Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Solo via Argentina

So I left Simone in Santiago Saturday night and hopped right on the overnight bus to Mendoza, Argentina. I took the cheapest option since it wasn´t a long enough trip to sleep properly anyway so I ended up on a mini-bus that just kind of took off with only 6 other people. What a bumpy ride! It was dark but I assume we went through some pretty spectactular mountains. Went through the tiny border crossing at about 1:30am to get your 2 stamps, no questions asked. The bus driver said we would arrive about 5:30 and there would be a bus at 6:30 for Cordoba so I thought okay, just an hour. Well 4:10am... south american time is supposed to be a hlaf hour behind! Luckily I ran into an extremely nice Irish girl who didn´t feel like finding a hostal at that hour so agree to wait around with me. Very lucky indeed since none of the bank machines worked and there was no currency exchange so I was penniless. Was able to buy my ticket to Cordoba by credit card and then exchange a bit of Chilean money for 2 argentinian pesos with the Irish girl, just enough to pay to pee and tip the baggage guy. I really don´t like travelling alone. That is the 3rd time I´ve had to be bailed out because my bank card didn´t work. Also luckily, I still had some food with me since they only searched the luggage and not the bus at the border and never asked me to declare anything. Mmmmmm, new favourite fruit: lucuma. And these bite-sized crushed peanuts in chocolate, delish! Why has no one else thought that up yet?
Arrived in Cordoba smelling like I´d been travelling for a day and half straight, since I had been. I have such fantastic friends that will still take me in, in my hobo state and let me shower. It was so great see Kate again, una amiga para siempre, and get all caught up. That evening we walked to the street market, one of the best if not the best I´ve ever seen! I could spent thousands but instead spent virtually nothing since I have no room. It had food, crafts, antiques, anything and everything! Kate had studied there for a year so she was a fabulous guide, it was great to see a city from a little bit more of an insider´s perspective and not just a tourist passing through for the day. I really liked Cordoba, it´s a huge city but still has a small city feel. It´s a university city with a really artsy, bohemian vibe, jam packed with ´kioskos´ (corner stores that sell everything), clothing boutiques, bookstores and cafés. I could easily live there despite the intense heat. Plus, I didn´t feel like a gringa, or at least not until I opened my mouth. (the argentinian accent is different again, lots of ´j´ and vos instead of tu, but at least they speak slower than Chile so I have a chance of understanding!) People in Cordoba don´t look latino at all, even less than Chile. Here in the north I stick out a tiny bit.
Argentian food is fairly bland like Chile, just minus the seafood. However, they do have some yummy stuff. I cheated and had my bit of Argentian beef on a Sandwich milanesa. The best part are the sweets, lots of chocolate and peanuts. Their speciality are these big filled and chocolate covered cookies called álfajores´, a tiny bit like a wagonwheel but with dulce de leche instead of marshmallow filling. I admit to eating way too many. And of course maté, everywhere! Oh, and they have fresh milk! (not UHT) So I had my first glass in 4 months. and likely my only for the next 3.5 months...
We also cooked brunch one morning: French toast with real Canadian maple syrup! Love the randomness. Kate´s friend´s friend left him a whole bunch, it was delicious.
Enough about the food.
Monday, Kate accompanied me around the city running errands, hostel and bus tickets. Then we took off to the nearby town of Alta Gracia. Really nice place in the hills where a lot of rich Argentians used to move to as the air was good for people with lung problems. Including Che Guevara´s family to help his asthma. So we got to check out the museum set up right in his actual childhood home! Very cool. Full of pictures, letters and other real memorabilia. I love when museum have that authentic feel to then and you can really picture young Ernesto running around in the backyard. Plus the town was lovely, with a large pond in a park and everything so clean and calm. (and some of the best ice cream!)
Tuesday Kate was unfortunately not feeling well. So I left her to get some rest and went by myself to another nearby town of Villa General Belgrano. Crazy place: it´s German. Or at least wants to be pretty badly! The entire town is Bavarian style buildings with wooden signs, restaurants selling beer, sauerkraut and sausages. Just great! All the hostels and stores have named themselves after German cities, I´m pretty they just take a map a pick the next biggest city that hasn´t already been taken. However, it wasn´t like Southern Chile, no one spoke German and everything there looked Argentinian. I wasn´t there for the beer obviously so I took a gruelling (because of the intense heat and crazy eroded stairs glittering with mica) hike up a mountain to the top where there a statue of the Virgin and spectacular views of the whole valley. Very dry but still nice landscape.
That night (last night) we walked around the center of the city with gorgeous squares and pedestrians streets. Then we made an early (9pm!) stir-fry dinner for Kate´s friend´s family (such nice and interesting people, always a privilege to meet those kind!) and then I had to grab my stuff and head off to the bus station for an overnight bus to Salta, a city in the north where I am now.
Got in about 11am, bought my bus ticket to San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile for tomorrow, found a decent hostel (but more expensive than my book says, as everything seems to be.) And set out to discover this city, once again on foot. I really like the vibe here too. It feels a bit more South American but still more safe and orderly. I did some shopping (leggings and better shoes to help me survive Uyuni which I´ve been told can reach -20C (!!)) Then headed uphill to check out the other much cheaper archeology museum since I´d seen a mummy in Osorno. From there I decided to hike up the mountain (despite the sign at the bottom warning me it was another 1111 stairs up.... in the killer heat... somehow I made it.) So hot here... and I know I can´t complain after freezing Patagonia. They say this isn´t normal either, it´s too hot here and too cold there. Crazy.
Well, the view and the exercise made it worth it. The top has a nice park with a cafeteria. Most people take the gondola up and just stroll around but I hiked up and down so just sat for awhile at the top. All the down 1111 stairs and a hill again, time for a snack.... like a litre of chocolate milk to myself....
This evening I walked around the crazy market area, I just love wandering around busy markets. And now internet and bed as it´s up bright and early and onto the bus, again.... So much for slowing down, I live on buses. But the plan is to take Bolivia slower and I can´t wait!
First, San Pedro de Atacama and Salar de Uyuni!!
So chao to Argentina, I would´ve loved to spend more time here I really enjoyed the taste I got and the people are so friendly.
Sorry for the lack of pictures once again, I actually have some now but this computer has neither card reader nor usb port. On the upside it´s the cheapest I´ve been in which is good since I´ve now managed to spend all my argentinian pesos.

No comments:

Post a Comment