Published: January 1st 2012January 1st 2012
Day 78 Wednesday 28th
Both felt wrecked in the morning and it took a big effort to get moving. The breakfast in the King David hotel wasn’t too bad, compared to Argentinian standards. As you have probably already guessed, breakfast isn’t a big deal over here so you can’t expect much. Hadn’t planned much for today other than just checking out the town and first on the agenda was trying to find a laundry. We wandered around the immediate area for nearly an hour before we spotted a laundry, which was going to be a cheaper option than getting the hotel to do it.
We then went for a long walk around town trying to get a handle on the layout and what was on offer. The Lonely Planet claims that Cordoba is a town of 1.5 million but it seems as if it is about double that. The main mall areas are probably double Sydney’s and seemed to go on for miles. The mall area is a bit rough around the edges and could probably do with a spruce up with lots of broken and uneven paving. Shelley had a great time just checking
out the local fashion and diving in and out of clothes and shoe shops. Along the way in the middle of the mall under a tree we spotted some people staring at something and when we went and had a look we discovered that the centre of their attention was a baby bat. It was crawling around in the dirt and at first we thought it was a mouse or a bird but was fairly confident it was a bat. Another one was on the ground nearby and we both felt like we should do something for them but we didn’t want to end up in hospital with a bat bite so the best option was to leave them.
We eventually found a large shopping centre filled with modern clothes shop so we drifted around checking out what was on offer. It was about 30 -33 degrees so the air-con shopping centre was a lovely retreat. We eventually turned around and headed back to our hotel where we rested briefly before heading out for dinner. It was yet another long walk around town trying to find a bite to eat. We are located in a busy city location but
there isn’t a lot in the way of restaurants around so we had to walk some distance before we found the Mandarina restaurant. The place had a great mix of foods including Chinese, unique meat dishes and of course pastas and pizza. The food and vibe was great so it was a good choice. We had planned on an early dinner but once again we were wandering home around midnight. Shelley believes we are slowly being transformed into South Americans and we are now adapting to their lifestyle.
Day 79 Thursday 29th
The downside to adapting a South American lifestyle is maintaining the old Australian way of getting up early. It is one thing to go to bed late but getting to bed late with a full belly is a whole other thing. We had planned on being up at 7 but it was closer to 9 by the time we crawled downstairs for breakfast. Today we discovered that we had on offer bacon and scrambled eggs, the bacon being the very first for us in South America. We grabbed just a bit for ourselves but another couple arrived and grabbed what
was left which amounted to a piled plate full, we guessed they were bigger bacon nuts than us.
After breakfast we went straight to the laundry mat and dropped off our dirty clothes and then wandered down to the other end of town to find the minibus terminal. We had decided that today we would head out of town to the small town of Alta Gracia. This was an old Jesuit town and was located an hour from Cordoba. This was also the town that Che Guevara grew up in so it is a fairly hot tourist spot. The morning was a bit overcast but wasn’t too bad but as we arrived at the terminal it started to get ominously darker. As with most bus stations, the Cordoba minibus terminal was chaos and it took us sometime to work out what we had to do. I must admit that I wasn’t in a good frame of mind by this stage and Shelley had to do all the hard work on getting the tickets. When we went outside to get the bus I was looking for platform 6 where they supposedly left from, when Shelley spotted the bus pulling out.
No matter how much she waved and jumped around the bus driver just ignored her and pulled out and left. Thankfully another bus arrived about 15 minutes later and we could use the tickets we had bought. Finally we were on our way to Alta Gracia and as we travelled down the express way the rain started and by the time we arrived it was pouring. We were hoping to get dropped off at the Clock Tower in the centre of town but the bus went on the other side of the park and to the bus terminus which was nowhere near where we wanted to be especially in the rain. We asked the bus driver and he indicated for us to wait, we were not sure if he was going to take us back to Cordoba, but he dropped us a few block from the Jesuit Estancia. From here we ran to the tourist information in the pouring rain to find out the Jesuit Estancia was closed for 2 hours and the house where Che Guevara lived as a child was about a kilometre away so we decided to bale on the town. The nearest bus stop was around
the corner and there was already a small group of very wet people waiting in the pouring rain with no shelter for the bus, so we joined them. We waited for only about ten minutes before a bus turned up but by that time we were soaked. The bus wasn’t exactly a good shelter for us either as it leaked like a sieve, and whenever it braked a torrent of water would cascade out of the air con ducts onto the front seats….thankfully not our seats, but we still got dripped on all the way home.
