- The cold strikes back
- The pleasures of la Reloceta
- The perfect bus ride
- Cordoba – the cultural capital of Argentina
- When a Bavarian got homesick in 1932
- Climbing la Cumbricita´s Cerro Wank
- Starting to travel the Latinamerican way
I am in La Cumbrecita now, one of the most peculiar places I have ever seen. When I wrote to you last, I had just come back from a feast in the Pampas of Argentina. I had to pay my tribut, after several days in bed I finally got onto my feet again, spent a nice last day in Buenos Aires, visited the cultural capital of Cordoba and am now sitting in a wooden mountain house in the Western Sierras!
The cold strikes back
On Thursday I finally “stopped being a pussy” (Juan) and went outside again. It was a brilliant, cold winter day. The main problem is that when I was planning this trip I looked up the weather from London and I saw that in Buenos Aires it had 20 degrees. I concluded that winter in Southamerica is generally overrated and that one jumper and 8kg of luggage in total would do to stay warm. Then I got here and found out that that day was the very exception and that the norm is 10 to -5 degrees!!! That has several consequences: first, I had to steal Juan´s favorite winter coat and he said I would not leave alive Southamerica if I lose it (especially in the Altiplanos de Bolivia this turned out to be true). But at least with this I am very warm. Second, I have to change my plans considerably. I mean, it is obvious and I don´t know why I couldn´t realize this before, but trying to cross a 4300m Andes pass when it´s -15 degrees outside is not necessarily the best idea.
So yeah here I am with Juan´s coat and my plan now sees me in Cordoba first, checking out the Sieras, and then heading on to the wine capital of Argentina, Mendoza, before crossing into Chile through the main border crossing (even this one, at “only” 2800m closes frequently in winter).
The pleasures of la Reloceta
Back to Buenos Aires. I sorted out some stuff concerning my Erasmus and then went to La Reloceta, a quarter northwest of the centre which was composed of just a monastery until 1870, when a yellow fever epidemic in central BA led to many people relocating here. It is famous for the Cementerio de la Recoleta, probably the oldest and most traditional cemetery in town. It is completely different from the ones I know from back in Europe. Here, the oldest families of BA have proper mausoleums, one next to the other. All of them are decorated, have sculptures guarding the dead and all of this looked beautiful against the background turquoise of the sky.
I went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which was very nice, but I only used it to fill the gap between visiting la Recoleta and meeting Juan for our last lunch in BA. He took me to the Club de la Milanesa, which is supposed to make the best Milanesas in town. Basically a Milanesa is like a Pizza: you get toppings, such as mozzarella, tomatoes, ruccola, ham, mushrooms, whatever, but now the tiny little difference: the base is not made of paste, it´s made of breaded beef! So awesome! I had Milanesa Patagonica (mozzarella, rocket, dried tomatoes and ham) served with papas rusticas, top! So yeah we had one last heavy meal and then I headed home to prepare myself for the ride!
The perfect bus ride
It is a 780km journey from BA to Cordoba. I think this is quite a distance, I mean in Thailand it would take 15 hours, in India 20, and in Nepal probably a week. In Argentina – 8 hours, with breaks! And guys, the buses. I made a picture, just look at it. This is a standard ticket, the cheapest they have. Everyone gets a huge ultra comfy chair, which you can basically turn into a bed, then an individual TV, which I didn´t use, but still! I slept like a baby. If I compare this to bus rides in Nepal with a 1000 slowly dying day old live chicks on the seat next to me, the baby of a stranger on my lap and the fear of dying 24/7, this was heaven. I have also heard of fellow travelers getting a steak before going to sleep and breakfast in the morning, served to your seat, for the same fare that I paid.
Instead of arriving at 8.30 am though, we arrived at 6.20, so still dark in Cordoba. I didn’t want to stay in the train station and tried to make my way to the hostel, it was dark and absolutely freezing. Without Juan´ s coat I wound not have made it the 15 blocks to the hostel!
