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Published: October 24th 2013
200 Years in the MakingSaturday 8 June to Monday 10 June
Iglesia Catedral, Plaza San Martin
It pains me to say, but my overall impression of Cordoba was one of slight disappointment. Having read about the city pre-visit, I was expecting to be floored by its culture and buzz. There was promise of a thriving Arts scene and an energetic student population. I just didn't seem to come across any of it! In hindsight, maybe I didn't visit the right areas and suffered by not partaking in the nightlife - I expect this is where I’d have witnessed the student masses, seeing as it was a weekend.
Despite being somewhat under whelmed, there were some highlights. The first of these was Mercado Central – my first experience at a South American indoor market. There was stall upon stall of fresh meats, fruit and vegetables, cheese, olives and other tasty looking morsels. I opted to buy a steak and see if I could do it justice (sadly I overcooked it!), along with some juicy looking chorizo sausages and some vegetables. Fruit and vegetables really are cheap in Argentina too – for a bag full you’re looking at as little as £3.
There was a generous spattering of churches
Interior of Iglesia Catedral Nave
throughout the city that I “must visit”. It seems churches, and to some extent museums, are where it’s at for Lonely Planet. The more places you visit, the more you notice the priority given to these sites. On reflection, the Church is so synonymous with the invasion of the Spanish in South America that it’s not surprising. However, you can start to feel a bit churched out!
Despite this I chose to go to Iglesia Catedral and the Manzana Jesuitica (Cordoba’s Jesuit Block) – the latter a World Heritage Site. This was down to a combination of their descriptions being pretty interesting and the museums and galleries being shut on my main day in the city.
Igelsia Catedral was beautiful both inside and out, sitting on the edge of Plaza San Martin. The altar and Romanesque dome being its most striking features. It began construction in 1577 and took more than 200 years to complete.
My first stop in Manzana Jesuitica was the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, built between 1645 and 1671. This was much more simplistic than the Igelsia Catedral and was very dark and brooding inside. Of most interest was the roof, made
from cedar wood and built to resemble an inverted ship’s hull – the successful delivery of a design by the Flemish Padre Philippe Lemaire (a former boat builder). Also in the Jesuit Block, but not places I chose to visit, were a University; secondary school; and residences.
Then it was Cripta Jesuitica. Most surprising was its location, directly below one of the main shopping streets in central Cordoba. I was given a short tour of the site, where I discovered it was built at the beginning of the 18th
century. It was initially a residence for Jesuits in training (novitiate), before becoming a crypt and crematorium for those with cholera. It was abandoned during the Jesuit expulsion in 1829. At some point it’s believed to have been the basement to a family home. I expect the family were unaware of its past links to cholera! The Crypt then lay forgotten until 1989 when Telecom discovered it, whilst laying underground telephone cables.
By far and away my best experience in the Cordoba region was the day trip I took out to Quebrada del Condorito National Park. Taking a beautiful 2 hour bus ride through outlying countryside, we arrived in
Clouds above Cordoba
Quebrada del Condorito National Park
La Pampilla. A few of us jumped off the bus and I paired up with a Brazilian guy called Arthur, who was about as sure about where we should be going as I was.
We luckily picked the correct direction and soon found the entrance to the National Park, where we signed in and were informed about the different routes you could take. Luckily both of us were headed to see the Condors at Balcon Norte, so we were able to continue on together.
I discovered that Arthur was a Biologist, living in Cordoba for 2 months. This was in order to work on his post-doctorate research, which he was doing in partnership with a Professor at Cordoba’s University.
The views throughout the Park were wonderful, despite the dry time of year. Low hills, grasslands and open space stretched out as far as the eye could see. There were also a few tents dotted about in the distance and alongside the main routes, as it was legal to camp in the Park. I can imagine it must have been a pretty spectacular place to wake up.
We spotted a few warning signs along the way with
Washing Our Wings
Condors dry their wings after bathing
instructions about what to do should you come face-to-face with a Puma. Ensure you never run; don’t turn your back to it; make yourself appear bigger by raising your arms, jacket or other objects above your head; arm yourself with sticks and rocks; and ensure all children are with adults. So now you know, there's no excuse for hesitation!
After following the markers for the main route, we took the left turn to start the 40 minute journey to Balcon Norte. Information panels along the way gave some insight into the Condors. The main things were that they tend to be mainly black, with a white ruff round the base of the neck and white patches on the wings. The head and neck are nearly featherless. The male is larger and their wingspan can reach a whopping 3.2 metres. Around 5-6 years they reach maturity and begin to mate, remaining monogamous for life.
On reaching the main lookout point we met a Park Ranger. Luckily Arthur was able to translate most of what he was saying, as I was still struggling with the speed and accent of Argentine Spanish (though I did manage to pick up some of
Crest of the Canyon
Quebrada del Condorito National Park
it independently). The Ranger pointed out the Condors on the opposite side of the canyon. I was so happy to have my new camera at this point, as the zoom enabled me to see them pretty close up. Some were bathing in a shallow pool of water, whilst others sat drying their wings on the neighbouring rocks. Sadly, none seemed in the mood for flight.
The Ranger explained that the condors lay their eggs in the months of February and March, every other year. 54-58 days later the eggs will hatch, after being incubated by both the mother and father. They are scavengers and feed mainly on decomposing meat, focusing on the carcasses of larger mammals.
The route back through the National Park was the same, though we took a detour to view the traps built to capture the Zorro (or White Fox) native to the area. The Zorro had gone through a period of being captured by the farmers who used to live on the land. This was mainly because of attacks on their animals by the Zorro. The farmers would not only eat the Zorros meat, but also use their fur for clothing. After becoming an
Where's the Bus?
Who cares? Sunset at Quebrada del Condorito National Park
endangered species through this process, the species is now a protected animal.
After reaching the bus collection point, half an hour before its scheduled arrival, we took a roadside seat that ended up being our waiting point for well over an hour. On the plus side it meant we got to see a very pretty sunset, but sadly we all got somewhat chilled as the temperature dropped along with the sun!
Sadly, my amazing bus experience of Mendoza to Cordoba was not to be repeated later that night on my trip to Salta. This time I got a Cama bed in an older bus. The Cama seats were only located downstairs (in close proximity to the toilet). I also couldn't hear the film on the shared TV because of the air con and we got a flat tyre that delayed us by a good 3 hours. A lesson learnt – don’t always expect the same from bus to bus!
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