Author Archives: Gio&Bert

Córdoba – Buenos Aires by train

30/03/2014

“It will never be the same.” is my immediate thought now that I read news of Argentina’s new trains that connects Córdoba with Buenos Aires.  More comfort in both: first and second class railway wagons, a modern coach with catering and bar, wagons with isolated compartments so the 6 customers can sleep all night long and wake up just before arriving at destination and a powerful new faster engine to pull it all.  It’s all good and it is a step forward but it’s also the end of a whole generation of travellers.  Let me introduce you to what was.  Staying in Córdoba had been of the scale in our travel experiences and after a week we are ready to move forward.  Where, why, how and how much is the holy foursome in the quest of long term travelling.  But here we knew it would be the train… not only because it’s ridiculously cheap but because of curiosity as lots of roommates, travellers and hosts had warned us that the train to Buenos Aires is the very last option to take.  I remember some of them telling me that they would rather go by feet than the train.  And they might be wright if they wanted to get there faster.  This route had two services a week which most of the time were sold-out.  You had to be plenty time before in the overcrowded, hot and humid railway station to deposit your backpacks.  After another bit of waiting the doors open and you can enter the wagons to find your seat in between the many pushing and pulling people who carried more hand luggages each than our two backpacks together.  Rows of vinyl covered wooden benches for three at one side and for two at the other side of a small pass way got crammed by people at the most chaotically and ineffective way.  Nevertheless after a while each individual would find his seat according his ticket and the scene calmed down as the ‘mate’ started to circulate.  At first you could hear some cracking noises, then the scream of iron that got tortured and finally the train starts to move… and that’s it… it keeps starting to move, it would not speed up… ever!!!  You could see some family members walking next to the train till the very end of the platform while waving to their beloved.  Normally you would run and lose sight even before you reach the half.  But here these people could have continued till destiny.  A beautiful landscape passes by and you had all the time of the world to watch and observe each tiny detail.  The inside design took you right back to the early days of railway history, so far back in time that the word design did not even existed yet and fire had just been mastered.   Wooden benches of which the leaning can be swapped to either side so the voyager has a comfortable choice of direction and view offering as well very convenient change on longer rides to look for conversation partner or avoid them.  The ventilation system were eight not turning iron fans at the ceiling which might have chopped of some heads in their better days.  Reaching the slums of the city of Rosario, this transport converted into a bunker as each one of us had to slide down metal shields at the inside in front of the windows protecting us from stone throwing youngsters.  Nonetheless was the ambient just great as passengers stand up and walk a bit to stretch legs and get in conversation with other rail users.  Cards got dealt out, dices thrown, puzzles solved, guitars got played, some voices got tuned and a couple of old songs filled the belly of the worn out night train.  Twenty hours took the ride of six hundred kilometers and 30 pesos did cost the ticket for an everlasting memory.

Clase-turista-del-tren-Córdoba-Buenos-Aires Image from the website: vacacionescordoba.com

Recommendations:

*Get as fast as possible your tickets to be sure you have a seat.

*The lower the class the more ambient (Pullman = backpackers level: musicians, handcrafters, … and low-cost travellers who have lots of stories to share ;-) )

*Although the tickets got pricier: 90pesos (172pesos both ways) and for students 77pesos  (146pesos both ways), it’s still cheaper than the 600-800pesos expensive Pullmans  (but they are twice as fast… about 10 hours travel)

*Lots of passengers leave the train at Rosario, so if you’re fast you might find a bench for yourself to sleep stretched out.  Not sure this is possible in the new trains.

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

Be the wolf in Cuesta Blanca…

Let yourselves go and get rid of all travel guides.  Don’t follow the herd, shave that wool and be a wolf.  Look for the sensation of doing something different, get your bag packed and jump on the bus and ask a ‘boleto’ for Cuesta Blanca, a town located in the department of Punilla in the province of Córdoba.   A 50km ride from Córdoba capital following the ‘Camimo de las Altas Cumbres’ takes us to this small community parted in half by the San Antonio River.

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It’s this stream that makes this place so special by providing smaller natural pools with crystalline water and clean glittering pink sand beaches both perfect for relaxing the mind and body as these waters cure,… some local told us.

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Cuesta Blanca has the privilege to find itself enclosed in a mountain forest with its many autochthonous trees, grasses and native vines with beautiful shapes and colourful leaves and flowers.  The native fauna gives us 180 varieties of wild birds, iguanas, rainbow trout, weasel, fox, otter and many others.  The wonderful hike along the riverside, from our empty camping site to one of the further beaches, Playa de los Hippies, is a reason on itself to visit this beautiful place.

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After some days you will be revitalized and might be ready for a whole lot more of traveling but maybe never again able to let the wool overgrow the wolf inside you! ;-)

 

Our recommendations:

– Take a good book and enjoy the out of this world feeling

– Binoculars are a must as many smaller beautifull coloured birds fly by and are dificult to see with bare eyes

Eco-camping is situated a bit further from the center just next to the river, offers bbq,  shared showers, has a small shop to buy drinks and delights their visitors with nightly frog and bird chants.

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

Córdoba a fizzy urban lifestyle

21/29-03-2014

Getting a free ride seems to be less evident by every kilometer we get closer to the departments capital but our patience pays off as we manage to hitch-hike towards Córdoba Capital as far as 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, its particular architecture style and in general its vibe, amaze us and the rest of the 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!!! The Argentine take on Munich’s Oktoberfest.  To warm-up the crowd, Villa General Belgrano holds two more national festivals: The Alpine Chocolate Festival (July) and the Fiesta Nacional De La Masa Vienesa (April).