Back at our hotel we waited for the rain to stop and then about 7.00pm walked down to the antique shops to meet up with Ryan and Cassie for drinks and dinner. We arrived early and had a look around a few of the shops and saw some great stuff but I am not sure if I could carry a wardrobe and beautiful large French doors around the rest of South America and then home. When we met up we went to a newly opened funky bar/restaurant called Central Mercado which is huge, although at 7.30pm there was hardly anyone there, these place
do not get crowds for dinner till about 10.00pm. We decided after a drink to move onto a parrrilla restaurant and spent the night chatting till about 11.30pm at which point Cassie and Ryan had to get back to the hotel as they had an early morning bus to catch.
On the way home we passed a café near our hotel that we kept passing and is full of people all day having breakfast and lunch and appears to be opened till very late. We decided to stop for a nightcap, this was a small local bar with an eclectic group of people some men sitting alone drinking coffee or beer and two women sitting together in silence with nothing in front of them. We sat chatting listening to the great music when a group of 6 women in their late 50’s early 60’s came in all happy and had probably just finished dinner somewhere close it must have been about midnight now. After a while Scott realised that the two women sitting silently were from the live show next door, which we had forgot we passed. In the corner of the bar is a lift that must take
the girls back stage or to rooms not sure. It is sort of strange when you get moments like this on your travels where you stumble upon places that make you feel welcome and accepting of everyone.
Day 80 Friday 30th
Today we visited the Cripta Jesuitica a crypt built in the 18th
Century but never used as the Jesuits were exiled. The crypt was built over as the city expanded and rediscovered in 1989 when new cabling was being laid. Then it was onto the Museo Municapal De Bellas Artes Dr Genaro Perez which is a beautiful old house that contains old painting and a contemporary art exhibits, the main ceiling in the house is one of the highlights with its painted ceiling. Then it was onto the churches of the city built by the Jesuits and a Carmelite Nun church these are all beautifully ornate although slightly over the top. It is amazing how some of the exteriors of these ancient churches are rough stone and cement construction, but the interiors are gold, murals and marble. When you walk inside you almost feel like it is a magic trick or
something, and it makes you realise how they got so many converts in the 1700’s. We decided to walk down the antique shops and have another look but a lot of them where closed due to siesta so stopped at a café for a rest. On the way back to the hotel we passed a shoe shine man who didn’t have a customer and was looking pretty bored. Shelley’s boots were looking pretty sad after all the hiking so we took the opportunity to have them cleaned. The guy spent about ten minutes on the boots applying all sorts of colours and creams and by the time he was finished they looked brand new. He wanted 7 pesos for the job but they came up so good we gave him 10 ($2.50). Later we walked back and went to the Central Mercado bar (you would think our feet would be worn out by now), shared a beer and empanadas while relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. Then moved onto another bar down the road and shared a bottle of red wine and a meal it was about 10.30pm and the place was full, we were lucky to get a table as
soon there was a line forming out the front. About midnight the band started to arrive, but we had a bit of a walk back to the hotel (2kms) and were feeling tired so we left. Although the streets are dark and there aren’t a lot of people around we always seem to be passing policemen on the beat, so we feel relatively safe.
Day 81 Saturday 31st
Another late night so it was another late rise. We had of course had good intentions to be on the road by 8, but that was about the time we fell out of bed. Today we thought we would have another shot at going out to Alta Gracia as the last attempt ended us with us just getting drowned. The day looked good with perfect sunshine and a forecast of 35 degrees. We didn’t have any chores today so just headed straight down to the minibus terminal and because we now knew what to do, we had our tickets and on the bus within ten minutes.
Today with a map in hand and knowing the bus route (roughly) we were able to know
exactly when to jump off the bus so we didn’t end up back down at the town’s bus station. From 1643 the Jesuits set themselves up in this corner of the world by building an Estancia, which is basically a church with attached quarters for the priests. At Alta Gracia they also built a large reservoir that still stands today and is a beautiful backdrop to the Estancia. From where we jumped off the bus to the Estancia we walked down a road that we soon realised was actually and earthen and rock dam that the Jesuits had built to contain the water. It wasn’t a huge body of water but was still remarkable that it was still standing after 300 years.
