A Travellerspoint blog

Mendoza

sunny 25 °C

I decided to spend a few days in Mendoza before heading back to Chile. The main attraction of the area is all the vinyards that surround the town and are famous producing most Argentinian wine. The day I arrived I spent the day looking round the city, which I thought was a nice place, not too big and a lot of nice parks and squares. I also went to an intersting museum about the history of the city, from its foundation, to an earthquake in 1860 and how they designed and rebuilt it. In the evening I met a few people in the hostel and went out for a drink with them, to sample some of the local wine before doing the vineyard our the next day. Although I had planned on only going out for a drink somehow I found myself in a club at 4am having drunk a few too many of their very large vodkas. they actually just gave you a whole big glass of vodka and a separate mixer, so you had to drink a lot of straight vodka before you could mix it. I think I eventually got back to the hostel at about 6am so I had a couple of hours sleep before having to get up for the wine tour at 9.30. But that really wasn´t long enough to sober up and when I got up the last thing I felt like was going wine tasting. I thought I would have time for coffee and breakfast but for once the tour bus actually turned up early so ended up just having to get up and go. Luckily it took a while to get to the first vinyard but when we went in for the tour the smell of the wine didn´t help me feel any better. But it was actually interesting to see all the different stages in the wine making and I wasn´t feeling too bad when it actually came to the tasting. We went to 2 vinyards, an industrial one and a smaller one to compare the different methods they use. We also went to a distillary where they make a lot of different liquours, all of which I thought weren´t very nice. After that we went to another vinyard for an amazing lunch and more wine tasting. When we arrived there were loads of cold meats, cheeses, bread and salads spread out on the table and we thought that looked like a good lunch but then the waiter said that was just going to be the starter and there were actually 4 more hot dishes and ice cream to come. So it was a very big and tasty lunch, certainly didn´t need any dinner in the evening.
We went back to Mendoza and everything was shut as it was another national holiday so I spent the rest of the day in the huge park by the city, which also seemed to be where everone else from the city had spent the day.
The next day I set off on a 3 day hiking trip in the Andes. After a couple of hours drive we arrived at thye refugio where I would be staying for the next couple of nights, it seemed a a really nice place but very quiet. I soon realised that actually I was the only peron staying there that night and that I was also the only peson doing the hike that day,, so I had my own private guide. He spoke about as much English as I speak Spanish so we got by in a combination of the 2 languages and ended up having a really nice day. the weather was perfect, clear sunny skies but not too hot so we had a good walk up to a peak at about 3600m. In the evening it was just me and 2 people who worked in the refugio, who spoke absolutly no English, so it was another good opportunity for me to practise my Spanish. Had a very nice dinner with them and a very relaxing evening. It made a nice change from staying in busy city hostels with people coming and going throughout the night.
The next day I wa joined on the walk by 4 other people and a guide who spoke English. We had another really good day climbing a peak called Mt. Arenales to about 3400m. On the way we were really lucky to see a group of guanacos which came really close to us and when we were sat at the top having lunch there were a few condors flying very close overhead. Seeing them this close up made me realise how huge they really are. In the refugio that night I was joined by 2 other people so we had a nci9e evening together.
The final day was the most difficult walk, a climb up to 4200m. But we were really lucky with the conditions again and it was a perfect day so we had no problems getting to the top despite the very steep climb. There were reallly nice views from the top, you could see a very long way down the valley in front of us and behind you could see further in to the Andes with 600m high snow covered peaks - I´ll have to come back another time to climb some of them. As unfortunatly that was my last day in the Andes and I had to retun to mendoza to get the overnight bus to Chile.

