For our journey to Cordoba, we happened into the first class bus seats, which recline all the way to 180 and have personal TV screens with choice of movies. We didn’t want such expensive seats, but these were part of a promotion, and they were actually cheaper than everything else we found. (Still pricey though.)
We loved having something like a real bed for the overnight, but the personal TVs turned out to be a real problem. The drive was only nine hours, and we left at 10 pm. The girls each watched their own movies, and then when Laura went to bed, they turned their screens back on and watched second movie, staying up until 2 am. I can only imagine how many all night Netflix binges these screentime-deprived children of ours are going to go on once they get out of our home.
When we arrived in Cordoba, it was raining. We saw a huge line of people waiting for cabs, and we managed to skip that by going to the secondary cab area, where they only served disabled people or the elderly, or, in our case, families with small children. Only the cab drivers didn’t know of the address of our hotel. “No existe,” one of the drivers told me. None of them had heard of our hotel, and only after several tries did we find a driver who would venture to take us to the address I had written down.
And he turned out to be a real douche. He didn’t reset his meter when we got in, and when we got to the hotel, (which existed) he wanted more than double what the real fare should have been. I told him that his meter was already run up when we started, but he denied it. I should have called him out right away, but half the cab drivers don’t even use the meter, simply naming an amount. This seems sketchy, but up until this point, the amount named was always super low, and we were okay with it. I argued with the guy for a minute, but we were on a busy road with tons of bags, and we had to get out of there, so I paid him some eight bucks more than I ought to have so we could get our stuff out of the trunk and get to our hotel.
Hostel, I should say. We stayed at one hostel in Peru, but there were few people and it was very nice. This was more of a typical hostel, as we would find out. Our room wasn’t ready when arrived (it was only 8 am) and so we sat with our stuff up in the living area, the girls sleeping for a couple more hours while Laura and I did internet research.
We were relieved to get our room, but it did not have a private bath, and the beds were triple stacked bunks. It was a decent room, but the bathroom situation was not ideal, as there were lots of other patrons, and people were lining up outside each bathroom for much of the morning.
After settling in and resting a bit more, we headed out for brunch. We found a good healthy place online and walked a good ways to find it, gambling that it would actually exist. Thankfully, it did. For the walk back we stayed along the river, which was brown. We were not on a very nice side of town, and one whole street that we walked on smelled like sewage. Historic downtown was only a kilometer or so away, so we figured we’d go there for most of our activities.
The hostel had a pool table and fuβsball, which the girls loved, and there was another young girl around Gaia’s age, and they enjoyed playing together. After a leisurely afternoon, we struck out again for downtown, taking a cab this time. For me, a six to ten mile walk around a city to see the different sites is just dandy, but for the girls, anything over a kilometer is lamented like a trail of tears.
So after we ate, when Laura and I sought out the historic buildings listed on our map, we had in our wake two whining children who never would have survived the great migration. The only respite from the grumbling came when we ate some cookies we’d bought at the restaurant.
That night we would not sleep for some time. Some guys downstairs were drinking beer and using a karaoke system built into the TV over the bar, and they were very loud. I asked about quiet hours, and I got a sort of chuckle from the guy working at the hotel. Later, when I was working on my computer in the living area, he asked me where the family was. I told him they were sleeping, and he seemed surprised. "They aren't on Argentinian time, I guess," he said. This was well after midnight.
I don't prefer to roll on Argentinian time, but late at night is about the only time I get to do computer work, and it was during our stay in Cordoba that I was finalizing the publication of my new book Portlyn, not to mention trying to keep up with these posts.
The next day we went out again to see more of the city. Cordoba is a nice city, if not extraordinary. We found a few museums, one of which was in the Jesuit center. It was an interesting museum. The girls particularly loved the prehistoric section and the section with all life sized stuffed animals.
After the museum we headed for the big city park. On the walk in we passed the bicentennial park, where there were giant colorful rings (ala the Olympics) all over the place, one for each year of the last two hundred years. Further into the park we found a zoo, and against my own principles, we took the girls to see it. They had been asking to see a zoo ever since Cuenca, where we missed the zoo because it was closed.
I love that we get to see such interesting animals so close up, and Lila in particular loved it, but it is always so sad to see those poor creatures penned up, pacing and desperate or indolent and disconsolate. The camel in particular was cool to see. It was huge, as big as a moose, and its humps (it was a Bactrian camel) were sagging. Eva remarked that maybe it was similar to Orcas, whose dorsal fins sag when they are in captivity.
The zoo was not as well kept up as we’re used to in the states, and there were far too few of the staff to enforce their policy of no feeding the animals. The girls loved finding green grass to pick and feed to the grazing animals, which came right up to their fences, as eager for greens as we have been on our potato and bread filled journey.
Inspired, perhaps, by our unsanctioned zoo feeding, we went to a grocery store and bought ingredients for a big salad. We ordered two pizzas from the hostel and ate them with our massive salad, which was extra delicious.
Rather than spending another day dragging the girls about the city streets, the following day we opted to head out of the city to some more natural areas. One advantage to being in a hostel was that the staff was young and they knew the area. I got a good list of possibilities for things to do outside of the city from two of the staff, and in the morning we headed out to the small town of Tanti, which turned out to be a gem. We went to a river swimming spot that reminded me of Prince Solms Park in New Braunfels, or Barton Springs in Austin.
