Córdoba and Mendoza
05.02.2015 - 13.02.2015 31 °C
We eventually arrived in Córdoba (travelling west over Argentina) after a 21 hour journey from Puerto Iguazu. The bus company we used was called PlusUltra, so we were a little apprehesive as it reminded us of "first price" or "nice price" products (in norway and the UK). However we were met with leather reclinable seats (to 180 degrees!), wine and dinner as we set off. Apart from the crazily long straight road at 1am, that shook the whole bus for about an hour, the journey wasn't so bad! Once we got to the Tango Hostel in Cordoba, we met some people whom had travelled 40 hours to get there from Patagonia in the south, so needless to say we didn't get to moan too much about our 21 hour trip! Met a few more Dutch people. Dutch is winning on the most common nationality so far haha. Yes, we did have bets! Kathrin won...
Tango hostel had a great atmosphere. Really helpful staff that were clearly there to help you with everything and enjoyed giving all their advice about the city. Once out of Buenos Aires we've noticed Argentines are really nice! So many random people have come up to me and shaken my hand regardless of whether you say you´re from Ireland, Scotland or Norway haha.
The main thing in Córdoba (for us) was the hiking possibilities in the hills around the city. We took a bus out to a little town about 1.5 hours away from cordoba (yes 1.5 hours away is still considered in and around cordoba here) where we began a hike up a river towards the hills. It was a really beautiful trek, hopping on the stones to get up the stream.There were lots of argentines there as it is their summer holiday right now, so we kept walking past them and climbed up a water fall. We were told to get beyond the waterfall if we wanted to get away from the tourists. So we hiked for another hour or so until there was almost no one around and the river was beginning to become a very small stream. It was really lovely to just get out of the city and be on our own, lying in the sun on the top of a mountain. We felt like we really could be anywhere - almost felt like we were back home in Norway on a summers day!
We spent a day wandering around the city centre and just felt completely at home there. Cordoba boasts the oldest standing Cathedral in Argentina and a beautiful gothic church. Although compared to European standards, 400 years ain't that old, but they're pretty proud of it here! It's also home to a university with 250,000 students, so it's got a great vibe! The hostel we were staying at was really something else - the atmosphere, the people, the living area - so we decided to stay 2 extra nights than originally planned Still on track though for crossing the Andes into Chile on Valentine's Day. We met even more dutch people at the hostel and ended up going to a lovely evening market where Katty and I got our potraits done. We also got some good tips about studying in Holland!
I think it should be mentioned that although kathrin has been continuously eaten by everything that flies here, I have yet to encounter one bite I feel pretty chuffed every morning while she spends about 10 mins soaking herself in mosquito repellent. I think perhaps they're waiting to ambush me in the Amazon. Will be interesting to see! The beard is getting longer and the sun is not helping. I think it is getting more ginger everyday. Still, like one of our dutch friends said, thank god I´ve already got the girl! Skyped my mum the other day for the first time since leaving (actually the first time ever!) and one of the first things she said was "well your beard is very ginger". Thanks mum!
Another thing that amazes me about Argentina is that no matter how classy the place is, the bathroom will ALWAYS be lacking in at LEAST one of the follwing; soap, toilet paper, toilet seat, door lock or running water. I have yet to experience one with all. It´s a well known fact among Argentinians themselves!
We had such an amazing time in Cordoba, and it was a real shame to leave. If we hadn´t booked our bus ticket to Mendoza we would have stayed longer. It was like we lived in a dream world for 4 nights - no hostel will beat Tango Hostel!
The over night bus to Mendoza was terrible. We chose the cheapest seats which only reclined less than half way, and the 10 hour journey was the worst we've had so far. Little to no sleep, not enough food and water combined with leaving amazing Córdoba meant a grumpy and slightly depressed TomKat arrived in the grey skied Mendoza at about 8am. After another lunatic taxi ride (no surprise here, we were used to it) we arrived at our new hostel. Although it did not meet the standards of tango hostel, we WERE greeted with crepes and the famous dulce de leche, which i think is literally translated as cream of milk. Tastes nicer than it sounds! Kind of like a caramel spread. Think hapå (for all the Norwegians reading). And as the sun came out in the afternoon and we sat out under the hostel grape vine eating one of my homemade Milanesas (typical are Argentinian food), things perked up as we decided on the activities we'd be doing in Mendoza.
