A Travellerspoint blog

Lunching with Strangers

in Rosario

sunny 36 °C
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After having a few more gret days in Cordoba we decided to try our luck in Rosario as we headed towards Uruguay. Rosario is supposedly ´Rocking´at the wekends so where better to go.

We arrived early evening on the Thursday so there was still plenty time to head on out. A few blocks from the hostel we came across the Monumento Nacional A La Bandea. This is a national monument built to hoour the man who designed the Argentinian flag. It´s pretty amazing and stands at almost 80m tall. I read that the designer rests in a crypt below. We managed to go up to the top nd the views over the city, the local Parana river and the islands is superb. To top it off there was an orchestra playing some sort of concert at the bottom. Normally that´s not exactly my cup of tea but it felt quite apt there and then.

A huge reason the city is so popular is the man made beaches running along the Parana river so we decided to hike up the river on the Friday given the weather was it´s usual brilliant self. It runs for almost 15km so it´s quite a walk in the heat. The girl behind the hostel desk was quick to tell us how beautiful it was but in all honesty it was nothing more than average and I think I am being kind. The beach itself was nice though but by then we were needing to seek cover from the sun so off for lunch it was and it wasn´t long before we were breaking the golden rule .... no drinking in the sun .... it´s bloomin´dangerous I reckon, and I should probably know. Walking home was less of an option now so we took cover in the local shopping centre where I made my first Boca purchase. Christ, I am now wering sleeveless tops. Whatever next.

We decided that if we had some sleep now then we could go out and experience the ´rocking´nightlife Rosario has to offer. When we were out we came across a local festival of Tango. I hadn´t really seen much Tango in Argentina as yet but what I had seen was definately younger, sexier and better, as I was lead to believe it should be. Anyway, we eventually made it to a bar/restaurant/club type place called Soho. Apparently that´s where it´s at in Rosario. It was a mix between a 70´s, 80´s and 90´s night wih some 00´s thrown in for good measure. Basically I think they just couldn´t decide I reckon. The men (mostly elderly) were all drinking champagne in order to lure the ladies. I am quite sure these weren´t the wives so to speak. We got talking to some guys called Sebastian and Rodrigo after a short while and in the end we spent the whole night talking to Rodrigo. By this time Sebastian had gone awol. Rodrigo didn´t seem too worried by this so no worries. Come the end of the evening, or rather the middle of the night Rodrigo invited us to meet his family and spend Sunday with them at their weekend home nearby. This is quite an honour by all accounts so I took his number and said we would give him a call later .....

Saturday was a fairly quiet day by our standards. We took in a few of the travel guide attractions. Unfortunately I had hurt my foot pretty badly but since I am a stubborn Aberdonian I still found it in me to walk half the city length. We ended up at some park on a pedalo which was surprisingly good fun. Only in Argentina could 3 people be employed to get you on a pedalo. One to take the money, one to take the ticket 2 yards later and one to make sure you didnt drown as you got onto the darned thing!!

Sunday was upon us. We had discussed the date at length and I was now to phone Rodrigo. In the UK there is no way you would put your trust in a total stranger and get in their car and travel 20 or 30 odd miles to a house in the country side. I hope when Rodrigo reads this he doesnt think any less of us for thinking so much about it. It's an unfortunate reality of the lives we live today that we need to be a little wary of something that seems too good to be true.

The reality ...... probably the best day I have had travelling, maybe one of the best days of my life. Rodrigo picked us up a little before noon. As per Friday night we were chatting away as if we had been friends for quite some time. We picked his sister Veronica up along with her boyfriend and we spent the journey discussing university and life after. The differences are quite amazing really. I felt embarrssed to have so many holidays for example. We arrived at the family home and it was beautiful, a 2 bedroom house in a little land with a pool out front. Paola, Rodrigo's girlfriend of 7 years, made us feel extremely welcome. Then there was his mother Lidia and father Rodolfo who quite simply could not do enough for us. Lidia was an English teacher of quite a number of years and Paola spoke perfect English. They mocked Rodrigo on his English skills but in all honesty he put our Spannish to shame. Not many topics weren't covered over the course of the day, least not the amazing asado we had ... thank you Rodolfo. At this point I should mention the grandmother. As all grandmothers do she took care of us all, making sure Ali ate enough for instance. As if Ali wouldn't eat when hungry!! An afternoon was spent by the pool with lots more chat. Education, history, politics, religion, work, the list goes on. It was an amazing afternoon and I really am not doing it justice here. To be invited truely was an honour and we felt it was one shared by our hosts. I ended up in the house before long playing a card game called Canasta. I am not too bad at picking up games but this was something else. Four packs of cards plus jokers and a whole new ruleset to get to grips with. Of course Lidia won in a race to 10,000 points but I think I hit arout 5k and I was more than satisfied with that. Paola said it was some achievement and I took that on board given Lidia had played the game pretty much every day since she was 15 years old. It has since come to my attention that Giuliano (Paulo's son) has passed some exams to enter him into a very important school. Congratulations young man, good luck with it.

