A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

Central Argentina

sunny 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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Posted by duncan-alice 12:31 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Northern Argentina

sunny 34 °C

Quebrada de Humahuaca - Tilcara (27th December - 28th December)

We have now made it to Argentina, arriving at the border crossing in La Quiaca at 6am on the 27th after a cramped overnight bus ride down from Sucre. My first thoughts about Argentina...much more comfortable buses, we had comfy seats, aircon and a toilet on board, luxury! Our first stop in Argentina was the village of Tilcara, in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, and we enjoyed the bus ride there, surrounded by fantastic scenery as we drove down a wide valley with hills on either side.

Getting off bus in Tilcara, and out of the aircon, my second thought about Argentina was that is is blooming hot here! By the time we had arrived at midday the tempertaure was about 32 degrees and climbing. We got to the hostel and immediately changed into shorts and t-short and slapped on the suncream.
Our first afternoon in Tilcara we set exploring the village and visiting the nearby fortified ruin of Pucara. There wasn´t much left of these ruins, but it was nice strolling around in the sunshine and reading the odd information board. Then came the long wait until Argentine dinner time at 10pm...going to take a little getting used to this new eating schedule, and 6pm snacks are definitely needed!

Our second day in Tilcara we did a lot of walking, which was pretty hard work in the heat, but Duncan kept telling me was good practice for our trip to Patagonia in 3 weeks time! In the morning we walked to the "Garganta del Diablo", a gorge and waterfall a 12km round trip out of town. I was surprised by the amount of water in the falls, given the hot dry climate we were in. Then in the afternoon we walked out the opposite side of town and followed a dirt road through the countryside and past small adobe houses, with nice views of the red-coloured mountains in the background.

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Salta (29th December - 1st January)

Next stop in Northern Argentina was Salta, a big city, but with a very relaxed feel to the place. The relaxing feeling was probably partly due to our arrival on a Sunday during siesta time...absolutely nothing was open, and only a few people were braving the heat outside!

We took an organised tour from Salta on Monday to the village of Cachi, about 4 hours drive away. The highlight of the tour was the journey there, through some amazing scenery, ranging from lush green valleys to desert areas with lots of giant cacti, and a scary section of narrow winding road taking us up 2000m from Salta to Cachi. Cachi itself was a pleasant village, with a pretty plaze, but our 2 hour stop there for lunch and exploring was plenty, before we headed back to Salta.

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We spent the next 2 days in Salta itself, and soon discovered that whilst the city is very nice to stroll around, there really isn´t that much to actually do here. Instead we spent a lot of time sitting in the main plaza, picnicing in the park, and taking refuge from the heat in the air-conditioned supermarket. We also made the hike up Cerro San Bernando, a hill overlooking the city. Although the climb was not strenuous, we still arrived sweaty and hot at the top, and appreciated the breeze up there whilst we checked out the view.

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We had expected busy and bustling New Year´s Eve celebrations in Salta, and were shocked when on leaving our hostel that night that everything was shut...including the restaurants and bars! After walking round for 45mins with no luck, we finally found the one open restaurant in town, and were lucky enough to grab the last unreserved table. The food was great, and Duncan was happy tucking into our enormous grill for two, which included six huge chunks of various types of meat each, washed down with some good (and really cheap!) local wine. After dinner we headed to the main plaza, which was surprisingly empty, to see in the New Year with only about 50 other people. I guess New Year here is more of a "stay at home" celebration with family and friends. Nevertheless we had a good night, even if it wasn´t quite how we had anticipated it.

Cafayate (2nd January - 4th January)

Next stop was the small town of Cafayate, about 4 hours south of Salta, famous for it´s wine and scenery. On our first afternoon there we looked around the town, and found a great empanada place for lunch, called ´Casa de La Empanada´, which had a huge selection of fillings which were all great. We also went to a local goat farm, where we had a short tour to see the factory, meet the friendly goats, and try some of the cheese. Whilst there we met another couple from the UK (the first British people since arriving in Argentina), who we hit it off with, and met later on for drinks. They were doing a cycle tour of the Americas over 18 months, and I think they have inspired Duncan even more to try cycle tourism in future. Not sure I could manage their route though, as their next few days would be heading up over the Andes! On leaving the bar at 1am it started to rain, so Duncan and I hurried back to our hostel and bed before we got too wet...only to be awakened an hour later by rain pouring through the ceiling and soaking our bed! Needless to say it was not a good night´s sleep after that, curled up on a damp mattress underneath our plastic ponchos, listening to the rain drip down!

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Day 2 in Cafayate we dragged our tired bodies out of bed, hired bikes and took them on the bus 50km out of town along the Quebrada de Las Conchas for a day of cycling. The lack of sleep and having not cycled for months made the ride hard work for me, but the scenery made up for it, cycling along a river valley, with amazing hills and weird rock formations to see the whole way along. Unfortunately it started to rain (hard!) about 6km away from town, and we arrived back soaking yet again. Thankfully though we had managed to change room by this time, so warmed up with a shower then caught up on some sleep in the afternoon while the rain passed.

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Our final day in Cafayate we hired bikes again, and headed out to find some bodegas and sample the local wine. To begin with we had little success. We cycled along lanes through vineyards, but couldn´t find the first two bodegas labelled on our map, despite following signs saying they were only 300m away! Eventually we found a small ´artesanal´ bodega, and had a short tour and tasting. We were amazed to find that the wine here was less than 2 pounds a bottle, and delicious, so I couldn´t resist buying a bottle. After this we headed to two of the larger bodegas, and had more tastings, another tour, and of course bought more wine! We finished our cycle with more empanadas and some malbec and torrentes wine flavoured ice cream, yummy! Then we were back on the road, heading to Cordoba, 18 hours away...

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Posted by duncan-alice 16:07 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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