30th June- 4th July
We only had a six hour bus journey to our next destination of Córdoba, Argentina's second largest city and very much a university town. Our accommodation was nice we had a private double with en-suite, fancy, we know. One of the ladies that worked at Mosada Hostel (where we were staying) was my favourite Argentinian. She was so friendly and was OK at English but spoke Spanish really clearly and slowly for me that we actually managed a Spanish conversation-yes! On our arrival the hostel was putting on a parilla so we signed up. Mum you would not have liked it as it was served at 10pm! The meat was great and they had also made some delicious potato salad and salad to go with it. We got talking to an English couple who had been volunteering in Ecuador for 6 months. They were really friendly and ever so, ever so! I quizzed them with hundreds of questions about where they had been and where was good which has been really helpful in planning in more detail the next few months. They also gave us hope for learning more Spanish as they were almost fluent and said that both Bolivia and Ecuador offer cheap lessons and speak more clearly than in Argentina. James also made me laugh by attempting to join in a conversation by just saying 'Si, si, si' occasionally when he obviously had no idea what he was agreeing with!
Córdoba, like most colonial towns has an old town, (like Harlow!) which is usually pedestrianised and surrounds a plaza. We learnt on a short tour that this area is strangely called, the 'manzana' (apple in English). Our hostel was a short walk from the 'manzana' and the most scenic way was alongside a small canal. We spent two of our days here wandering around the streets, doing a bit of shopping at a good (nowhere near as good as San Telmo) artesian market. Again we had poor timing in arriving here as it was Monday again and all the touristy sites were closed. So we went on a day trip to Alta Gracia a Jesuit mission town just outside of Cordoba. We were lucky with the weather here and walked around the park, saw the church and then went to the Ché Guevara museum (fortunately shut on Wednesdays!). It was situated in the house where Ché spent his youth and was nicely presented (including the bike from Motorcycle diaries, demo'd in the cover picture!) and informative. We managed to blag it in as students which meant we got in for half the price, it pays off looking so youthful and fresh faced!
Back in Córdoba we went to the market for a second time and bought a mate cup and spoon, this is an Argentine tradition where they put tea leaves into a small round, usually wooden cup and fill it with hot water that they carry around in a thermos and drink through a specially made spoon that filters the tea leaves. It is usually drunk in social situations but they seem to carry all the gear around with them and drink it on the move, not the most travel friendly but it is a nice tradition. On the way back we stumbled across a night time dance session. It was in a small square, near the canal and there was music blasting out of a big sound system and around 200 people, either spectating or dancing. It was wonderful we saw salsa and tango everyone just making up their own routine, sometimes changing partners and they all looked brilliant. It was obviously just a casual gathering but we saw some expert moves. And it wasn't older people, everyone was between 17-30, it was so nice to see and I wished James and I weren't so great at dancing as we couldn't join in, in the fear of showing everyone up.
On our last day we had booked a night bus to Salta so had the day to continue to enjoy this lovely city. It was Tuesday so the museums were open again. We had read about a tour of the University that people had raved about on the internet. We had a tour with an English speaking guide and he told us all about the high school that we were in. Half way through the tour James and I realised that perhaps this wasn't the correct tour. We had gone thinking it was going to be a university tour and ended up looking around a school! However, the tour was really informative and it wasn't like looking around a comp school in England it was an extremely old building, founded in the 17th century. The staff room was beautiful, very similar to TTC, the classrooms were single chairs with a small desk stuck on the front, there was no sign of any display work and they still had blackboards, no interactive whiteboards here, perhaps they haven't got Technology status. When we got out of the college we walked past the next building that was, in fact the university! We snuck in and had a wander ourselves; all the while laughing at how stupid we were to have taken the wrong tour. After our own university tour we went to the Museo de Memoria and made up for the rubbish one we went to in Rosario, and this one was free! The museum was really moving and shocking for something so terrible to have happened so recently in a country that most of the time feels more like it should be in Europe and not attached to a third world continent. There are still over 400 people 'missing' as a result of the Dirty War.
We both really liked Córdoba and Alta Gracia, the museums and churches were some of the best we have seen. The atmosphere of the city was nice, it seemed chilled out and felt like we were back at university.
Our journey to Salta was very disappointing. We thought we were getting a full cama bed, like the one from Iguazu to BA where we had champagne, hot food, our own TV screens and flat beds. This was obviously semi cama, despite paying for full cama and our seats only went half way, no TV screens and a cold dinner with juice. I suppose it is breaking us in gently to the infamous buses of Bolivia.