- Published on Monday, 25 June 2012 23:07
During my final days in Buenos Aires I received an unexpected, yet welcome, email from my friend Julie who I had met while in Leticia, Colombia a few months before. Turns out she had some time off from school and was going to be in Argentina. She asked if I was in the area and if I wanted to meet up. Turns out I was in "the area". So I hopped on an overnight ten hour bus (at the cost of $270 pesos or about $45 USD) bound for Cordoba in the central part of this vast country. Arriving around eight in the morning I quickly found the tourist office for a map and set out walking in Argentina's second largest city of 1.5 million people to find my hostal where I would meet Julie and we could make plans to explore the area. Just as I arrived she came walking around the corner and it was nice to be again with a friend.
Of course on the day we showed up in Cordoba it was a national holiday. All of the museums were closed and the streets were desolate. The weather was absolutely beautiful and was the warmest (about 70 degrees) I had seen since leaving Sao Paulo. So we decided to just walk the city see some sights. Cordoba is home to the major Universities of Argentina so the crowd is a young one and their are many cafes lined up and down the streets. It was a nice way to pass an afternoon and a good time for us to make a game plan for the next few days here.
Alta Gracia is a town about 40km south of Cordoba and is the place were Ernesto "Che" Guevara called home during his childhood and adolescent years. Here he was able to grow into and cultivate his political ideals; which are not unlike my own. We set out on a regional bus to Alta Gracia for a pricey $50 pesos for the one hour journey, found the tourist office for a map, and set out walking to childhood home of Che which is now a museum. The museum itself was very well preserved and presented. It was cool to be in the house where this iconic political figure grew up. Their was a hoard of information spanning his life and a treasure trove of original letters and photos to support the readings. Very cool. The highlight for me was seeing the actual 1939 Norton 500cc motorcycle "La Ponderosa" that was depicted in the book and movie "The Motorcycle Diaries" and which Che and his compadre Alberto Granado rode on an epic journey that was to serve as the foundation for his political and revolutionary motivations.
After a little history in Alta Gracia we hopped onto the local city bus for a transfer to a regional bus to the little lake village Villa General Belgrano. This strange town was built by German settlers who were drawn to the dry weather and alpine scenery (according to my map I got at the tourist office, I suspect it was from Nazi's fleeing the war with stolen gold). Nonetheless the Bavarian style of the houses and the beer brewed here was fantastic. We took the rest of the afternoon strolling the main thoroughfare before hiking up in the local foothills to watch the sunset and then back to the bus for the 3 hour ride back to Cordoba. A really fun day and I was glad to be exploring areas outside of the major cities.
Hiking again was on order the next day as we had heard from the owner of our hostal that at Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito we could view the mythological condor in its native habitat. So up early we again hopped on a bus (many buses of late for me) to the national park for a 10km hike into the canyon to view the massive birds. The hike was great. The scenery was very "Martian" like. Desolate, arid, and rugged. Once we reached the end of the trail we were greeted with grand views of the canyon and river below. We also spotted several condors in flight, but they were quite far off in the distance to get any real visual detail. Majestic birds these are and witnessing them in their effortless flight was worth the trek.
On our final day in Cordoba we checked out of the hostal and stored our bags as we had plans to get on a night bus. This left us with an entire day to kill in Cordoba. Currently the Euro Cup Soccer tournament is in play. Apparently this is a really big deal. So we set off to find a bar to watch Julie's team France play Spain. Before this match would start the Rivers game (a team from Buenos Aires) was set to play in another apparently monumental game. Once this game started the streets were empty. The whole city shut down for this match. Rivers won 2-0 and then it was party central in the streets. Riot cops, fire crackers and all. Good times. Then France lost to Spain 0-2 (sorry Julie). I've never watched so much soccer in one day in my life. I was looking forward to getting on the bus and listening to my iPod.
Cordoba Main Square
Julie and "Che"