in Argentinaâ€™s fight for independence from Spain. Three years later, the Ferrocarril Central Norte Argentino stretched from SÃ¡enz PeÃ±a to Castelli.
The modern city sprawls across the Chaco plains. The Plaza San MartÃn has a large center space and islands of trees providing scant shade surrounding an obelisk dedicated to the first European settlers here. On one side of the square is Iglesia Nuestra SeÃ±ora del Valle, a modern brick church with a round bell tower on one corner. A few blocks away is the basic Museo HistÃ³rico Regional (irregular hours. 400-block of Rivadavia).
There isnâ€™t much to do in JJ Castelli, except to stock up on provisions before going into El Impenetrable. This is the last place with ATMs and a good selection of supplies. It is also from where buses to MisiÃ³n Nueva Pompeya and El Sauzalito depart.
(Altitude: 103 m / 338 ft, Population: 24,333, Phone Code: 03732)
Civil offices are the Municipalidad (Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.-noon) and police (Sarmiento and 25 de Mayo). Both banks have ATMs, though may be out of cash Friday-Sunday: Nuevo Banco del Chaco (Sarmiento and VÃ¡squez, near the main plaza; another ATM at GÃ¼emes and Sarmiento), Banco de la NaciÃ³n (Sarmiento and Belgrano; also Western Union agent). Other services include post office (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 4-7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-noon), Internet, Hospital MartÃn Miguel de GÃ¼emes (Av. GÃ¼emes, 1 block west of Av. HÃ©roes de Malvinas, Tel.: 47-1050) and several pharmacies.
Carlos Schumann (San MartÃn 500, Tel.: 47-1073 / 47-1363 / 1546-8128, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, URL: www.ecoturchaco.com.ar)â€”alternative adventure tours to El Impenetrable, Teuco, Villa RÃo Bermejito
Hotel Schreiber (GÃ¼emes 436, Tel.: 47-1231)â€”single $14-17, double $23-26
Hotel Guc (GÃ¼emes 534, Tel.: 47-1217)â€”single $17, double $29
Hotel Florencia (San MartÃn 840, Tel.: 47-1426 / 1557-6841)â€”single $23, double $40
Some hotels have their own diners. The town has a few autoservicio supermarkets.
Club del Progreso-Restaurant Dionyâ€™s (VÃ¡squez, between San MartÃn and Sarmiento)
ConfiterÃa Cisne (San MartÃn, between Lauth and Salta, Tel.: 45-9369)
Restaurant-Bar 12 Caras (Sargento Cabral and San MartÃn)
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