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May 2016

Week Nineteen: back and forth to BA

Alongside yet more foodie hotspots around Palermo, I also indulged in a few (admittedly, not all that many) cultural pursuits this week. The first of these was a trip to the MALBA: the Museum of Latin-American Art. The name led me to expect all sorts of indigenous, Andean colours and handicrafts; so, imagine my surprise when confronted by a series of VERY modern exhibits. For an idea of quite how modern I mean, allow me to elaborate: my favourite piece was a smashed up room, completely empty, but for a disco ball. I was sold; many wouldn’t be.

Even our nighttime activities took a turn for the cultural as we ventured to a milonga. La Catedral, far from its religious name, is a dimly lit, cavernous and slightly dilapidated old building, where locals flock to dance tango. Whilst it was a little underpopulated on the night we went, the vibe was still distinctly sultry and we were treated to some live music. After such a struggle with dancing salsa in Colombia, I relegated myself to purely spectating this time around. (Plus I’m not sure I’d be allowed to take to the floor in Converse!)

Getting back into the tourist swing of things, I decided my passport was in desperate need of some more stamps. Having been reunited by serendipity with some of my long-term, on-and-off travel pals, and despite a few reservations (mainly because my Uruguayan hostel family said ‘don’t go, it’s cold’), we hopped, skipped and ferried across the Rio de la Plata for a girl’s weekend away in Uruguay.

First stop, just an hour outside of BA, was Colonia del Sacramento. This won the battle of the quaint, tree-lined towns by having the most unsettlingly wonky cobbled streets I’ve ever navigated.

Back on the straight and narrow roads, I can highly recommend renting bikes and enjoying a scenic cycle. We journeyed aimlessly along the coastline, on some rather unhealthy sounding bikes. I can see how spectacular the ride would be in the blazing sunshine, but, even through the wintry clouds and cold breeze, the sunset over the totally placid water was a lovely backdrop to distract me from the exercise!

I had been warned that Uruguayos do things even later than in BA; my disbelief was allayed when I saw texts to prove the fact, asking what the plan for the evening was, sent at 3am! I’m not sure whether it was owing to this nocturnal national identity, or whether Colonia really is just the sleepiest town in the world, but the charmingly fire-warmed and fairy-lit restaurants weren’t exactly hopping. Nonetheless, dinner provided red meat, red wine and the chance to get our heads around yet another currency.

Having pretty much exhausted Colonia’s offerings in an afternoon, we were off to Montevideo. Pretty much a smaller, quieter version of Buenos Aires. Despite uncanny similarities, such as purposefully partnered buildings and matching monuments, I couldn’t help but see this country’s capital as the overlooked middle-child of the Rio de la Plata.

Due to the city’s relatively small sprawl, one can experience drastically different vibes and neighbourhoods without actually venturing too far. At times the completely empty streets, furnished with the odd burnt out car, gave a disconcerting ‘trapped in Prussia’ atmosphere. Down by the waterfront, crowds swarm to watch children play football (which explained the surrounding streets being empty, rather than putting it down to an atomic aftermath!) And finally, the old town plays host to some lovely squares and roadside tango sessions for the excitable elderly! Totally charmed by stumbling upon this moment of Latino authenticity, my bubble was burst shortly after, when we noticed the glamorous red flags flanking the avenue were all McDonald’s adverts. M for Montevideo.

Upon a recommendation from the aforementioned locals, we resided in the trendy Parque Rodo neighbourhood. Our proximity to bars, clubs and restaurants of all varieties was inconceivably close. These ranged from rowdy dance joints, to casual cervecerias and everything in between; namely, a bar serving pizzas at 2am and a burger joint that allowed me to combine my love of both chips and fernet! (Note to self: You don’t actually “love” fernet- don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a good idea again!)

A disappointingly closed (and somewhat dodgy looking) funfair, several men in inexplicable pink tutus and a market selling all ones heart could desire, and we had pretty much seen all of Uruguay. We aimed to get back to BA and warm ourselves up at long last! That was until we arrived at the eerily empty ferry port…

Turns out, SeaCat (the cheap way to cross the border) force you to get a bus back to Colonia, before jumping on board to cross the river; thus they leave from the bus station, NOT the port. This was a fact we learnt a mere quarter of an hour before our boat/bus was due to depart. Luckily, the taxi driver we flagged down seemed sympathetic to our plight and more than happy to break all sorts of laws to get us across town in record time! Very nearly crashed, scraped and died several times, but the clock was ticking and the adrenaline surging! One last whip around the city and we really had seen it all- and with five minutes to spare!

