Author Archives: Gio&Bert

Embalse de Calamuchita, on the way to Córdoba

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Travellers warned us that, if going more eastwards, hitchhiking will get more difficult.  So we try from Mendoza to Córdoba and get as far as San Luis.  A rather dark city where “hotels” charge you by the hour, taking for grant the fact that people here are looking for some kincky sex with one of the many prostitutes we have seen along the highway.  But as Giorgia doesn’t have me on her pay check, that’s not our case so we decide to spend the night on the ground in the bus terminal together with some other travellers.

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Next day we make a big step towards Córdoba, in the car of a nice couple, and call it the day as we reach Embalse de Calamuchita, a small town at the side of the lake.  Long recognized as one of Córdoba Province’s main holiday destinations, and where the urban tribe have holiday homes, the shamrock green Calamuchita Valley originates under Córdoba city at the town of Alta Gracia –see future posts- and goes for over 100km, between the rising and falling Sierra Chica to the east and the vertical Sierra de Comechingones to the west.  The wide-ranging foliage that covers the valley flanks makes available a impeccable environment for hundreds of species of birds and other fauna.

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Two large and uncontaminated reservoirs, Embalse Los Molinos in the north and Embalse Rio Tercero in the south, both dammed in the first half of the twentieth century for water provisions, energy and recreational fishing, contributes to the valley alternative name: Valle Azul de los Grandes Lagos meaning ‘Blue Valley of the Big Lakes’.  The two, after a long ride, are friendly enough to bring us till a nice camping ground just at the shore of the lake and our tent… at 2meter from the water.

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This stunning place almost secreted in surroundings of incredible natural beauty is rising on our appreciation-scale as we walk the path that follows the contours of the lake.  Vegetables, wine and half a chicken get paid at the local shop to prepare an ‘asadero’.  This is how good it can get: daydreaming with a glass of wine at the shore of what seems to be our lake… our secret place in the world, starring at the vast water surface that sparkles like a thousand diamonds under the afternoon sun.  Later on the day, with the wood red glowing awaiting some food to roast, the last wind breeze departs the valley leaving behind an absolutely flat surface.  The spectacle begins just after we filled the grill with our grocery shopping.  A stunning sunset reflects on the mirror that the lake has become.   Colours are fading into others as seconds tick away and the sun falls down.  The chicken gets turned as the sun hits the horizon at the other side of the lake.  The blue tints orange and orange turns into red a red sky while pink turns into light brown and light brown into crunchy dark brown on our grill.  By the time the sun hides her very upper bit, the violet and red sky fills with the unmistakable aroma of dinnertime.  We eat, we drink, we laugh, we love and we sleep… because tomorrow we have a long day towards Córdoba.

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Embalse is quite and honest, does not pretend to be what it isn’t and therefore becomes one of our better memories of a whole year of traveling.

Recommendations:

  • Don’t get fooled by this quite settlement… with about 8000 hotel beds, tourism is the principal economic activity of this  city (at the time of Argentinian holidays). But out of the hysteric-summer-mass-tourism-season, the camping ground gets quite, costs 50 Pesos Argentino each and has the basics (toilet, showers, electricity,…) still running.
  • Multiple encounters for various nautical competitions as well as rally, MTB, athletics, etc places Embalse as one of the most sportive spots of Córdoba. In 2012 officially named ‘Capital of Nautical Sports of Córdoba’
  • One of the yearly events with the highest convocation of the whole province is held from the 18th till 22nd of September. About 100.000 persons (mostly aged between 15 and 30) come for an unforgettable 5 days of national and international recognized musicians with their bands.  Four massive tents are transformed into mega-disco and host more than 30DJ’s equally well-known. For more info about activities click here.
  • On the way to Córdoba Capital, we manage to hitch-hike till a town named: Villa General Belgrano. It’s a Tirol-ish resort with for the most part Germanic residents.  Therefore, its traditional festivals, its art, folklore and its particular architecture style amaze visitors.  Here October is a substitute for noble and abundant beer.  Thousands of people participate on a pilgrimage to this place each year to take part in one of the supreme longed-for happening in Villa General Belgrano: the National Beer Festival!!! Villa General Belgrano also holds two more national festivals: The Alpine Chocolate Festival (July) and the Fiesta Nacional De La Masa Vienesa (April).
Categories: Argentina | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hitchhiking through the border

13-03-2014

Unfortunately we must say goodbye to Chile. We took a very hard decision. Since time and money do not allow us to visit the entire country to eventually cross the border in Ushuaya (Argentina) as we planned at the beginning, we chose to skip the southern Chilean land with the promise of coming back one day, see another part of Argentina and after that heading to Brasil. So, it’s time to go back and cross again the border, direction Còrdoba.

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We hitchhike from Valparaìso till San Felipe thanks to a sweet taxi driver who helps us to find a good lift to the border. 2014-03-18 14.38.33

While we are wandering around the city to find a place to sleep, we meet a nice young girl who, unexpectedly, invites us to her home and soon we are her guest for dinner and with a cosy room to spend the night. We have a very funny dinner with her father who welcomes us as if we were his sons and the rest of the day passes by visiting the little village, eating ice cream and playing with a special friend of Victoria , a cute hedgehog who lives with them sharing the flat with the cat.

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Reinvigorated from the good food, the great company and the amazing stories told by the father who promises to take us to glaciers next time we’ll pay them with a visit, we go to sleep happy and satisfied, ready to take the road the next morning till Mendoza, where some old traveller friends are waiting for us… A new adventure is around the corner!