Cordoba – the cultural capital of Argentina
So Cordoba! The second biggest city in Argentina is mostly known for its culture. It boasts several museums, a variety of churches and the oldest university in Argentina. What I really like were the short distances. Everything noteworthy is within a couple of blocks. Moreover, the entire centre is for pedestrians only and the roads covered by arches of beautiful trees.
I spent the day wandering around town, gazing at the interesting mix of architecture that you can even find mixed up in one single buildings, as some churches took several centuries to finish. It was freezing cold though and I was forced to buy a scarf and some gloves from the infinity of street vendors, who all sell exactly the same products and are lined up every 10 m all over the city.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find too much stuff to do, as the centre is quite small and all the museums I planned to visit were closed (classic). They do have amazing paragliding around Cordoba which I really wanted to do, but the prices doubled compared to my 2010 Lonely Planet and that money is better invested in food, especially empanadas, which are just succulent in Cordoba. A nice pastry which is usually filled with meat, chilly and onion and then baked in the oven until crispy. Cheap and very, very tasty.
When I realized that Cordoba was not a city I wanted to spend several days at I looked into my guidebook and started reading about La Cumbricita. 10 minutes later my ticket to this place 120km southeast of Cordoba was booked.
When a Bavarian got homesick in 1932
In 1932 a Bavarian called Helmut emigrated to Argentina with his family. Soon after he got here, he got slightly homesick, bought 500 hectares of land in the arid Sierras of Cordoba and started irrigating the land and planting trees. He convinced some other Bavarians, Austrians and Tyrolese to move here and La Cumbricita was born.
75 years later this place is just weird. It is a completely over the top, kitsch mountain village, located in a valley that looks like southern California with villagers that are Argentinian, but their ancestors come from Bavaria, Austria and Tyrol. I mean they have Elisen Lebkuchen, Früchtebrot, Spätzle and an altar for the God of beer. What makes it even better, is that this is not a Disneyland-style, artificial village, rather the villagers who first populated this place decided to have it like that.
Climbing la Cumbricita´s Cerro Wank
Despite all the peculiar Bavarian looks of this village, it is a beautiful place! Located at 1400m of altitude, it is surrounded by the incredible Sierras of Cordoba, it has three rivers floating through it and lots of hiking opportunities.
I got an absolutely breath-taking day. The sky is of a blue/turquoise I have never seen before. When I woke up in the bus this morning at 8am and looked out of the window I just couldn’t wait to go hiking. So as soon as I got here, I bought some warm home-baked bread, some Emmentaler and 2 Kaminwurzen (Bavarian sausages): let´s do this Cerro Wank! This is really the name of the peak, although in Spanish the “W” is not really pronounced, still hilarious I find.
It was a 1.5 hours hike up a granite stone path and when I got to the top, boah, an incredible view of the valley, La Cumbricita, the sky and the lakes which are close to Cordoba. I had my lunch up there in solitude, stayed until I finally surrendered to the cold and walked back down.
Starting to travel the Latinamerican way
Now I am chilling in my hostel, which is basically just a mountain house. I got here after 4 hours of bus rides and they told me that they didn’t have space. But then I looked so sad that a local guy who lives in the basement offered me to sleep in his room with his sister and his brother.
Foodwise I switched to the most basic stuff you can imagine. It´s the first time I am travelling and can´t afford to eat out. So I either buy the cheapest pasta with some tomato sauce or, which is awesome with this cold, I buy a bunch of vegetables and make myself a nice big pot of soup. Knowing how to cook comes very handy when travelling like this
Now that I have left Buenos Aires and Cordoba, Spanish is not an option any more, it´s a must. Most people do not really speak English and I feel stupid not speaking Spanish, as I know that I could learn it with more effort, But I do find it more difficult than I thought, all these irregular verbs, and you do need to use around 4 tenses to have a normal conversation. That is something I will work on now.
Tonight I am heading back to Cordoba just to get my night bus to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina! That should be awesome and I can´t wait to take a scooter and visit all those wine yards! On the 9th it is also national day of independence with parties all over the country. So wine and fiesta, sounds good to me.
Hasta luego viejos