In accordance with my new nickname as the ‘hostel parasite’, the girl who postpones check out every single day, we headed home to the same hostel. Beyond repeating my living arrangements, I also began to repeat activities. Another Monday night meant another trip to Bomba de Tiempo.

If anyone had suspicions regarding the ‘entirely improvised’ nature of the performance, I can confirm that it was an entirely different show this time around. Whilst the main premise of heavy percussion and jumping around remained, this week they welcomed some slap bass and hundreds of new exciting beats. Add in a different crowd, complete with slightly sinister morphsuit wearers and plentiful Latino flirtation, it felt like just being at a very cool bar, more so than everyone staring at the stage show. If I could go every week, I would.

Back in the daylight hours, I also explored San Telmo, the historic downtown neighbourhood, famous for its markets. Having moseyed through the indoor stalls selling fresh fruit and disorganised piles of ‘antiques’, I settled for purchasing nothing more than some delicious looking cheese and jamón. I’ve heard tell the markets are out of control on Sundays, so watch this space, I’ll be heading back for more!

Other than all of that, my comfort levels in BA are perpetually rising, thus I’m enjoying just living, without pushing myself into achieving too much. Unfortunately, some of that ‘real life’ has come with harsh realities, such as finding I’d been duped with several fake bank notes and trusting a very dodgy looking man to wash my clothes (when perhaps he should focus more on washing himself.) But other than that, I adore it here. Maybe I’ll move on before my next blog deadline… Maybe.

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Week Eighteen: severe body clock jet lag in BA

Staying in the hip and stylish Palermo neighbourhood, much of my last week has revolved around exploring the shops, cafes and bars on offer. Working my way through a list from my friend Sophia (and honorary local) I’ve been eating extravagantly and multi-culturally for just about every meal; the budgeting and dieting can wait! On top of gastronomical extravagance, as in any big city, has been a lot of alcoholic indulgence. Porteños party hard; so, when in Rome!

Owing to the lateness of all evening activities, our entire hostel became nocturnal. 7pm saw everyone surface from their slumber, debrief what had happened the night before, have some food and start all over again; the red wine flowed, the fernet stung the back of your throat and we didn’t head out to a club until 2am, at the earliest! However, I was repeatedly woken up in the mornings by the housekeeping staff, nudging me and reminding me to check out. I began to live in a perpetual state of ‘uno noche mas’; one more couldn’t hurt right?!

Thus I was determined, despite heading to bed around 8am, to make the most of those days I was “gifted” by my wake-up call. However, too fragile to achieve anything of substance, we did a lot of aimless wander-exploring around Palermo. There are multiple parks, each one with a glamorous landscaping theme: the rose garden, sheltered under pergolas and between fountains, and the Japanese gardens, walled in behind a 70 peso entrance-way (that we refused to pay on principle.) Unfortunately, they fail to create any kind of ‘inner city oasis’ vibe, owing to the impossibly wide avenues that surround; perfect for drag racing I’d imagine, not so good for pedestrian crossings!

Wandering around made me realise pretty quickly how comfortably I could live here. The nocturnalness aside, I like the rhythm and the combination of South American and western styles; like Paris, but with more attitude.

The city further won me over with a visit to El Ateneo, the world’s most glorious book shop. Housed in a glamorous ex-theatre, it is a shiny beacon to celebrate the arts. Everywhere there is space, you’ll find someone perched with their head in a book; so, naturally, I followed suit and attempted to teach myself some Spanish!

I then tried to jump on the subway home, but instead found myself caught up in one of the biggest, most raucous protest marches I’ve ever witnessed. Whilst they do take any excuse for a strike or political action, this one seemed to have a legitimate point; as far as I could fathom, amongst waving flags and pounding drums, they were rallying against the privatisation of eduction: “no vende, se defiende!”