Categories: Chile | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Valparaiso, muralism and grafitti to the next level

10-12/03/2014

When we get out of the bus in Valparaiso, after a three hour drive from Santiago de Chile, we feel a bit lost and cannot figure out well where we find ourselves in this new city.  Overfriendly people spot us coming out of the bus and offer us the best price for the best hostel on the best location and they would even bring us to their hostels.  It sounds good but works badly for us as we feel trapped in this maze of competing ‘hotel-stuffers’ hungry for their part of the tourist-cake.  So we take a local bus and leave the rather dirty and dark district behind us and go for the centre of the city.  As minutes pass by, the image at the other side of the bus window starts to change slightly to cleaner streets, to better maintained facades, to less poor and to more joyful.  It doesn’t take too long to find Hostal Licanantay, a good place to spend the night, so we leave our backpacks and go for our first impression of the city.  We find the typical street market scene, people buying and selling local food and drinks, a harbour and coastline with its classic promenade with views on the Pacific horizon.

Surrounded by suburbs that are located on the steep hillslopes, the enclosed centre is actually nice and tight.  It’s a representative example of a with abrupt mountains encircled village that became a big city despite the geographical inconvenience or in this case I would almost say geographical impossibility, an example of an ever growing population of by now 876.000 individuals that have no soil to expand on and by that building up its population density.  Steep, almost vertical streets snake up and down looking for a mode to connect the different neighbourhoods of this city.  An infinite amount of little, almost hidden, stairways curl between the buildings to offer access to every corner of each hill.  Seven authentic, historical recognized, elevators offer an alternative on doing a daily workout of a couple of thousands steps.

DSC05331 DSC05381  It looks chaotic like an anthill with all these small passageways going somewhere and some of them going nowhere further then the entrance of a building.  It’s the ultimate urban jungle!!!  It could be easily the scenery of a ghetto ruled by violent gangs feeding daily their bad reputation as, local people say, delinquency and poverty are worse than elsewhere in Chile, the sextrade is still widespread and at night some parts of town are unsafe.  But despite of that Valparaiso found a way to brighten up the grey slum. Valparaiso has put its wish for banning that sad depressing dark image in the witch pot together with the need of political, economic and sociological freedom of expression of many inhabitants, it has stirred it a couple of times and magically has been able to brew a cultural gaudy adventure in a concrete labyrinth.  We feel like this secret potion has changed oppression into freedom, shadow into sunshine and indifference into pride while we walk the first few alleys.  Muralism, wall paintings, decoration of street furniture, graffiti and urban poetry have just been lifted to a complete new level for us.  Making street art legal gives the artist the time and liberates the devotion to make the best of it.  And that’s exactly what we are looking at here… the mother of all urban expressing.

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With every turn we take, another moment of silent marvel overcomes us, every step down different colours in new shapes are overpowering us and with every step up another miniature landscape is overwhelming us.  Some of them, on a quality level so good they should be in a museum and others with such a truly profound message they should have sound.  Valparaiso got eventually so famed for its colourful alleys that it didn’t take long for famous artists to join the movement which today is known as the “Museo a cielo abierto”, a marked tour through the hidden stairways guiding the fascinated public towards the many famous paintings. 2014-03-16 12.22.48

Nevertheless the big coloured walls, it is the countless small details that keep the whole act together.  Streetlamps that are taken out their traditional forms, small artistic altered bench on a square corner, fascinating handrails that guides you down, a small statue on the corner of a roof, an artistic composition hanging out of a window,… and after a while even the, amongst buildings hanging, colourful laundry drying in the sun starts to be part of the image.

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It is easy and uncomfortable at first, taking all this different sideways in all four dimensions, to get lost in an urban web like this but it turns into eternal gratitude to look for your way out passing by all this occurrences of the human soul.

Our recommendations:

  • Hostal Licanantay has everything you might need, has a reasonable price (6500 CLP per person/night), is close to the centre and offers a great ambient.
  • Ask for the ‘Museo A Cielo Abierto’ and try to get hold on a street map that indicates and gives explanations about several artworks all part of the old part of Valparaiso named World Heritage by UNESCO in 2003
  • Some of the cemeteries are worth a visit, they are packed with diverse beautiful statues and enormous mausoleums.
  • Get well informed about public transport, as after having asked on the street for directions we were walking in circles for quite a while, looking for the correct bus terminal.
  • If going to Argentina, change money into dollars (you might loose on exchange fees but will gain more on the black market in Argentina)
  • Being in Valparaiso means to be just a stone’s throw from one of the three houses of Pablo Neruda, talented writer and politician, winner of Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 and one of the most beloved poets in Chile. Here you will find La Sebastiana, located in Cerro Bellavista, a pretty bizarre house totally designed by the artist, with breathtaking views on Valparaiso’s hills and its coloured streets, a library, a cultural and tourist information center where you can find useful tips about the region and the poet, a bar with a nice terrace looking on the beautiful indoor garden and, of course, a store. An astonishing place, it is definitely worth a visit. Do not leave Chile without visiting the other 2 houses, in Santiago (Casa Museo La Chascona) and in Isla Negra, El Quisco (Casa Museo Isla Negra or Black Island).

Opening Hours

  • March to December: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm hours.
  • January and February: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 8pm hours.
  • Monday closed.

Ticket prices

  • General ticket: $5.000 each person.
  • Students: $1.500 each person (with student credential)

 

 

Categories: Chile | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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