Rodrigo and Paola took us home late that night and not satisfied with feeding us a ridiculous amount they invited us for dinner. We politely declined as we had to pack for the remainder of our journey. Sometimes you can't say thank you enough. I'm going to say it again. Thanks Rodrigo, you made Rosario very special mate and you´re certaily not a stranger any more.

Posted by tricky 10:58 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Peace at Last

in Sunny La Cumbre

sunny 40 °C
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La Cumbre is a small town around 2 hours from Cordoba. It`s a quiet little town known for little other than paragliding, horse riding, hiking and relaxation. The paragliding brilliance is due to it`s positioning within the Sierra`s, a range of mountains.

We booked into the local hostel 10 mins from the centre. The deciding factor had to be the pool. In this climate a pool is bloody essential. A 5 min dip now and again gives you a great cool down. We were welcomed into the hostel with open arms. A mid aged couple run it and they have 3 dogs and 4 kids. Not exacly peace and quiet like I had imagined! Mind you, at least they stay a block away at night time. We were instantly invited to join them, and the 3 other guests, to the bbq (asado) that night. House rules dictate you must take at least 1 bottle of mid priced wine per couple and provide some food. No worries, we`re there. We had a superb evening there with some good banter but not before we had a good trek around the town and surrounding area`s. Above the town lies another Cristo statue. Not quite a spectacular as the one over Rio but brilliant nonetheless. I also found a golf course where we managed to sample a cheeky beer. Think I`ll probably head there for some golf tomorrow morning. Looks very very nice indeed.

Basically we`ve spent 3 days here now and done very little other than sun it up, eat and drink. Well, we`ve done paragliding but that`s worth it`s own entry later ....

oh heck, here it comes, I might not get another decent computer for a while .....

Friday 30th November, morning, 8.30am ish ..... we`ve done the bbq the night before.

There is a loud knock on the door. I answer it. Yes?
It`s the owner. The paragliding guide is here. Who? The paragliding guide, you pair said you would do it as soon as there was an opportunity and that is now. You must go while the winds are good.

Christ.
Shorts are pulled on, we grab the suncream, sunglasses, camera, some dosh and that`s about it. There`s not even time for breakfast let alone to brush teeth or have a shower! Before we knew it we were in some clapped out van heading out of town down a dirt path and we pick some more folk up. Ali quips that it`s like being in a Patrik Swayze movie and I cast my mind back to Point Break where he hauls Johnny Depp out of bed to do a sky dive. She`s bang on. Still, there is no time to brick it or pull out now, we`re in it to our knee`s.

Eventually we arrive at the summit. It`s only 380m says the guide. Aye, easy to say when your not hanging off the edge. The world championships were held here in 1999. The views are absolutely breathtaking. This is without doubt one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. That`s an afterthought by the way, there was no time for thinking!!

"Richard, you`ve got Paulo" is shouted at me. By this time Ali is being strapped up in some sort of harness and shaking like a leaf. Clearly papping herself a little. Only natural as I was too. Must be the norm. Some other Portugese guy was there to do his first solo flight. We watched him run down the hill and off he went. Tremendous. He didn`t fly for long and the guides and instructors all talked to him on the radio`s. He was down and safe, a job well done. I`d tell him so if I ever got down I said to myself.