Branching out beyond the comfortable local realms, our gringo group jumped on a bus to the opposite side of town, to check out the famous La Boca caminito. Arriving in the shithole neighbourhood at the mouth of the river, we were immediately ushered towards the tourist bubble. Just a few square blocks in size, suddenly we were transported back in time and into the mind of a colourful (and sometimes slightly grotesque) artist. What had clearly once been a particularly run down, dodgy area had been entirely transformed: with several licks of paint, scary alleyways now populated with accordionists and mystery staircases to quaint art galleries, they had created a ready-made tourist hotspot. In order to exploit this newfound gringo clientele, the bunting-lined streets were filled with an abundance of tacky souvenir shops and infinite numbers of average restaurants; each with tango dancers performing uncomfortably close to the tables!

Somewhat bizarrely, another huge tourist draw is the Recoleta cemetery; the size of an entire neighbourhood, solely housing the deceased. Labyrinthine pathways are lined with mausoleums, ranging from ancient, dilapidated ones to super sleek modern marble ones, that bear an unsettling resemblance to a designer shop front. Huge gothic monstrosities are larger and more ornate than some churches I’ve seen on my trip (and I’ve seen a LOT of churches!) I got lost amidst the morbidity for a long time and never saw the same thing twice. However, what did strike me was the lack of flowers, not a petal anywhere; that was until I found Eva Peron’s family tomb, which had been heavily florally adorned by tourists and fans alike. Perhaps not for everyone, but for someone writing their thesis on death, I thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by the looming tombs.

In order to make my wandering somewhat less aimless, my first sojourn into the historic downtown was with the guidance of a free walking tour. Our guide enthused about the history of the country and how it contributed to the mixing pot of architecture visible in the city. Classical French juxtaposes ugly 1970s spacesavers, and some older buildings are simply cut in half, to make way for the ridiculously wide roads (so wide, they warrant two mentions in one blog post!) We explored from the fantastically columned Congress building, down past Evita’s memorial and all the way to the hot pink governmental building, complete with tacky night lights. The history lesson was interrupted by some pomp and ceremony from the grenadier guards; I was particularly amused when, despite all their synchronised movements and somber attitude, they lowered the flag and simply bundled it up like dirty washing to take it back indoors. A strange custom indeed.

I feel it would be an unfair testament to this wild city if I didn’t attempt to illustrate at least one night out. Luckily, it’s not all just beers and Bieber; the most authentic, memorable night out came unexpectedly on a Monday. La Bomba de Tiempo is a hugely popular, and entirely improvised, drumming and percussion performance, in a trendy warehouse space filled with tourists and locals alike. Boundless energy exuded from the twenty-odd musicians (in matching dorky red tracksuits) and permeated through the crowd. So much vigorous dancing to adrenaline-fuelled melodic surprises. Even the neglected percussion instruments, like the “cheese grater” or “ball wrapped in beads” got the party going.

When no one was ready for the party to end, the drumming flowed out into the streets. Hemmed in by street vendors and ferried by the moving musicians, we found ourselves in part of a procession to a night club- hopeless to resist this most genius marketing tactic! So, the moral of the story: in BA, whether you’re indoors or on a street corner, on a Monday through Sunday, there’s always a fiesta to explore! Hence, I’m staying put…

Week Seventeen: student vibes and skydives

Within ten minutes of arriving in my hostel in Córdoba, I had made a new friend and convinced her to sign up for skydiving with me; I knew I was going to like this town!

First point of business in any new city is to navigate your way around a free walking tour; soaking up titbits of trivia, but mostly figuring out where you live on a map. Thus, Vivian (my new Dutch other half) and I joined an eager group of gringos in the main square.

Córdoba, amongst its chaotic streets and far too numerous lingerie shops, has some truly lovely architecture to boast of. The main cathedral displays a combination of styles, from the two hundred years it took to complete. The city as a whole follows this hybridity, from the ancient looking Jesuit block, to the more glamorous French adornments elsewhere. My personal favourite was a building that defied planning permission, by stretching just four metres back from its decadent façade; a well-dressed slither. What brings all these styles together is the way that all important buildings have their silhouette marked out on the pavement at their feet; a little reminder as you plod the city streets to always look up, in case you’re missing something spectacular. Add in an inexplicable, modernist lighthouse (in the centre of the country) and a giant park, where we lunched, and that was pretty much all of Córdoba.

