05.01.2014 - 18.01.2014 32 °C
Cordoba (5th January - 6th January)
From Cafayate we took a bus to Tucuman and then another overnight bus to Cordoba. Travel by bus is alot more expensive here than the rest of South America but you get what you pay for including a 2 course meal!
We arrived in Cordoba on a Sunday to a dead city. Rarely anything opens on a Sunday in Argentina so we had a walk around the city before eating lunch in a park and spending the afternoon taking shelter in the air conditioned hostel from the heat outside. In the late afternoon we went to an art gallery and a craft fair, then bought steaks to cook on the BBQ at the hostel - a recurring thing over the next three weeks.
The next day we couldnt believe how busy and buzzing the city was compared to Sunday. We tried to go to a few museums but they were shut for their summer holiday so spent the afternoon picking up the money we had transferred - in Argentina there is a black market for dollars as the people have no faith in their own currency, so we were able to transfer money from our bank account in the UK and get about 35% more for our money than if we just withdrew it from the cash machine - definitely worthwhile the effort of waiting in a Western Union style office for an afternoon.
Although Cordoba was a lovely city we didnt find a great deal to do so were happy to get out the city and go into the Cordoba Sierras.
Cordoba Sierras (7th January - 8th January)
It was a two hour bus ride to Villa General Belgrano, a small town in the mountains where we stayed for a night. Due to a mixup when phoning the hostel to confirm our room we got our room for half the price which was a nice bonus. Straightaway we took another bus to a village further into the mountains called La Cumbrecita. It was packed with Argentine tourists but it was a pleasant afternoon walking around the small village admiring the waterfalls and views.
For dinner we bought some sausages and salad on the way back. There were a lot of people in the outdoor kitchen area preparing their meals, which largely consisted of red meat either cooked in the wood fired oven or on the BBQ. There is an art to BBQing Argentinian style (yes it is differnt from at home, no charcoal and firelighters here!) and we felt a bit intimidated by trying to use the BBQ so were going to fry our sausages until some guy offered to show me how it was done. In the end, the guy basically cooked our sausages for us which was great, although they looked a little pathetic next to his enormous 2kg slab of meat!
Mendoza (9th January - 12th January)
We explored the city on our first day, visiting a few museums and taking shelter from the sun in the tree covered plazas. At the hostel we joined in with a cooking class, and learned how to make traditional empanadas which is another dish to be added to our foreign cusine repertoire.
The next day we took a bus to the countryside where we hired bikes and cycled to a few vineyards. The vineyards were within 10km so it wasnt too far to cycle. Our first stop was at a French owned winery which was a bit posh but the guy gave a very good tour. Next we stopped at an Italian owned winery where we had a tour of the historic wine making factory from the 19th century for about an hour which was very interesting and then more wine tasting. The server was very generous with her servings so we basically had a glass of wine for each wine we tasted! It definitely made cycling harder but it wasn't far to our lunch stop, a beer garden where we enjoyed cold ales in the glorious sunshine. Having had enough alcohol, we visited a olive oil / deli style farm where we tasted oils, jams and liqueurs. Favourites included Chardonnay jam and the olive tampanade. To top off a great day the man we rented our bikes from gave us a bottle of wine (we're still not quite sure why!) so we went back that and our own purchases to drink at the hostel. I really wanted to try a proper Argentine style BBQ after learning from the guy in Villa Belgrano, so we bought a kilo of meat to give it a go...however someone took away the grill so we had nothing to cook it on which annoyed me. Instead we roasted it in the oven for about an hour and had amazing succulent beef. Even buying cheap steaks from the supermarket taste so good here!
The next day we were up early for a rafting trip on the Rio Mendoza. It was a beautiful day so we were looking forward to it. We spent about an hour rafting down the river, which despite the air temperature being in the 30s, was a refreshing 8 degrees. The rapids were excellent - probably the best we have been on and Alice and I were at the front so we had a lot of fun! Alice really didnt enjoy having to jump out the raft though, far too cold in the water! Having made sure there would be a grill today we went to the supermarket to buy another big slab of meat and some veg to do on the BBQ. Traditionally, they make a fire from wood and then use a shovel to sprinkle the embers under a grill. It took a while to get the fire going and then we had to wait for embers but in the meantime we prepared the meat and some cheese and tomato stuffed peppers to BBQ. Although we had to be patient, and didn't eat until 10.30pm, the meal was amazing!
Our final day in Mendoza we spent climbing a hill (good practice for Patagonia is how I persuaded Alice to do it). It was well over thirty degrees and very sticky which didnt make the steep climb much fun but we got great views of the city and valley from the top.
Rosario (13th January)
Rosario, famous for being the birthplace of Che Guevara and the hometown of Lionel Messi, was a relaxing day stop on the way to Buenos Aires. We explored the city and walked along the river front before cooking ourselves another BBQ at night. Alice is slowly getting sick of red meat but I am in heaven!
Buenos Aires (14th January - 18th January)
It was a four hour bus ride to BA from Rosario.
We spent the next three days fully exploring BA and reckon that we covered about 65km by foot which was no mean feat in the searing heat. BA was a city we both took to very quickly and we enjoyed exploring the different districts - from the parks in Belgrano, antique markets in San Telmo to walking around Puerto Madero and its Docklands and nature reserve. For us La Boca was a bit disappointing, some brightly painted houses which were quaint surrounded by hundreds of tourists and multiple tourist tat shops. Alice was desperate to go to a tango show and class so despite my reluctance we did both, seeing a traditional show one night, which was very impressive, followed by a class the next day. I think more than one class is required to make me a dancer, but it a good experience anyway. Alice is keen to try again at home, but I'll find some excuse to avoid it!