Posted by katiew 16:43 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

San Juan

sunny 27 °C

From Cordoba I got an overnight bus to San Juan so I arrived early on Sunday morning. After walking 45 minutes across the town to the hostel, I found that the adress I had was wrong and the hostel had moved to another location only 5 minutes from the bus station, so I walked all the way back again. Walking through the town I thought it was strangely quiet and then I arrived at the hostel to find there wasn´t many more people there either, so it was a big contrast to busy Cordoba. I met a nice Dutch girl in the hostel and we started trying to find something to do for the day, but soon realised that there really wasn´t anything. After spending the rest of the morning walking round the town we realised that only 3 things were open, a tour agency where we booked a trip for the next day, the church and the supermarket. Every other building seemed to be either a medical specialist or a lawyer so we were starting to wonder what the people that lived there were like. The only few people we had seen had been cleaning the pavements with kerosene, which seems to be what everyone does there at the weekend. Well, that and go to the supermarket, where we must have queued for at least an hour just to buy a few things. So we ended up spending the rest of the day at the hostel where other than a lot of staff there didn´t seem to be anyone else there. But we passed the time Ok and in the evening an American guy turned up as well. We had an intersting meal together in the evening, because of the farmers´ strikes choice of food was a bit limited, no meat and very few edible vegetables, but we invented a new dish and found that peaches, red cabbage and pasta sauce with rice actually made quite a nice combination.

The next day we had to be up at 5am for a very long day trip to the Valle de la Luna, a national park a couple of hours drive from the town. The park is full of geological features, strange rock formations and a lot of important sites where they have discovered some of the oldest dinosaur fossils in the world, so it was a really interesting day. On the way back to San Juan we also stopped off at a town called Vallecito which is basically just a huge shrine. It was one of the strangest places I´ve been because the size of it was unbeliveable. Apparently everyone that drives past is suppossed to stop and leave something or they get bad luck. The main thing to leave was car number plates, there were thousands of them from all over the world. Then there were groups of buildings with various different collections of things people had left, ranging from photos, wedding dresses, guns, knives, tropheys and even a collection of cars. Apparently one guy had even donated enough money to build 12 houses in the town. What made the place even stranger is that the legend the shrine is based around isn´t recognised as a mirracle by the church and they want nothing to do with the place. It was all just very strange.

We arrived back at the hostel late in the evening and were unsuprised to find it as quiet as ever. For the first time in 9 months I even had a room to myself so I got a good nights sleep before leaving for Mendoza the next day.

Posted by katiew 16:13 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

From Salta to Cordoba

rain 22 °C

I finally decided it was time to leave Salta after spending 10 days there. After 8 months of travelling it was nice to stay somewhere for a bit longer than normal and not to be constantly packing and moving on. I got to know the city quite well and i think the Spanish lessons I had there have helped.
From Salta I travelled south to the small town of Cafayate, a big wine producing area in the hills. The bus journey there was only suppossed to take 3 hours and for once I was lookig forward to it as it passes through a gorge with amaxing scenery. It took a bit longer than planned though as we were travelling on a dirt road and a little bit of rain in the morning had flooded parts of the road. I spent a couple of days in Cafayate. The first day I went back to the gorge for a guided walk around the cliffs, cave and rock formations carved in the sandstone by water and wind. The second day I went to Quilmes a prehispanic fort in the hills near the town and then went for a walk along the valley to a waterfall. For once the many knee deep river crossings were a welcome relief as it was a really hot day. So when I went back into the town I tried the local speciality of wine flavoured ice cream, I can´t see it catching on anywhere else. In the evening I went out with 3 Argentinian girls I met in the hostel and tried the local wine, which was a big improvement on the ice cream.
From Cafayate I carried on heading south to Tucaman, where I just stayed a night so I could get a bus to Cordoba the next day. I had heard on the news that farmers had been protesting for the last couple of weeks about increases in taxes, but in the north it didn´t have any affect. But here I found out that the farmers road blocks had been causing chaos with the buses and many had been getting stuck or just cancelled. Luckily the day I went they were letting buses through so we were only a bit delayed arriving in Cordoba. When I arrived at the hostel I met a lot of people who had been stuck there days trying to get a bus and heard many stories of prople getting stuck on buses for more than 12 hours and then just ending up back where they started. Also found that here the strikes have been starting to affect fresh food supplies making it more difficult than normal to get fruit and veg.
I have spent the last few days in Cordoba. Although it has been reaining almost constantly since I got here, I have looked around the main sites inthe city, a lot of colonial and Jesuit buildings and churches, a few museums. Yesterday I went to Alta Gracia, a small town near here where Che Guevara grew up. In his house there was a really interesting museum and photo gallery that covered his whole life. Cordoba is also a big student city with 7 universities, so the nightlife is a big thing here, the hostel even employs someone just to take people out to the bars and clubs everynight. At the moment the city is also really busy beause the world rally championship is being held here. The other night when it started was absolute chaos and even walking anywhere in the city was difficult. The cars were doing a parade around the centre, thousnads of people were on the streets to watch that, there were farmers demonstrating in the streets and the roads were still open to normal traffic. I tried to go out for a bit but you could hardly move because it was so busy.
Tonight I am moving on to San Juan, a town near Mendoza.