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(Photos from internet)

It’s a beautiful bus ride along silver eye blinding sun reflecting lakes, green valley slopes and small peace inspiring watercourses  from ‘little Germany’ to Córdoba.  Both: being Argentina’s second largest city and the reputation of a culture sparkling youth and student metropolis caught our attention and made it inevitable a stop on our journey.  But finally it is the invitation of the joyful couple of travellers we met at Bocas Del Toro (Panama) some months ago that makes us enthusiastic to go.  The nights we spend together with them having the time of our lives and the days we use to give our laugh-muscles a break while visiting the city.  The first day downtown we find the Manzana Jesuítica (Jesuit quarters), declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  The Society of Jesus and its missionaries played a crucial part in the capitals foundation, establishing it at a strategic point along the Camino Real (“Royal Way”), the Spanish route from Alto Perú to the Crown’s emerging Atlantic trading posts on the Río de la Plata.  This Jesuit Quarters are a beautiful preserved area to stroll around without clear directions, just losing ourselves and finding ourselves by equal parts to get surprised by every turn we make in yet another street with historical buildings.   While we are there, we take a moment to visit the cathedral and have a drink in the cantina of the oldest university in Argentina (but with the fastest internet so far in Argentina).

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As the sun starts to hide himself, Còrdoba welcomes us with a surprising show of dancing musical fountains, a kind of more rudimental and smaller reproduction of Bellagio show of water in Las Vegas, colourful and funny. The night suddenly livens up and music starts to come from every corner.

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The cabildo, which is the city hall, is the next day program and together with the churches of the Compañía de Jesús, San Francisco and San Roque, we end another day amazed about the architectural beauty this streets puff out. Hopping nightlife is what our friends show us in the youthful Nueva Córdoba neighbourhood.  The next day we have a day of relax at Cuesta Blanca (see next post) and the fourth day we have a daytime excursion to Alta Gracia which lays at a bus ride of 35 km from Córdoba city and where the visitor can find the extremely well kept Estancia Jesuita which is another World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the “Che” Guevara House and Museum.

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Córdoba keeps on surprising us… we get to know that Charlotte (one of the girls that upgraded our incredible experience of Macchu Pichu with her presence and visited later on Mendoza with us) is in one of the hostels in town.  We visit her in the hostel, have a tea and hit the streets to visit the Museo de Bellas Artes Evita Palacio Ferreyra, the big green area of Sarmiento Park, the largest park in town, and the Museo Emilio Carrafa both situated around the rather eccentric Plaza de España which is well worth a closer inspection.

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After a long amusing day and with the sky growing darker we go astray in between the billion articles going from antique trumpery to unusual inventive handmade objects at the famed and popular Mercado de Pulgas.  We have a drink and a laugh while remembering our great adventures of the past.

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Córdoba is a city inviting you to be part of her although it’s just a moment in time, just some days… it’s a city to live and feel, to lounge and to party, to agree or to revolt… she just can’t let you indifferent.

Recommendations:

  • There are a handful of option for saunter daytrips from Córdoba such as Alta Gracia, Villa General Belgrano or Cuesta Blanca, La Cumbre (a beautiful town due to the rugged mountain landscape, filled with winding roads and big stony English houses). You’ll find also a fistful of active daytrips such as: Cuchi Corral (a hill with a vast natural balcony with views over the Río Pinto valley. One of Argentina’s top spots for paragliding!),  Quebrada del Condorito National Park (this v-shaped deep canyon is a protected wildlife area and is great for hiking or condor watching.), Los Gigantes (located 90 km north from Córdoba city in the Sierras de Córdoba, these pure granite formations have steep rock walls and are very popular amongst climbers and rappelers.)
  • Cumbia: the first night we spend in Còrdoba our sweet friend, Belèn and Exequiel, take us in a crazy street fiesta with live music, choripan of any kind and, above all, Cumbia: a contemporary Argentine music and dance, an explosion of colours, tribal sounds, energy and passion. Beautiful
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  • Food: As in most of Argentina, one of the main dishes of this region is “Asado”, beside “Milanesas” and “Escalopes”.  The pizzas in squares, pasta, homemade baked patties, and stuffed calzoni are also popular. But choripan is the streetfood locals are proud of!  The delicious “Medialunas” or “facturas” known in other regions of the world as croissant.  But most of all we enjoyed the criollos… at morning, midday, coffee break and as dinner if there are still some left over!
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  • Leave your legacy and make a goal in Argentina!!! Close to Sarmiento Park you’ll find a vast sport area where you can rent a football field with a group of people (hostel for example) and play against some locals or you simply can ask to join one of the teams looking for players.  The spectacularity of this sport zone is the fact that all of them are rented 24 hours a day!!!  People coming and going all the time, teams waiting for a field to come free or having an after-chat at the local caravane-cantine.
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  • Córdoba is in constant evolution and new projects are flourishing like weeds during spring. Look for an information centre and ask what’s going on… as lots of free random activities, free concerts or jam sessions, free museum entrance on specified days invade the city daily, even a very interesting old home-museum with art expositions for blind people in which all of your senses will be activated and stimulated.

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

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