Ali is up next. The craic is you run like mad and jump when they say so. Well, the wind came and off they went. Ali jumped a little early but who could blame her when the rocks were so mad. Either way she was up, up and away and my nerves were at ease knowing she went first and was safe. Next was me. Paulo said run so I ran like Forest Gump down the hill then jumped like Jonathan Edwards when he said jump. Might as well do it proper I told myself. Wow, unreal, amazing, not really any proper words for it to be fair. We were up there flying over canyons, catching thermals and chasing bloomin`big birds. A few times we were pretty close to the rocks but I felt more than safe now and totally loved it. I chatted with Paulo as if we were having a beer over the bar. It was all very relaxed although the pictures may say different. Turns out I am flying with the guy who only went and won the world championships when they were in La Cumbre. Class, I am definately safe. By now Ali has landed safely and I can breathe another sigh of relief. Paulo then asked if I fancied doing some spirals. That sounded pretty cool so we went for it even though I had no idea what that entailed whatsoever.

Ok, so my face is pulled back, my eyes are almost bleeding, my head is in a crazy spin, I am almost sick and passing out. Frikin heck it was good. Paulo later tells me we are pulling 2.5 - 3 G`s up there. I am not sure where that measures on the scale but it`s an unreal feeling. At least all I had to do was hold on for my life. We pulled a few more of these crazy manouvers and then called it a day. The weather was perfect for it though and we could have flown for hours with the thermals on top form.

Down on the landing strip Paulo showed me a birds nest with 4 eggs in it. Micro seconds later 2 birds are swooping at me and little does he know I am completely papping it. They soon left us alone though. That could well be the end of me hating birds.

Next up we are on the banks of one of the nicest small rivers. Paulo tells me this is his office and it`s time for a swim, beer and funnily enough another bbq. Awesome day. Truely spectacular and if you ever get the chance you must run like the wind and jump off that cliff.

As we made our way home we picked up a hiker. Turns out he is the world record holder for these spirals and he`s on his way to do a display so we tag along. Unfortunately the wind wasn´t right but up there at the top Ali and I were able to reflect on what had been a magical few hours and put into some sort of perspective what we had done.

I`m not even sure if TJ will believe Ali did it but I have the pics so I`ll get them on later.

Posted by tricky 12:48 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Argentina`s Heart

Living it up in Cordoba

sunny 38 °C
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16 hours on a bus by anyone`s standards is a long time. As such we chose to go 1st class overnight and see what everyone was raving about. Our bus was due to leave early evening and bang on time it pulled in. None of your LRT or citylink nonesense. This thing looked like it was set up for a movie star. We were sat upstairs on the slick machine. The bus must have held about 35-40 people total over the two levels. There were tv`s everywhere and the ticket only cost 25 quid. As an accountant type I´m obviously working this out on some sort of hourly rate and it seems it´s best to travel by night and save on a place to stay. You might think I´m kidding but I ain´t. First up the trolly dude comes round with double whiskey for everyone. Ali doesn`t like hers but as a Scotsman I ain`t letting her give it up. Next a movie, meal and another movie. In between we obviously quaff some champers. The chair reclines to 180 degrees. It`s not horizontal but heck it`s good. I`m inclined never to get a bus in the UK again for fear of comparisons!

Again bang on time the bus arrives in Cordoba. The journey has been more than barable but we still need to get to the hostel. Funnily enough it costs next to nothing to get there by taxi, 5 peso`s including tip. How can I spend my cash!! This time we are staying in the Tango Hostel in Nueva Cordoba which is basically the new area where all the students live. Cordoba has 7 universities in total so it`s got a very young vibe to it. It`s geographically in the heart of Argentina and many say it is the spiritual heart too. Everyone you meet here is damned friendly and it rubs off.

As usual we spent some time getting our bearings around town but it was back to the hostel for dinner. Unfortunately as only 3 folk signed up that was off so yet another night out beckoned. Oh well. Hard done by again. We found what is so far my favourite restaurant not far away. It was called Karma and we got a fondu there which would have fed 6, more at a push. Ali says our clothes are shrinking a little in the laundry, I ain´t so sure.

The next day we headed for the towns main park where we stumbled across a zoo, and a bloody good zoo at that. It was probably about 40 degree`s that day so we definately needed something to keep our mind off the heat. The zoo had all sorts. If you`ve ever seen 2 hipò`s having a square go you`ll know what entertainment is - is that politically correct?. Christ they are hard looking animals. After that we took in some lions, tigers, jaguars, elephants, monkeys, snakes, the lot. A bloomin`good day out for 3 quid all in. Sorry if I keep mentioning the prices, it`s just so ludicrous I have to remind myself. That evening e headed for Cordoba`s answer to the Hard Rock cafe. No great shakes but a good feed nonetheless. A good nights sleep was needed as we were to do a city tour the next day and get some culture thrown in.

