Posts Tagged With: tradition

Mendoza, wine at altitude and fascinating legends


On the eastern side of the Andes, precisely in the northern-central part of Argentina, travellers driving along ruta nacional 7, the main road connecting Buenos Aires and Santiago (Chile), will bump into Mendoza and probably fall in love with it, as happened to us. Pretty tired of several days hitchhiking the Country, we decide to spend here a few days in order to get some rest and to recharge the batteries.

DSC04798 DSC04800 Immediately, we realize that Mendoza has a lot to offer since it seems to be a common stopover for climbers on their way to Aconcagua or adventurers looking for some rafting, horse riding, hiking and many other outdoor activities of this kind. The city is the capital of Mendoza region, worldwide known for its fine wine production (here Nicola Catena Zapata, considered the pioneer of high-altitude growing, planted the first malbec vineyard at about 1500 above sea level) and astonishing sceneries.

We arrive very late and we spend the first night at Hostal Internacional Mendoza, so excited to have reached our destination and looking forward to exploring every hidden corner of it. The next day we change hostel (Hostal Mendoza Backpackers) ‘cause we meet our old dear friends, Phil and Charlotte, who came here last week and never moved again. This place seems to be a magnet for every traveller that stops here just for a few days and stay longer than expected. So, 4 days pass by quickly, resting, having good time with the other guys in the hostel, playing ping pong, enjoying the great breakfast provided by the guesthouse and wandering around the city. We visit the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno that hosts an interesting exposition of Picasso’s graphic artworks and the many squares Mendoza is full of, we walk around to admire the lively street art decorating buildings and walls, we taste good red wine and go to the cinema where we see “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, not that good, pretty poor in narrative in fact but definitely inspiring for its breathtaking photography of Iceland beautiful and rugged landscapes.

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We definitely have a great time here, Mendoza is a place so familiar and cosy that makes you feel at home. But everything has to come to an end, we feel like moving. So we take our backpacks and leave to feel the asphalt under our shoes once again. Next stop? Chilean border.

Our recommendations:
Hostal Mendoza Backpackers is really nice with WIFI, shared kitchen, private and shared rooms/bathroom, a huge common room and a sunny terrace, great continental breakfast and a very nice staff (70 ARS per day/person breakfast included).

The first hostel is more expensive, around 110 ARS per person/day, so not really for backpackers.

• Don’t miss Argentinean legends. On our way to Mendoza, after hitchhiking for several hours from San Juan region and surviving the inundation of a river DSC04814 (we find the road interrupted by 2 meters of water and all the people living in the neighbourhoods busy in finding a way to cross it. We eventually manage to do it, jumping in a track taking us on the other side of the stream save and sound), we meet a nice couple who drives us till our destination and makes a little detour just to inform us about one of the most popular myths of the Country: la Difunta Correa. According to what people say, she was a woman whose husband was recruited during the Argentine civil wars, became sick and then abandoned by the Montoneras (partisans). In an attempt to reach her sick husband, Deolinda Correa followed the tracks of the Montoneras through the desert of San Juan Province with her baby child. But when her supplies ran out, she died. Her body was found days later with the baby still alive, feeding himself from the deceased woman’s ever-full breast. She was buried in Vallecito, in the Caucete Department of San Juan, where her grave has become a sanctuary visited by thousands of people asking for a miracle.

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

The Quebrada de Humahuaca, welcome to Argentina.


Bolivia was great.  A lake as large as an ocean with a culture as old as the hills, a city fusing modern and ancestral, as dense as an anthill, mountains as high as the sky covered by eternal snow, mineshafts so deep they descent straight to the abode of the spirits of the dead and a salt desert from outer space will travel with us for the rest of our lives.  At Villazón, on the bridge over the river with the same name that separates the two countries, we leave Bolivia behind us and enter Argentina in the republic most northern village, La Quiaca.

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From there we take the bus and drop 160km down on the map to the village of Humahuaca at 3012MASL.  The rugged topography of this area determines distinct climatic zones: during the day recorded a high temperature (38 º C), while at night it can drop considerably (-10 ° C), varying according to the season.  Humahuaca has a colonial look and with its narrow cobbled streets with lanterns stolen from middle age fairy tales and adobe houses, is it worth a walk through.  The fragrance of ‘tortitas’ (flat round bread filled with cheese or ham, or both, or not) freshly baked over red glowing charcoal and the aroma of big chunks of meat roasting on improvised barbeques float at nose-heights throughout these alleys.  Cute little squares cheered up by youngsters playing music for a few coins are dispersed through the centre of the town.  At the church there is daily a celebration showing typical dances in emblematic clothing on the rhythms of folk music and ending with the twice-told ‘Carnavalito de la Quebrada de Humahuaca’.  A wide staircase brings the visitor at the feet of the ‘Monumento a los Héroes de la Independencia’ which offers, apart from some history knowledge, a beautiful view over the whole area.

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 During the meeting held on 2 July 2003 in Paris, France, the Andean valley that stretches for 155 kilometers in northwest Argentina, obtained a unanimous vote of the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, who described the landscape as a “hereditary ancestral system of outstanding features”.  The Quebrada de Humahuaca possesses a cultural itinerary from over 10000 years.  Its trails are walked by different indigenous ethnic groups and continue to hold religious beliefs, rituals, festivals, art, music and farming techniques that are a genuine living heritage.  With this declaration, UNESCO is committed to support the education and sustainable development of the area as well as the preservation of the culture of the native people.  So we can state that in this region the traveller is brought into direct contact with the roots of Hispanic America, amid a landscape of valleys and ravines where indigenous and Spanish cultures merged.