Quickly saturated by the city at ground level, we took to the skies. Having always wanted to skydive, it seemed almost too good to be true when we heard the (comparatively) bargain price. Whilst we did hold a few reservations about where the savings were being made (turns out we didn’t get any kind of protective clothing, and the briefing was in Spanish), we anxiously and excitedly bounced around an empty aircraft hanger in the city’s outskirts.

Vivian went first, leaving me all alone, fizzing inside, until I heard her screams from above; this was possibly the longest twenty minute wait of my life! Seeing her exuding adrenaline, even after hitting the ground, I was all the more pumped to get harnessed up and try my hand at flying.

The plane was minute; just myself, my instructor and a pilot. The sprawling views over the cityscape distracted me from what was coming and chilled out some of the nervous giggling. I felt nothing but excitement, until the door opened… The photos make it quite clear how many expletives I uttered at this point! Hanging in the doorway was the point when I began to question myself; I was willing him to put my mind at rest, simply by pushing me out already!

Then came free fall. Easily one of the most exhilarating experiences on Earth. The surprise backflip he threw in, intense wind and oodles of adrenaline, made me completely forget my moves and flail around like a maniac. I was swearing, laughing, leaking and trying to close my incredibly dry mouth, all whilst soaking in the views and the feeling of utter amazement. The ultimate multitasking. Things slowed down once the parachute was up. Or they did until he handed me the reigns and let me spin us, quickly and horizontally.

Even once on the ground, Vivian and I were flying high for hours. We laughed achingly upon watching our skydive videos (in a subdued Internet cafe) and hit the town to celebrate.

With Ashleigh (another travel buddy) and several perritos (or local street dogs) in tow, we painted the town red; quite literally, as we bounced between hip, trendy bars, gorging ourselves on the local delicacies of Picada (piles of salami and cheese) and at least five bottles of red wine. It became clear that Córdoba is a student city, as the bars were filled with fairy lights and the clubs were raring to go, on a Wednesday night!

In stark contrast to the elation of the previous day, we then indulged in a truly ‘student city’ hangover day. Our hostel hosts judged us ruthlessly for not only ordering a pizza, but for getting it delivered from one block away! The only time I did venture out that day was to buy a phone charger; this resulted in a series of returns to the same dodgy shop, each time with faulty merchandise, and the acceptance of that fact that today was not a day for attempting to achieve anything.

Once back on top form, we went day-tripping! More specifically, we visited the small town of Alta Gracia. Notable solely for its former residents, we visited Che Guevara’s humble beginnings. His house, now a museum, is pretty much just a walk-in photo album; but I did learn about his early life and, most shockingly, what he looked like before the rebellious hair took over!

Uncertain of the difference between a Jesuit ‘estancia’ and a plain old ‘church’ (and not willing to pay the entry fee to find out) we instead settled for some spectacular plaza-side cake, before heading back to the city for happy hour. Alta Gracia was nice enough, but couldn’t compete with craft beers at bargain prices!

The rest of our time in Córdoba was spent desperately attempting to buy Vivian a new birthday outfit. Unfortunately, the streets at the weekend are largely uninhabited. I’ve learnt that Argentinians are serious about two things: siestas and shoes. At such times when all shops are closed, we were left with nothing to do but people watch. Thus noticing that anyone who’s anyone adds at least three inches in platform height to the soles of their feet.

It turns out, these outlandish shoes could be purchased in the palatial shopping mall, the one place still open on a Saturday. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t afford anything here; other than a trip to the arcade on the top floor and some playtime in the photo booth. There seems to be no happy medium between designer-level prices inside and the truly tacky and terrible shops that line the surrounding streets.

Unsatisfied by a market populated my the ubiquitous piles of socks, alongside everything you could want in leopard print, we headed to the bohemian Barrio Güemes for something more artisanal. On weekend evenings, the streets here transform into a hipster haven; fairy lights are the only thing to guide your way between the unattached, half-built walls that house a labyrinth of colourful, stalls. I was far more impressed with the offerings here: from Rastas making macramé jewellery, to piles of “antique” crap and everything in between (including thousands of maté cups, carved spoons and toys made from dish sponges.)

One final day in Córdoba and we repeated our favourite tropes of people watching, picada and happy hour. Then it was time for Vivian and I to part ways; she had a big birthday planned on the other side of the country and I couldn’t face paying for a bus to go back on myself.