It was a nice spot in a much more natural area, and we enjoyed a nice picnic and a swim. For some reason, none of the girls wanted to exploring with me, so I went upstream alone, finding a good deep jumping spot with high rocks overlooking it, several small waterfalls, and a nice wooded riparian area that reminded me of being back in Oregon. It’s hard being on such a journey, where most of the conveniences we need (like taxis, hotels, and restaurants) are easiest to find in the city, and where outdoors and nature would be much more accessible if we had camping gear and could actually cover good ground on foot.
Still, we all recharged a bit being out of the city. When we were getting ready to leave, I was invited up to a small stage where a guy was playing cover songs, some in English. It turns out that he was from California, and he talked to me about Tanti, where he now lives. He really liked it there. He asked me if I could play, and offered me his guitar, a nice Taylor. I was thrilled to get to play, after so much time without an instrument, and I played a few of my songs. It was fun.
After Tanti we headed back to Carlos Paz, hoping to visit the lakeside (which we had seen from the road on the way in) and maybe rent a small boat to go out on the water. Alas, it was not to be. We ran into traffic, and what had been a fifteen minute journey on the way out was more like two hours on the back, and it was dark and all the boat places were closed by the time we got there.
So instead we found a crepe and waffle place and ate some tasty treats before getting back on a bus to Cordoba. We got back at almost midnight, and we were exhausted. We slept a little late and we were quite late checking out of our room. Thankfully the hostel staff were understanding, and they still let us store all our stuff in their storage room while we went out another expedition. This time we went to a town called Ceballos, where there was a reservoir with a hike out to a waterfall spot.
We had to stop in town first to get some picnic food, and got a fairly late start, so by the time we got to the dam, where the bus let us out, I was worried about having enough time. We had already purchased tickets for a 9 pm overnight bus to Buenos Aires, and we didn’t get started hiking until well after 2.
We were directed to the trail by two local boys carrying fishing rods. They said an hour and a half or so should be enough to the get there. We needed to get back to Cordoba by 8 at the very latest, though I was hoping to be back by 7 to get dinner. This all seemed reasonable.
We walked across the dam and around the lake, eventually coming to an area where there was a little booth with some people, who explained that we were entering a nature reserve, making sure we knew to pack out our trash.
“It’s a beautiful walk to the waterfall,” they told us, speaking good English. “It will take you about an hour and half.”
Uh… what? It took us over half an hour just to get to this point. Now it was still an hour and a half? It was almost 3 pm. To get back in time for dinner, before our bus, we would have to walk very fast and spend very little time at the falls. The optimist in me decided that it would all be fine, so onwards we went, dropping down into the river bed and starting upstream towards the falls.
The walk was beautiful. We saw not another soul for a long time, and the scenery was spectacular. The girls did pretty well, though we weren’t making as good of time as I wanted. It seemed like somebody had to stop for something or another every few minutes, and Lila kept insisting on getting down from my back to run and play, and while I love for her to do so, it definitely slows us down. We plodded on, eventually coming to an area where there were some tents and a few people.
We were all getting pretty tired after an hour or so, and Laura slipped off a rock at a crossing and got her feet soaking wet. Then Eva fell and scraped her leg. I started to wonder how much further the falls would be, but all of the sudden, there it was. It was beautiful, though, unfortunately, there were quite a few people there, some of them camping right off of the river.
None of us brought bathing suits, but we had been hoping that no one else would be around and that we could just go naked. Instead, I had to swim in my underwear, which I would have to travel with still wet later that night. I couldn’t resist though.
The water was cold but not frigid, and very clean. The falls were lovely, and I found an excellent rock jumping point, some twenty feet off the water. I didn’t have much time for swimming, but even if I had, I probably couldn’t have spent much time in the water, as the clouds kept coming in and covering the sun, and the temperature (or our perception of it) would alter drastically when this happened.
Our meal was simple, and we didn’t have plates or utensils, so it was a little messy. Avocados, cheese, bread, carrots, mustard, olives, and apples. Not too different from road trip food.
Walking home was easier, and we made better time. Good thing too, because I could tell the day was getting on. We had no timepiece, but when we got back to the entrance hut, we found out it was 6:40. Yikes. Not only were we going to have no time to stop for dinner, but we were barely going to be able to make it to the bus on time. We still had to go back to the hostel to get all our bags.
We walked extra fast, and Gaia almost gave out. Fortunately, the bus ride back to Cordoba was easy with no traffic, but it was quarter past 8 when we showed up at the hotel, and past 8:30 when we got out to hail a cab. Like it was the theme for our whole journey, our whole lives, even, we were cutting it close.
We got there in time, though we had eaten no dinner. While Laura waited for the bus, I took the girls around the station to look for some food. When I found that nowhere would take card and that I was almost out of cash, I sent Gaia back to stay with Laura, to warn us if the bus came. I then stood in the line for the ATM, which was longer than it should have been at nine o’clock at night.
Lucky for us (I guess) our bus was late. I got more cash and bought us some sandwiches and salads. When we got on the bus, we were disheartened to find that it was the crappiest bus we’d taken yet. The seats were very uncomfortable, and none of us would get enough sleep that night. It felt to me like I slept maybe two or three hours, max. When we arrived in Buenos Aires, I lamented the fact that we had not found a hotel yet. This was something that we should have learned by this point, but sometimes we like to make life harder, to harden ourselves perhaps.
But that’s a tale for another time. We enjoyed Cordoba, and we were particularly pleased to get out of the city and experience the natural beauty of Argentina. It was quite rejuvenating to hike and swim in the clean waters of the river. I long for the day when all there is to do is hike around enjoy the natural world, but we have lots of work to do before this is possible.