As if our day at the cataratas hadn't provided us with enough adventure, we had a particularly eventful bus trip to Buenos Aires. Our bus left Puerto Igauzu around three p.m. The highways was being blocked by a group of maté growers, or materos, protesting unfair compensation. The price of maté to the consumer had increased, but the producers weren't seeing any of that money. This is similar to what is happening with milk prices in the US, greatly effecting the dairy farms in central New York, where I live, and putting many of them out of business. When I asked our bus driver why we were stopped, he blamer it one diez perejiles locos. While I can't translate this comment and retain the nuance, it literally means "ten crazy parsleys."
Maté is a vital part of Argentine daily life (as well as Uruguayan, Paraguayan and Chilean) and national identity, especially in the northeastern province of Misiones where the bulk of it is grown. It is traditionally drunk out a gourd, dried and hollowed out, through a bombilla (left), a metal straw with a strainer at the bottom to keep you from sucking up the leaves, is a social event. The maté (the gourd itself) is filled with yerba (pictured below, the dried leaves from a plant related to the holly family), top it with almost boiling water from a kettle or thermos, drink, refill with water before passing it to the next person. The drink is bitter, so many people ad sugar until they develop a taste for it.