Posted by katiew 07:09 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Tilcara

semi-overcast 25 °C

From Salta I had a short bus journey to Tilcara a small town in the far north of Argentina only a couple of hours from the Bolivian border. It was noticeably very different from the rest of Argentina, very little European influence, traditional style adobe buildings, cobbled streets and very few descendents of European people. Hardly anyone there spoke a word of English, whcih was good for me as I´ve got very lazy with speaking Spanish when there are people that can speak English. The hostel I stayed in was really nice, a group of cabins around a central courtyard with hammocks. I was sharing with 3 Argentinians so even there I had to speak Spanish.

I arrived in the town in the early afternoon and soon realised it was going to have to be a very relaxing few days. Here they seemed to have a siesta which lasted from midday to about 6pm and everything would shut. THe next day I went to Humahuaca, another small town a bit further north. It was similar to Tilcara and it was interesting jsut top walk around the main square, and I went up to a big statue on a hill overlooking the town. In the afternoon I went back to Tilcara and had a good walk up to a waterfall on the edge of town and then another walk to a small lake the other side of town.

The following day I went to see the Pucara, a partially restored pre-hispanic fort on a hill over looking the town. THen I went to the archaeology museum where a lot of the finds from the fort were displayed.

In the evening I got the bus back to Salta so that I could get another bus further south the following day. But I´ve had a bit of a change of plan. As it is a really nicecity and I´m staying in a nicehostel, I´ve decided to stay a bit longer and have arranged to start some Spanish lessons tomorrow.

Posted by katiew 12:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Salta

sunny 27 °C

Hopefully had my last long bus journey for a while when I travelled from Iguazu to Salta. Salta is a city in the north west of Argentina, it has a strong colonial influence with a lot of interesting original architecture but is also one of the first places I´ve been to Argentina with a large indigenous population.
I spent a few days in the city seeing the sights and going to a few museums. There is a cable car which goes up to the top of a hill overlooking the city which is surrounded by mountains. Went to a really interesting museum about high altitude archaelogy and how they discovered 3 mummified child sacrifices on the top of a mountain near Salta on the border with Chile. I alos spent a day going to San Lorenzo a small village just outside Salta where I had a good walk through the jungle.
I have also spent 2 days doing tours organised by the hostel. The first one was a trip up to the alti-plano and salt flats. It was a really good day as the scenery was constantly changing. We started off travelling through the rainforrest in the valley, went up into the dessert where there was loads of cacti, and amazing rock formations. Each layer of the rock is a different colour because of the different minerals they contain. We stopped for lunch at the town of San Antonio de Cobres, which is a small mining town on the edge of the altiplano. On the way here we were giving coca leaves to chew as they are suppossed to help prevent the effects of altitude as we were up at about 4000m. They taste disgusting, like really bitter tea and I don´t know that they had much of an effect although I didn´t feel ill.
After lunch we crossed the alti-plano hundreds of kms of flat land with very little there except llamas and wild donkeys. Then we reached the salt flats which were very impressive as they covered such a huge area. After that we started heading back to Salta , stopping off on the way at Pumamarca, a small town famous for the hill of 7 colours, a rock formation by the town with different coloured layers in it. It was a long day as we left Salta at 7am and didn´t get back until 9pm, just in time for a big BBQ organised by the hostel. I had met a lot of people in the hostel over the previous few days so it was a good evening with lots of very good steak. We ended up going out to the area of Salta where all the pubs and clubs are for a few drinks and we saw a local folk music performance. But it turned into a bit of a late night. Ended up getting back to the hostel just in time to have breakfast before going out for the day on the next tour. This was a trip to Cachi, a small town a few hours drive from Salta. For me the highlight of the trip was driving through the Cardones national park. There were literally thousands of cacti either side of the road, in a valley surrounded by more amazing rock formations. We stopped here for a while to have a look round. The area also has a lot of spiders, didn´t manage to find any tarantulas but we did see a few black widows.
Went out to another BBQ that evening but managed to get back to the hostel in time for a few hours sleep before getting the bus the next morning.

Posted by katiew 06:59 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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