The City Tour itself was better than any I had ever been on. Where else do you get a guide who has a degree in tourism of their own city. The girl knew the lot and she was easy on the eye to boot. If Rio was an eye opener for the ladies then Cordoba certainly is for the lads. We took in most of downtown, a few churches, cathedrals, some more jesuit places and the Plaza San Martin.

These Jesuits fair had some influence over Argentina it seems. The university structure and educational system seems to have been built around their philosophies and workings. The interiors of the various buildings were all very lavish and beautiful although some lacked any sense of continuity but this is put down to the fact many of them took decades to build and spanned several architects.

We learned some more about the Dirty War and then the subject of the Falklands was braoched. It seems that the Falklands war was as much to do with Argentina trying to deflect from their own internal problems as anything else and they hoped this war would detract from it. Again, it`s not something anyone really talks about but I certainly never knew any of what we talked about that day.

There were a few religeous museums to visit too but the day flew in so we`ll prob head back to see them on our next visit to Cordoba. We`ve planned to leave the town for a few days to see various things but we must come back here to travel 1st class again!!

Next up was a visit to a small town called Alta Gracia. This name won`t mean a thing to many but it was the village where the revolutionary Che Guevara was brought up, although he was born in Rosario (one of next destinations). His former home is a museum and it was pretty interesting to have a look around it. There were literally hundreds of pictures and artifacts including his motorbike which I guess most of you will have seen in the movie "The Motorcycle Diaries". If you ain`t seen it it`s worth a watch. I`ll try not to bore, or patronise, you but I`ll tell you a little story about him ...

Che turned out to be one of Cuba`s greatest revolutionaries. As a youngster he studied medicine in Bs As following it up with 6 months touring South America`s poorer area`s which saw him set his sights beyond the middle classes and on the poor. After this he travelled to Mexico and met Fidel Castro among others. In turn they then sailed to Cuba and began the revolution where they overthrew dictator Batista (not the WWE dude Baxter, nobody can overthrow him!). Anyway, he then tried to spread the revolution through Bolivia and Argentina but finally got killed in the late 60´s. I`m still not sure if I agree with the way he went about things. His idea`s seem sound but I guess he was always going to get his comuppence - I am sure TJ will have something to say to me about this .... I await the mail!! But remember, I bought you something nice there lol.

We managed to fit another visit into a Jesuit farm here. It was in perfect condition still and a decent enough attraction to spend some time before our bus back to Cordoba for a final night on the tiles before leaving town.

In the evening we caught the back end of the water display/show and another good meal. Cocktails were the order of the evening and they make a mighty fine margarita there. Alas it was the middle of the week and we were thwarted again in our efforts to make a club here. The weekends probably the best so maybe next time!!

Posted by tricky 11:58 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Posades

In need of a rest

overcast 30 °C
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The sole intention of our few days in Posades was some much needed rest and a visit to the Jesuit ruins for a bit of culture. It`s almost laughable that we needed rest. Afterall, we are off work for 6 months right! However, believe me, some of this travelling is tiring, particularly 5 days trotting around Iguasu with the odd pint thrown in.

Anyway, the journey is a short one by South American standards, 5 hours to be precise. However, I slept the entire 5 hours after staying up all night the previous night to make sure Rob (an Irish bloke I met) finally got on the bus to the falls after 5 nights at the hostel without one glimpse of them. A disgrace I tell you!!

Anyway, Posades on the face of it looked like one of the "rougher" places we had visited to date. A short cab ride later and we were at the hostel. Somehow the tour guide at the last place had booked us a cabin with room for 4 people and a small kitchen. How that translated to a double room I will never know but hey ho, the space was nice albeit we were paying over the odds. Basically the day was spent by the pool side. The hostel is on the banks of the Rio Parana river. It`s bloody massive but hosts some fine river fish called Surubi (it looks kind of like cat fish and tastes suberb). It was an amazingly beautiful day and probably too hot to go searching the town as yet.