Mendoza is all about the wine. The next day we met a couple and two other people on the bus out to the suburbs and hired bicycles to visit the vineyards or "bodegas" in the area. Me and Katty braved it and went for a tandem! Well, I say we both braved it, but it was more like a "c´mon katty it would be so fun!" etc etc for a while before she decided to brave it too. Now, begin to imagine that we went for a lovely cycle down winding country roads and passing quaint vineyards whilst sipping wine, our hair blowing in the breeze. This situation did not occur. First of all we couldn't see the vineyards we were passing because we were desperately trying to dodge all the potholes and trying not to get run over by the many lorries and trucks whizzing past at 100kmph. Secondly it was one insanely long road so not as pretty as one might think. And thirdly, being on a tandem for the first time was pretty weird so we had that to concentrate and co-ordinate on as well. So after a sweaty 7km cycle, we stopped at the first vineyard, a family run and small establishment called Familia di Tomasso. Had a quick tour of the vines outside before heading in to look at the old wine vats that were used before more modern technologies were used. After that we tasted some of their lovely wines including the infamous Malbec (my favourite red wine so far) and a sweet dessert wine. Then we set off on the road towards the next vineyard. We had another tasting there at the second one before heading back and stopping for lunch at a hostel/restaurant on the side of the road. We really needed it at this point as we'd had 2 wine tastings and they're pretty generous with the servings! We then set off with the rest of the gang towards the final vineyard which was back along the insanely long road we'd just come down.
Being on the front on the tandem, I could feel every time Kathrin moved her head slightly, let alone if she leaned out. It got to a stage where the steering felt a little wobbly so I shouted back "quit moving!". She said she wasn't and we continued on for another minute or so. Then as we crossed a railway track and picked up some speed going slightly downhill, the steering suddenly went completely loose and I could not turn the wheel either way. Tandem bikes are pretty heavy and it didn't take long for us to hit the tarmac, and hard. Luckily there were no cars coming (traffic had died down after lunch) and we landed on the other side of the road. As we were the last bike in our group, they didn't see us fall and cycled off into the distance, oblivious to our shouts. After a lengthy discussion with this hysterical Spanish woman whom we did not understand, we eventually managed to get the bike company to come and collect us and get us patched up. The cycle back was actually quite nice up until that point. There weren't many cars on the road, we'd filled our bellies with wine and food and we'd gotten used to the whole "tandem working together" thing. So we enjoyed the view of the vineyards as we cycled with the wind in our hair as we had imagined before we left haha. We didn't visit the final vineyard unfortunately and we got our money back for the bike rental, so we ended saving a bit of money if you want to look at it like that.
When we arrived back in Mendoza centre we had to change hostel to a cheaper place because the other one randomly put up their prices at the weekends, surpassing our budget. So with cut knees and elbows we lugged our bags round the corner to the new place before finally crashing, relaxing and showering after a long day!
Just to give you an idea of the size of the area, there are almost over 950 vineyards in the place we visited and we would have only visited 3. Mendoza is the hub for wine in Argentina and has 2 other areas of vineyards also in the suburbs called Lujan de Cuyo. We had planned to visit them the following day, however after the accident, we didn´t feel particularly enthusiastic about cycling anywhere for a while! We also ditched plans to go to a hot spring park because we didn´t want to risk gettin infections in our battle wounds haha. Instead we spent the following day walking through the huge park in Mendoza with our wine buddies we met the day before. The next day we had planned the other vineyard trips but we just stayed at the hostel and sorted out the next 3-4 weeks in Chile. We are unsure about how we´re going to do it, but either way it will make up most of the coastal part of our trip, so hopefully plenty of fun in the sun before heading North in the Bolivian jungle-side hehe.
No day has been the same so far for us here in south america. It has been an amazing experience already, and not as relaxing as one might think. It´s been so full on up until these two days now and I think we are ready to just get to Chile and relax on a beach for a week! On Saturday 15th of February (tomorrow) we've booked a day bus for the 6 hour trip across the Andes to Santiago, Chile, so hopefully we will get in some great views. So as our journey ends in Argentina I think we'd like to say that it has been a wonderful place of crazy backwards prices, delicious steak and wine, and luckily we have made it through with only being robbed by the little forest possums!