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Published: June 24th 2013
A waterfall that gives continual birth to a river, the playground of the local people; a condor in flight, floating beside the mountain chain; a Sunday artisan festival of hippies, complete with tasty beer (a rarity in South America): It was, without doubt, an exceptional and memorable long weekend.
The village of Mina Clavero is situated in the province of Cordoba, Argentina. Caroline and I were looking for some mountains or countryside, ideally suitable for day treks during the final long weekend of our stint working as teachers in Buenos Aires. I had originally cast my gaze towards Paraguay; however, Caroline hit upon a place neither of us had ever heard of, yet when we mentioned it to Argentinians, we always heard the same response, “Qué lindo!” As a result, we had been literally counting down the days until our departure.
During our first full day, we ventured along the river, towards the mountains. The river has cut a jagged swathe through rocks which have tumbled from a time before, creating miniscule canyons where the local people sit and soak up the sun’s rays, in between taking dips in the water. However, being winter, people were simply keeping warm
upon the rocks. Well, that’s not entirely true, for after we had lunched and Caroline had completed a sketch of our surrounds, we began our clambering adventure back to the village. Suddenly, I heard Caroline exclaim, “Oh! There are people having sex in the bushes.” As is the wont of human curiosity and our voyeuristic nature, I glanced across the river and could plainly see that Caroline’s eyes had not deceived her. Well, at least the couple were keeping warm!
The following day was one of the best that we have spent together. After a few false starts in stilted Spanish, we bought a bus ticket to Nacimiento del Rio (Birth of the River), which is in fact a waterfall from whence the Rio Mina Clavero begins its flow. We had some time to kill before the bus departed, so we wandered the few kilometres to the neighbouring settlement of Villa Cura Brochero, named after a guy who is one step away from becoming a saint. Half an hour after boarding our bus, we were deposited upon a windy aspect that afforded us sumptuous views of the mountain range as it spilled down to the valley below.
This was how I remembered Argentina from my travels last year: sweeping vistas of arid lands where sprouts of grass catch the eye due to their vivid green growth, contrasting with the rocks and sandy dirt of the earth. An invigorating wind makes your eyes water, but it’s a minor inconvenience when confronted with such a landscape. As we bounded down the trail, skipping over rocks, we occasionally strayed, so taken were we by the views on offer. Eventually, we found ourselves peering over a precipitous ledge to a waterfall where sections were seemingly illuminated from within, courtesy of the sunrays which found their way to the tumbling cascade.
After returning to the road, we realised we had missed our bus and another would not rumble through the mountain pass for another couple of hours, so we hitched a ride with a couple who were heading our way, using the opportunity to test out our Spanish. Once back in Mina Clavero, we bought a ticket to the town of Villa de Las Rosas, which we had been told was hosting an artisan market for the day. With twenty-five minutes up our sleeves, we decided to make a quick dash
to Milac, one of the local ice-creameries which held me in its thrall.
Villa de Las Rosas completely exceeded our expectations, for the market was so full of life that it imbued you with it too. We wandered the stalls, I bought Caroline a feather earring from the Amazon, she bought me a bracelet, we drank healthy juice from a trailer that sported the sign ‘Astrojugo’, then went to the stall next door which sold beer, delicious beer, the best beer that has hit my palate in South America (Caroline agrees with me on this one). At first sip, we both said, “This tastes like home!” The beer is brewed in the neighbouring village but, sadly, the rusted out minivan of the brewer was to depart with its liquid gold all too soon. Happily, we stumbled upon a restaurant on the edge of the plaza that sold it. As a result, we were very happy and getting more tipsy by the minute. Just when I said to Caroline that we should probably head back to Mina Clavero because the market was winding up, a band began playing that had all of the locals and visitors dancing some type of
traditional dance. It was a stirring sight, with the dust gently rising from their feet as they slid across the ground amidst the horizontal streaks of gold-flecked evening light. My favourite were a couple in their fifties or sixties who danced like it was their first dance together in the days of their youth. Their love was so evident that for the next song, everybody moved away and invited them to dance alone, within a circle of smiling people. If I’m honest, I felt a welling of water rise and then lace my eyes as I watched them live in each other’s moment as one.
When the music was over and darkness descending, we decided it really was time to take a bus back to Mina Clavero. As we waited, I thought it would be a good idea to buy some more beer; however, the solitary shop at the tiny terminal only sold beverages of the non-alcoholic variety. Still, I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. The two aged fellows who ran the store were on my side and with cheeky grins that creased their wizened faces, they emptied out two plastic bottles of water and filled them with
a clandestine supply of beer, hidden behind the fridge. When Caroline opened the door and said, “Our bus is here. We have to go!” one of the old men raced to the door and signalled the driver to wait. As I boarded the bus and showed Caroline my prize, I regaled her with the story of my two aged conspirators. As the bus steered through the night, we both smiled and agreed that this was one of our greatest days spent together.
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