The next day was spent in the town itself. By now our confidence is pretty high and getting local transport is pretty straight forward and so cheap you barely notice the price. It was probably our first real experience of Argentina itself. The further we come the more we learn, and sometimes the sader it becomes. Basically after the President Peron died in the mid 70`s the country was left fragmented, and his ill qualified wife (Isabela) was left in charge of the country. Pretty much a disaster it seems. The Dirty War began and this is when an organisation called the Triple A was created by Isabela. It was a death squad which was to confront revolutionary groups!! During the period 1976 - 83 it is estimated that some 30,000 people "disappeared". That basically means they were tortured and killed, or were never to be seen again. It`s really hard to comprehend this but in the very centre of Posades there is a camp and each week those who live in this camp (and have done for over 20 years) have a small protest. Apparently this is common place in Argentina. The history is quite interesting but it`s one of the few topics that you just don`t really bring up in conversation. Since then I`ve been on some tours and found out more but no doubt I`ll get to that in a later entry. It`s almost incomprehensible that things so corrupt have happened in our lifetime. Very sad indeed.

By now the rain had caught us again and as we investigated the possibility of going to the Jesuit ruins it became apparent that the trip was a no-goer. Not to worry though, there are plenty more around the country. Instead we spent the day watching Utd lose to Bolton and watching one of the worst movie`s I`ve seen. Mind and give The Invadors (I think that`s the translation) a miss. See, even from thousands of miles away I`m giving you all great tips!!

The bus was now on it`s way and our destination is Cordoba, 16 hours south west. Chasing the sun again and loving it.

Posted by tricky 15:20 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Foz and Puerto Iguazu

The Falls

sunny 40 °C
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Well, Foz do Iguazu is simply superb. By the time we arrived at the hostel the rain was but a distant memory and the falls were going to be flowing with all the rain that there had been. The long bus journey had been an excellent one and I am glad we are doing the buses by daylight as the scenery is fantastic. At times it ain`t too much different to Scotland.

Onto the visit to the falls themselves. Spectacular would not do them justice and at this point in time we were viewing them from the Brazillian side of the border which is widely regarded as the poorer of the two. When we first caught a glimpse of them I was quite taken aback. Nothing quite prepares you for the sheer vastness. The day we had picked to go was ideal too, probably about 38 degrees and lovely heat. We spent a few hours walking up and down the paths taking in all the major viewing points, each almost seemed better than the previous. There seemed to be a lot of rather large birds flapping about the place so I was glad I didn`t find out they were vultures till we were in the pub later that night. We then visited Itaipu Dam which is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. It`s quite some place and basically just bloody huge and powerful creating enough energy to supply Paraguay and 20% of Brazil.

After the falls we spent a great evening in the town having a meal followed by a good old night at the hostel bar with a great mix of people from Columbia and eastern Europe. Seemed the safest place to be when the guy in the bunk below me smelled like out of date cheese.

Next up was a trip to the Argentinian side of the border. Our travels in Brazil were now officially over!!

The hostel in Puerto Iguazu is quite different to any of the others. More like a Med hotel destination with it`s massive swimming pool and holiday makers. Well, it was Saturday 17th and I only had one thing on my mind so when I saw they were showing the Scotland game it was sheer bliss. Well, almost. We`ll not bother with the details but as everyone knows by now it wisnae the result we were looking for. Fortunately by then we had befriended a number of Irish and the party would at least take the missery away for a while. We had a decent BBQ with free caiprinha`s followed by a trip to the local club with free beer. Not bad for just under 6 quid all in.

Somehow it took us a till the 4th day there to get to the falls again. A mix of having a great time with our new found friends and some rain, albeit not too much. When we did get there it was a stunning day. Forty degree`s and by now that is quite acceptable. I never thought I`d have been saying that. The Argentine side is noted as being the best. It`s certainly more of a day out with quite a few treks, a boat trip under the falls themselves, a train journey to El Diablo`s throat and various viewing points. We had shared a taxi there (as bus was jam packed) with a guy who resembled Wally with his treking gear and dodgy hat and over the course of the day we kept bumping into him as he jumped out of bushes here and there. One of the girls at the hostel had come across a rattle snake the day before. I honestly don`t know which was worse! Either way we thoroughly enjoyed it and hopefully the photo`s can do it a little justice. The power of the falls is just incredibly insane. How the hell did Jeremy Irons climb up there anyway!!

Also by now the good old price of wine has kicked in. A quid a throw and a probably the best 16oz steak I`ve had in my life came in at a fiver. You have to love Argentina. Next stop Posades, home to the Jesuit Missions.

Posted by tricky 13:36 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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