Arrived into Cordoba at about half 5, just as the sun was rising – turns out that 5 and a half hours was too short for an overnight bus. Managed to just about wake up with some breakfast at the bus station before braving the journey to our hostel. Turned up to discover that the forecast for the day was 40 C, and the temperature at 9am was already over 30, so we promptly went back to bed and hid from the sun all day. Finally decided to brave the heat in the evening when it was back down to a slightly more bearable 30 again and found that everyone was out doing their Christmas shopping in the lovely pedestrianised area in the city centre. Very surreal having Christmas in the heat! Spent the evening people watching around the main square and eating tasty ice cream to cool down, although we didn’t manage to find any milongas so we still haven’t made it to a proper tango show yet.
The next day the weather broke and was much cooler, although unfortunately quite rainy. Spent the day wandering around the city only to discover that most of the museums were actually shut for renovation but we did manage to visit some impressive churches and get a look at some of the city’s nice old architecture. In the evening we made our way to the more bohemian end of town for a nice relaxing cup of mate, my first, and very tasty too (although the huge dose of caffeine made me feel a bit funny) and then had a wander round the weekend arts and crafts fair which was all very nice. That evening Kirstie and I decided we’d do something cultural and go and watch Last Tango in Paris at the cine-theatre, Ellie opted out fearing it would all be in Spanish – fortunately for us it was in French and was a really great film! In search of some more culture we then headed out with everyone from the hostel for a dub-step night in an old warehouse nightclub which was great fun. Unfortunetly that meant the next day was almost a complete write off as Argentine nightlife only starts after midnight and doesn’t finish till 6 or 7! Luckily it was a Sunday and it was raining again so we didn’t miss out on much!
Feeling much better the next day we set off into the Sierra (mountain ranges) that stretches out from Cordoba to the South. First stop was the village of Villa General Belgrano, via a scenic drive through the mountains and lakes. The village looks like something from the German Alps, probably because it was founded by Germans who’d been sunk off the coast of Uruguay during WW2. Had an explore of the quaint little main street with its chalet style shops and restaurants then set up camp in a nice peaceful location on the edge of town. After a siesta, and once the weather had cooled a bit, we did a bit more exploring along the riverside walk and up in the top of the town which gave some beautiful views to the mountains eitherside. Sampled some traditional German hot dogs and beer for dinner and watched the world go by, befriended a lot of stray dogs and noticed that nearly every woman in the town was pregnant!!
Woke up the next morning to A LOT of complaining from the girls about camping – too cold, too uncomfortable, too many ants, too many goats in the toilets etc, etc – so we left the campsite pretty quickly and headed off to Los Reartes instead upon the recommendation of the nice campsite owner. Turned up to find a tiny old village with some very friendly, if a little eccentric people (think League of Gentleman…) beside a stunning riverside setting. Had a nice picnic and a siesta and just about managed to have a swim in the two inch deep river – at least it cooled us off as the weather has switched back from cool and rainy to exceedingly hot again, even up in the mountains. After a very relaxing day by the river we headed back to Cordoba past some more beautiful mountain scenery and some more rivers and lakes. Back to the same friendly hostel (Palenque) for a chilled night with our hostel friends and plenty of travel story swapping.
Our last day in Cordoba turned out to be insanely hot again but this time we decided to brave the heat and see all the things we hadn’t yet seen, starting with the Rememberance Museum in the main square, an old prison dating from the military dictatorship of the 70′s where political prisoners were kept, tortured and killed. This has now been turned into a touching display of pictures, artefacts and memorials to the missing, all housed in the old cells. An interesting display as we hadn’t really encountered anything to do with the dictatorship despite it being quite recent, unfortunately it was all in Spanish which meant we didn’t understand everything, but certainly enough (with the help of the history section of our guidebooks) to get the picture. After a brief visit of the cathedral I left the girls to eat ice cream and people watch in the main square while I headed off in search of the park and some more nice buildings. The buildings were worth the trip, some of the old architecture here is really impressive, but the park was a bit of a let down, the highlight being the giant Christmas tree with giant Christmas present in the middle of the roundabout – until I stumbled across some people carrying banners and banging drums, a fairly common occurence in Argentina! I followed them and discovered hundreds more people with banners and drums having a massive fiesta outside the national courts – and lots more pictures from the memorial museum. It was only later that I discovered that they were celebrating the outcome of the trial of the ex-military dictator, Jorge Videla, who had just been sentenced to life (for the second time) for his war-crimes back in the 70′s. The fiesta was quite amazing, everyone was dancing, singing, waving flags and banging drums as loud as they possibly could – clearly a very passionate outpouring of sentiment – shame I didn’t understand any of the chants they were singing, but I still felt very lucky to witness such an amazing event. All that was left for us to do was pack up our bags, say our adioses and head off on yet another overnight bus towards Mendoza.