Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Sunday, September 18, 2005

45. Down on the farm (Cordoba, Argentina)

From Mendoza my girlfriend convinced me to return to Buenos Aires for a few days, which turned into about ten days. During that time I convinced her to go travelling with me, so finally we set off for Rio Tercero in the province of Cordoba, where one of her friends named Mirian now lives. Quick background info: Mirian was once picked up by a guy in the street who later turned out to be married. But he fell in love with Mirian and made good on his promise to leave his wife, and that she (Mirian) wouldn't have to work, he'd support her. Well, turns out she is working, she's now living the country life as a farmer's wife in a modest farm house, not quite the country-club life of daquiris and polo I'd pictured her having when I first heard her story.

Farm - 07 - Windmill
The farm

So we arrived and it turns out Mirian was home alone, her husband was away for work a few days. Which meant we had absolutely nothing to do, and were an hour by dirt road from the nearest town. Mirian kept busy doing her endless housework in between feeding the goats and chickens (the cows fed themselves), but 2 days of doing nothing had me restless so we all set off on a 9 hour bus-ride for Termas de Rio Honda in Santiago del Estero province, the town where my girlfriend and Mirian were brought up.

Farm - 06 - Sunset
Sunset on the farm

Farm - 09 - Sunrise
And from our bedroom window... the sunrise

Well, I was presently surprised by Termas. It's too small to be mentioned in my guidebook, so I'd always pictured a dusty town in the middle of nowhere. What I found was a large town of mainly hotels and candy stores, which was clean and chilled out. The main attraction is that the town is full of hot springs, so every bathroom has three taps - cold, hot, and natural hot water piped from the springs. Every hotel has a hot swimming pool even in the middle of winter. The winter climate is hot without humidity. All this means that at this time of year the town is full of geriatric Argentine tourists playing shuffleboard, bowls, or lazing around poolside. It felt like being on a pleasure cruise without the boat.

Termas - 17 - Bochas
A seƱor lets one rip in bochas, which resembles lawn bowls

So, in Termas it was another 3 or 4 days of lazing around not doing much other than work on my mid-winter tan poolside. The final day I took a tour of the town in the tourist train, which was a bus dressed up like a train. We drove out to the hydroelectric dam and nearby man-made lake (22km x 4km) which was a rich man's playground of yachts and jetskis.

Termas - 12 - Dique
The dam

Being the weekend we tried going out both Friday and Saturday night but the town's nightlife was dead (no pun intended). The girls assured me Termas has a nightlife, but only in the 2 month winter high season which we'd just missed. We visited the casino (every city in Argentina has one) and it was quite nice, it even had a bingo room in which we played a couple of cards (I was two numbers away from a bingo). It was my girlfriend's first bingo experience and she made a slight fool of herself by shouting out linea! (line) about 30 numbers after the first line had already been claimed.

Termas - 20 - Chivito
A chivito (goat) on the asado

Sunday night we caught the 9 hour night bus back to Rio Tercero and the farm, since Mirian's husband Christian had returned, so hopefully he would show us around the province a bit. Which he did, taking us to nearby Embalse one afternoon, and Villa Carlos Paz (both in Cordoba province) another day. Embalse was a tiny town with a nice lake; Villa Carlos Paz a small city with a nice lake. Neither place was even mentioned in my guidebook which was surprising, as I was told Carlos Paz is a major Argentine tourist destination in summer, drawing visitors to it's Lake.

Villa Carlos Paz - 05 - Beach
The lake-front beach in Villa Carlos Paz

Mirian had a cousin she hadn't seen in ten years living in Carlos Paz, so we visited her and her boyfriend, and they invited us to stay with them. Which was most hospitalable, since they only had a one bedroom house and a toddler daughter. South Americans are famous for their hospitality, and we bid Mirian & Christian goodbye and thank you and stayed in Carlos Paz.

Villa Carlos Paz - 02 - Cookoo
A giant cookoo clock. I waited 20 mins to miss a shot of the cookoo

The weather was great, hot and clear, so the next day we spent the afternoon climbing the hill which overlooks the city to get to the lookout.

Villa Carlos Paz - 10 - Cruce
Our host Pablo in front of the giant hilltop cross

The next day the weather had turned cold and windy so we caught a bus to nearby Cordoba city, to do the tourist thing there. Unfortunately Cordoba all but shuts down over the weekend so there wasn't too much to see, other than the annual book fair which took up most of the central town plaza.

Farm - 12 - Matt baby
Me on the farm with the neighbour's baby

We returned to Carlos Paz for one more night, before moving on again the next day which meant passing through Cordoba city for the 5th time. I decided we should stay a couple of nights just to see it better. My guidebook didn't mention any hostels at all in Cordoba, so I wanted to check it out with the idea of possibly starting a hostel of my own. Well obviously the Lonely Planet writers haven't been to South America in a while as I spotted ads for about 5 different hostels in the bus terminal alone.

Cordoba - 10 - Street
The streets of Cordoba

Man is this entry getting boring? I'm getting bored writing it. Mind you it's Friday night and the cafe I'm writing this in serves beers so I'm getting a little tiddly. I know on my last trip in SE Asia in 2002 (some of) my friends back home loved reading my trip notes in every detail but I guess on a web page I should write less, not more. Give me comments... At least with the web page I've got photos to make it more interesting. By the way, this entry took me like 4 hours to write.

Cordoba - 07 - Catedral
Cordoba's cathedral

Oh yeah, back to my hostel idea. My girlfriend thinks I should spend my savings by starting a business rather than blowing it all backpacking around South America. A good idea I suppose. Ideas so far include a kiosco, hostel, cybercafe, or cafe. But my main impediment is my fear of Argentine bureacracy. So I doubt I'll get around to doing anything. One thing I won't do is start a hostel in Cordoba as there's plenty, but maybe a hostel in Villa Carlos Paz as I didn't see any there...

Cordoba - 13 - Sacred Heart Church inside
Sacred Heart Church in Cordoba

3 Comments:

  • Matt, your updates are always interesting - write as much or as little as you please, I'll always read it.

    I'm beginning to think that South America is a place to be, based on your testimony. I'm getting over my fear of the unknown now that I've decided to go somewhere next year (Japan) - maybe Argentina could be after that.

    Cheers
    Barns

    By Blogger afraid, at 6:40 PM  

  • Yep - this was by no means a boring blog entry - one of the better ones in a while, seems more personal and real, touring around, staying with friends of your gf etc. So good on yer.

    By Anonymous reginald, at 9:33 AM  

  • >. . . and now, for the complete Brothers Morris hat-trick:

    yeh bro, write it all down, it's great.

    I'm very upset about the cuckoo clock though.

    Don't worry, people other than the Bros. Mor. read this, we are just nerdos, subscribing to the RSS and not doing any work.

    Ta,

    Ed.

    By Blogger Slag, at 12:22 PM  

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