Thus I headed up into the Sierra Chica mountains, to the beautifully bizarre town of Capilla del Monte. A cross between the ghost-town, low season qualities of Valle Fertil and the bohemian, street-art vibes of Valparaiso. Other than a lot of hippy shops, offering spiritual healing and/or all the alien memorabilia you could ever want, the main draw of the town is in the surrounding mountains.

I challenged myself to scale Cerro Uriturco, the highest peak in this central mountain range (the poor man’s Andes!) The path was just wide enough for myself and my two canine companions to walk single file, and for spiders webs to regularly block the way. Whilst the climb involved a lot more rocky scrambling than I had anticipated, I let the dogs lead the way and we reached the summit in just under two hours (exactly half the estimated time quoted by the snooty man at the base, who had made me doubt myself.)

In classic accordance with my weather-based luck, the view was shrouded in clouds. Dramatic and impressive when glimpsed in between, but largely grey. As the impossibly large condors began circling dangerously low, we headed back down.

I ached, it started to rain and I had to get the hell out of this extra-terrestrial town. I bussed back to the city and, finding myself with a couple of hours to kill, on a rainy ‘free museum Wednesday’, I thought my luck was in. That was until the municipality of Córdoba had decided that today was the perfect day to close all of the museums (or at least both the art gallery and the intriguingly named ‘Museum of Women’, after which I gave up searching.) Instead, I took a perch in the old-fashioned, and only partially functioning, tiled hall at the train station.

All aboard and on my way to Buenos Aires.

Week Sixteen: bizarre goings on in ghost towns

My initial moments in Valle Fertil were quite alien; rather than tramping the streets in search of a hostel with any space, I was in search of a hostel with any guests at all! Evidently, I was in luck, as I managed to source the only other tourists in town: we were three. Even fewer than the number of tourists was the number of open restaurants. Just the one. It came complete with a full sized T-Rex skeleton, to menace you as you ate, and it considered fish and chicken as synonymous on its menu.

What the tiny town was in no means lacking were dogs. Having used surrogate pets as a coping mechanism for missing my dog back home, I was initially pleased. That was until I realised quite how much trouble these adorable pests could cause me! In short, the neighbours’ dog decided to accompany my on my tour of the town. She attempted to enter the supermarket; outweighing my desperate attempts to restrain her, I called upon the help of a local to tie her up outside. Chaos ensued and a lot of ‘Who’s dog is that?!’ I sheepishly did my shopping, untied her and ran away… Only to be chased by all said dog’s local enemies. Cowardly, she placed me amidst the fight and solidified my decision to only leave the house on accompanied excursions from then on.

Luckily for me, daily excursions to the nearby reserves of Talampaya and Ischigualasto were in full swing, despite dwindling tourist presence.

All aboard the cramped retirement bus and we found herself giggling our way through a ‘that’s where something used to exist’ tour of Talampaya. Things began looking up (no pun intended) when we reached the dauntingly high, bright red canyon. A small selection of rock paintings showed a man and his llamas; no prizes for what this taught us about ancient civilisation! Beyond that, an almost impossibly verdant garden lay in the centre of the arid canyon. Ancient, gnarled trees played host to various small animals, as well as a table serving us wine. I have a suspicion it was just intended to loosen people up for shouting, thus showcasing the impressive number of times an echo would reverberate down through the canyon. The rocky “cathedral” had spires carved out, opposing the otherwise horizontal stripes of the rocks and thus creating a pretty spectacular spot (my cynicism subsided as the day went on.) One final vista out across the desert-like landscape, to the snowy, glacial mountains beyond and we were done with nature for the day. That is a of course except for a quick spin around the dilapidated dinosaur models in the park and then again to our favourite dino-restaurant.

Dubious about how many more rocks I needed to see, I was somehow convinced to visit Ischigualasto, or Valle de la Luna, the following day. I was adopted as an honorary Argentinian for the day, in order the escape the blatantly discriminatory pricing against foreigners at all National Park entrances. I didn’t however adopt the Argentine custom of cooing ‘Que lindo’ at just about every animal or rock we saw in passing.