We had been warned that the church of the estancia was closed due to an extended restoration dispute, but we could at least get into the courtyards and other buildings. We wandered around the high walls trying to find an entrance without any luck and so went to the tourist information office to find out how we were meant to get in. The woman joyfully told us how it wasn’t open today and in fact wouldn’t open
till Tuesday, (silly gringos why did you bother coming here for?). So for the second time we had travelled all the way out here and couldn’t get inside, but at least we got to take in the town, and decided to head off in search of Che’s home. It was a bit of a walk and the heat was a little unbearable but it was a lovely town full of grand old and new mansions.
A youthful Che Guevara moved to Alta Gracia in 1937 after his doctor advised his parents to move him here because of his asthma. The doctor thought the town’s dry climate would do him good, and the irony of us turning up here two days ago in a torrential downpour wasn’t lost on us. Che lived here on and off till 1943 and his old home is now a museum and it such a great museum that Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez dropped in for a visit in 2006. The rooms in the house were laid out real well with each room giving a good history of various aspects of his life, and even contained a Norton motorcycle although I am certain it isn’t
the one he rode around South America, (in fact I am sure it isn’t even the same model, or for that matter that it was even a Norton). Out the back was a souvenir shop where although I resisted the temptation to buy a Che T-shirt (tacky I know but at least I would have got it from his old home and not from paddys markets) but ended up with a set of Che Guevara beer coasters. I think I am know on a quest to pick up the oddest knick knacks from South America as I can now add the coaster to my General Pinochet Voodoo doll (complete with long steel pins) that I got in Santiago.
We then took a long walk down to the town’s bus terminal and picked up a minibus to Cordoba. When we went to buy the tickets we wanted to be dropped off at the Cordoba’s minibus terminal rather than the larger more distant main bus terminal. The lady at the ticket office was lovely and as usual had the patience of Mother Teresa with our lack of Spanish. After ten minutes we felt we had tortured her enough and she gave
us written instructions on a piece of paper which we presented to the bus driver. He of course acknowledged the instructions in perfect Spanish and left us wondering where we would get off. Of course we ended up back at the main bus station but the driver indicated for us to stay seated and after a short stop drove us down the road to the minibus station.
We wandered back in the heat to our hotel where we had a short rest before getting ready for our huge New Year’s Eve party. Headed back down to the Antique shop area of Cordoba where we were told and read there would be a huge market. Wandered around hundreds of stalls for hours before hitting at least a dozen bars where we partied on till the wee hours only pausing for the final midnight countdown where we were drowned in champagne and didn’t get home till 5am. Well that was the plan. Unfortunately there was only about a dozen stalls opened and they were packing up when we arrived around 7pm and although this was the party central part of town filled with lots of funky bars, not one of them
was open. We did manage to find a bar open at one of the town’s main intersections and sat for a beer or two and a feed and watched as the traffic dried up to a trickle. Generally at this time of the day all the dogs come awake and wander around wanting a feed but even they seemed to have disappeared. Before leaving the hotel we had asked the woman at reception if there were fireworks or a party in town and we initially attributed her confused look to our lack of Spanish but now realised it had more to do with the fact that there was no party. The bar/café we were at had the party vibe of a flower show so we decided to walk around town to see if we could find anything, but after an hour we found ourselves back in our hotel room.
At 11.55 we grabbed our champagne and took the lift to the roof our hotel where we saw in 2012 with a spectacular fireworks display. Over the last few days we had passed dozens of shops selling “pyrotechnica” which of course is fireworks and I had contemplated buying some except
I didn’t know where and when I could let them off. What we discovered on the roof of our hotel was that there wasn’t any organised government or council fireworks display but everyone in town got their own and let them off. Everywhere we looked in every direction the sky was lit up with the colours of fireworks, and I am not talking about the dinky little things we had as kids, these were seriously large hardcore fireworks. Our building is one of the larger so we had a great view around the whole city and about the only spot where there was hardly any was down in the centre of town where you would expect a great show. The bulk of the fireworks was in a huge arc around the suburbs but a large number were being shot off the top (and into) the highrises around us. The show didn’t ease till at least 12.30, and even when we left at 1 it was still fairly intense. This hadn’t been how we had expected to see in the new year and as stated before we had wanted to party, but it was still great and gave us the chance to reflect on the past year and where we were at last year and where we are now and how lucky we truly are.