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Astonished by the surroundings we feel the need to lose ourselves in the rough environment which locals are so proud of and that presents a landscape flowed through by the river Rio Grande and climaxes interesting archaeological sites framed in colourful hills.  It’s a day where a minute counts an hour, lukewarm feels hot and where a Sunday afternoon stroll turns into a daylong hike.  The views on the ravine edging the horizon as far as we can see are amazing and the wildly growing endemic vegetation with its tiny flowers has an interesting beauteous.

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We liked every inch of Humahuaca with the open hearted being of the gentle population and adored the nutritional change as we adventure ourselves in a country that brags about culinary supremacy… as the matter of fact we couldn’t imagine a better entrance in Argentina.

Our recommendations:

  • Besides the Quebrada itself, there are more interesting sites and spots around Humahuaca than first expected: the archaeological ruins of Coctaca, Uquía, Peñas Blancas, Chulín and in the city, the Independence Monument and the Regional Archaeological Museum,…
  • Humahuaca is an outstanding location for travellers with time to perambulate the North-west corner of Argentina.
  • For travellers traveling towards Argentina from Bolivia, use the banks and ATMs (most have the option for Bolivianos or dollars) to obtain dollars. As in Argentina changing a dollar on the street gives you about 25 till 45% more value for your money. Big notes of 50 and 100 are getting the best rate. Look for the right rate at twitter (@DolarBlue) or on the internet comparing the many websites.  The same story for those traveling with euros (max 200€ notes!).  We noticed that the change offices at Villazón offered a very good rate.  Humahuaca as a small village does not have good opportunities to change dollars.
  • We find the food on the streets from very good quality and with the ‘blue dollar’ change exceptionally cheap. Tortitas at 10 pesos… try it and be prepared to be amazed!
  • Different hostels are to be found in the centre of town at fair prices. The real backpackers-deal is to take advantage of the possibility that people offer.  Some of the locals rent rooms in their homes and give the traveller the opportunity to be part of the family.  We met our lovely host lady as we got out of the bus.  She explained her proposition and paid the taxi to her home.  We paid 25 pesos a night a person (around 2.25 euros) in a room for the two of us, a bathroom to share with the other 3 rooms (also travellers) and a kitchen where we cooked together with the host family.  It’s almost unnecessary to tell that instinct and a feeling of trust are very important here.



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

Uros, a tribe drifting on Titicaca Lake


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When the Arawak where pushed out of the Bolivian jungle and got later at the Uru-Uru Lake a second time overruled by other pre-hispanic civilizations, they not only after centuries changed name from Arawac to Uro but were forced to forget almost everything they knew to adapt to their new home.  Tired from both migrating and adapting to new territories they took the existence of living at the lake just a step further.  With the knowledge of living at the Uru-Uru Lake in Bolivia, the tribe made a final decision and start a life on the Titicaca Lake at some 300km north from the city of Oruro.  The now called Uros found a hard life but secure home on ‘homemade’ floating islands made out of dried totora reeds and drift in order to defend themselves far away from the mainland.

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The lacustrine lifestyle, drifting with the wind at 3812MASL, brings them new contacts and trades with lots of civilisations, such as the Aymara that lived at the shores of Titicaca.  Today as we speak, the Uros have dropped their anchor at the shore of Puno, a rather small village on Peruan soil.  The islands, all 49 of them, floating 5km away from Puno lakeshore are still the home of lots of Uro families.  By every marriage one island is build, a two year long task to make it and from that moment on a lifetime job of repairing and rebuilding every three months.  A high and sweaty price to pay in order to maintain tradition and cultural heritage.

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Uros survive on fishing skills from their ‘Caballitos de Totora’ reed boats, totora reed roots for alimentation, diverse handcrafts and of course… these days on tourism.  A visitor can get a boat ride to the community and observe the daily life of a civilization out of time.  He has the opportunity to buy some of the finest handcraft, visit some of the islands and experience the sensation of standing on a floating island which moves by every step taken.  It’s a proud tribe, drifting towards the future remaining and celebrating their cultural legancy.  Puno itself offers lots of folkloric celebrations and festivals, typical Peruan fruit and vegetables markets, booksellers at the corner of each street and a food court at the central meat market to enjoy some local dishes in between the blood dripping cadavers.   Yummie! 😉

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Our recommendations:

–          A boat trip to the floating islands of Uro just costs 10Nuevos Soles and the entrance fee is 5NS.  It is one of those places in the world that offers an unique opportunity to see something singular.  A must do when crossing the border at that side of Titicaca Lake.

–          Q’oñi Wasi is a nice familiar hostal right in the center of Puno close to every market and just 10 min from the harbour. Here you will find any kind of information about tours to the floating islands and other touristic attractions close to Puno thanks to a very prepared staff.

Prices with Wifi and kitchen included:

  • 15/20 NS dorms
  • 30 NS single
  • 50 NS doble
Categories: Peru | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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