Yet, that is not to say that I wasn’t suitably impressed by the Moon Valley. Living up to its adopted name, the landscape was truly other-worldly. Driving through the cacti-strewn Wild West, we stopped off at giant cut-out mushroom shapes and perfectly spherical balls of rock, that looked to me like the love trolls from Disney’s Frozen. The highlight for me was ‘the painted valley’; an undulating stream of coloured, striped mounds, viewed with a God-like perspective from above. Otherwise, there were some impressive dinosaur fossils unearthed here and on show in a small museum built entirely to shelter said archeological site.

Other than some uninspiring postcards of rocks and an artisanal market selling some of the world’s worst souvenirs (I wonder if they have ever sold a rock with a spring glued on top, that reads ‘Valle de la Luna’ scrawled in biro?!) I had sampled everything in this region. Irritatingly enough, the only bus northwards out of town left at 3am and only went as far as La Rioja (the next region’s capital.) I decided to make lemonade of the hand I had been dealt and thus treated my layover in La Rioja as a fun day trip.

Whilst the town doesn’t warrant a shout out in The Rough Guide, I had had the chance to briefly peruse a fellow tourist’s Lonely Planet and thus made a beeline for the Inca Huasi Museum. I should have perhaps guessed from the fifty pence entrance fee that it was going to be small; what I couldn’t have anticipated was the sheer volume of rocks they managed to squeeze in. Amused by the abundance of ancient drug paraphernalia, I was saturated within half an hour and headed back into the daylight.

As with anywhere in South America, if in doubt, head for a sit in the main square. Beyond just people watching, there is always bound to be something afoot. This particular day was a prime example, as a protest gained momentum on one side of the square, a festival-like celebration in honour of the International Day of Dance raved on the other. From overly sexualised young girls belly dancing, to folkloric courting dances and, of course, the ubiquitous tango, there were a variety of performances, punctuated by chances to get involved. I remained a silent participant, but thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.

Other than this (and a totally bizarre dog show, wherein young children dragged ill-behaved dogs across a stage in a supermarket car park) La Rioja entirely shut down for the afternoon siesta. I was once again in a ghost town.

One more night bus later and I was in Salta. Having already tasted the delights of rocky landscapes at Ischigualasto, salt flats in Uyuni and the wine region around Mendoza, the excursions on offer from Salta fell a little to waste on me. Thus I dedicated my exploring solely to the regional capital itself. Initial thoughts: if you were to cut Mendoza in half, you would come close to the vertically challenged, yet still tree-lined, promenades of Salta. It is essentially a more colourful and vibrant version of Cuenca, Ecuador, but with a similar ‘what do I do here?’ vibe.

The churches and cathedrals are plentiful and look straight out of a Disney storybook. With brightly coloured outsides, swirly patterns aplenty and insides covered in perhaps a little too much gold, they certainly don’t do worshipping by halves! The only drawback is the monophonic, ringtone style church bells played on the hour, somewhat diminishing the glory.

Salta has several small, but charming museums to pass the grey, cloudy days. The first, the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, showcases decrepit mummies of sacrificed Incan children- not for the faint hearted. The second, the Museo Pajcha, a private collection, proudly displays art, handicrafts and religious imagery from across Latin America. Diego, the guide and vice-curator, exudes enthusiasm and he alone is worth the £3 entrance fee; well-kept, with a cravat and a combover that couldn’t fool anyone, he excitedly presented the collection, room by room, as if each were a grand surprise! My personal highlights were the controversial paintings of angels with firearms and Christ being crucified in a skirt. The only explanation Diego had to offer was ‘¿porque no?’ (Clearly he shared my mantra; I knew I liked him!)

Slightly beyond the city limits looms Cerro San Bernardo. A mere 1021 steps lead to the top, via occasional glimpses of city views through the thick canopy. Following the stations of the cross along the path was a good way of measuring distance, but was hardly uplifting or motivational! At the top lie some nice gardens, the former glories of a water feature and, of course, a statue of Christ, overlooking the sprawling regional capital. A lovely spot for a sit (and to escape the madness below- on a day when there appeared to be city-wide bike race, for which the roads were only partially closed, thus taxis raced across the finish line as people threw firecrackers!)

I mostly used my time in Salta to recuperate from a cold I caught on one of several night buses. Having befriended a guy in my hostel from South Korea, I was treated to some delicious home cooked Asian meals almost every evening. When in Rome!

Done with the north and done with nature for a while, I headed to Córdoba- the rough and ready second city, at the geographical heart of the country. Stay tuned…

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