22.07.2012 - 26.07.2012 10 °C
After the not so salubrious experience of Tucuman we were glad to get to Cordoba, a predominantly university city known for its cultural, literary and artistic history. We also found what turned out to be a really great hostel - “Che Salguero”. The facilities were excellent, and vibe was good and the other travellers staying there was a good mix. Sometimes you get to a hostel and get a good feeling, we both got that and so decided to stay for a few days before heading to Buenos Aires.
Aside from wandering about and getting the feel for the city, we took advantage of the fact on Wednesdays all museums are free in Argentina. There was a really good one called “D2” on the site of what was previously a detention centre. There wasn't much information in English, but from what we could gather it was where political prisoners were held, but the experience of walking around cells and seeing pictures of detainees was enough to give you a good impression of what had gone on here. Out of the other museums that we saw, the modern art museum was the highlight with some really interesting pieces on display in a grand old building. Definitely worth a visit.
Whilst in Cordoba we also caught a local bus to Alta Gracia, about 30km from the city. The highlights in the small, affluent town are a 17th century jesuit missionary, and the holiday home of the Guevara family, that Che was to later make a household name. In terms of cultural significance, the holiday home doesn't really have much as Che was only very young when his family used to take him there, but apparently it does house some letters he wrote to his family when he was older. I say apparently, as the fee to enter the house/museum was more than 10 quid each so we took a few photos from outside and had a look around the neighbourhood instead, which was an interesting mix of detached houses and derelict houses of former splendour. The missionary was a much cheaper experience and just as interesting, with lots of old artefacts that had been retained and restored and were on display behind red ropes (which set off a ridiculously loud alarm if you touch them, which I accidentally did trying to get a closer look at something or other).
On our last night in Cordoba the hostel was nearly full so they decided to put a BBQ on. The chef was Gus, a Peruvian chap, and he served up some fantastic barbecued chicken marinated in his own "secret" recipe that heavily featured both beer and chillis. During the meal we got chatting to a couple of young Danish chaps who, after the meal, produced a bottle of spirits that they described as "what the Bolivian miners drink". The effect of one or two shots of this near-proof spirit was that everybody went from a bit tipsy from the beer, to pretty drunk in no time. Aside from the disgusting miners drink, we were dry, so me and Gus collected a kitty and went to get "fernet" – an Italian herby-tasting liquor that is popular throughout Argentina but especially so in Cordoba, and is always mixed with coca-cola. When the fernet was gone, the 6 of us that were remaining headed into town to a club that had a Brazilian night on. Our attempt to join in with the highly organised and well practiced dancing that was going on in the club was met with either laughs or looks of severe disdain, so we drank more shots of tequila and danced even more badly.
The 'problem' with clubs in South America is that they close very late and its easy to lose track of time, so by the time we got back to the hostel we only had about 4 hours until our 10am bus left. Lou went straight to bed but I sat up for a while with Gus and by the time I got to bed it was pretty pointless getting undressed, so I set the alarm and got on top of my bed fully clothed. Either the alarm didn't go off, or I just turned it off, either way I was awoken with a start at 9:55 by the hostel owner who told us that he had just got to the hostel, and we had 5 minutes to make the bus. That was obviously going to be impossible, so as we walked down to the bus station still half-cut I was trying to think of a sob story in my best Spanish that the bus company might believe. Either it happens quite often or the lady took pity on us because she took one look at the ticket, one look at the sorry state of the pair of us and gave us new tickets to depart for Buenos Aires at 12 without any charge. The original tickets had cost us nearly 60 quid so we were more than a bit happy. When we finally boarded the bus we both slept for almost the whole 9 hour journey, and when we woke up we were staring wide-eyed at the behemoth that is Buenos Aires.