Sunday, January 16, 2011

The reigning Queen of Klutz; Cordoba, Argentina

I stayed in Luis Guillon long enough to meet up with my future traveling partner Tracy. She is a girl I worked with in Mexico for a brief period of time and developed a very strong bond with, basically we are the same person, and there are so many similarities its unreal. She is the Australian equivalent of me. They say everyone has a doppelganger in the world, a twin someone who looks just like them but perhaps we have a different kind of doppelganger as well, someone who has led a parallel life, someone who thinks and acts the same as you. This other Tracy my twin from across the globe even has the same name as me, our middle names are almost the same and we both have French last names. The similarities don’t stop there. The only thing is although Tracy is a year younger than me she is one year ahead of me in our Latin American lives. I was frustrated with Buenos Aires when I met up with her after two years and felt bad because she is in love with the city; she lived here for a year before we met in Mexico. She wanted me to love the city as much as her and insisted that I must leave so I can come back and stay in the city. You can’t come to Buenos Aires and not stay in Buenos Aires. So it was decided I needed to see Argentina so I could come back and fall in love with Buenos Aires. I had plans to meet a friend in Tucuman so I picked a place that was in the middle, I headed off that night after seeing Tracy to Cordoba.

I took a night bus and arrived groggy to the bus station. I had a few hostels written down and took a taxi to the first. It seems ever since I left Colombia I have been second guessing myself...actually it’s been since I left Canada which isn’t good. I usually travel by using my gut instinct and it has always worked out but I feel like now I am always at this crossroads I decide one thing then second guess it and then it turns out all wrong. Something is working against me in this travel but I am trying to remain positive. When I approached my first choice hostel it didn’t look so nice and I noticed a sign saying it’s closed between 11pm and 4am and you can’t bring in alcoholic beverages. This was completely ridiculous. I wanted a cool chill place but this was up tight. I asked a taxi driver to take me to my next choice which I should have gone to in the first place but he told me it was just down the road, an honest taxi driver in Latin America...Argentina really is different isn’t it? When I entered the hostel it was bustling with people checking in and out and I recognized other backpackers from the bus station. I was greeted by the nicest three guys. They looked like proper lads all with heads shaved, I later found out this was a graduation ritual and I was in a full on student city. I also learned they weren’t really the owners of the hostel yet. They had bought the hostel and were due to take it over in January 2011. They were there learning the ropes and getting used to it before it becomes theirs.

Once I got into my room I met my dorm mates, two very friendly guys from England. They were traveling South America before heading off to Australia to work. We instantly got on and they invited me out with them to explore the country outside the city where there was some swimming. Cordoba was dry and steaming hot so I jumped at the chance to go where ever there was water and at making some new friends. I was happy because these two reminded me of my English boys I hang out with in Santa Marta.

We picked up an Irish girl along the way so the four of us were on our way to Cabalango. The one guy Chris tried to use his internal compass to guide us in the right direction of the bus station. When that failed him he tried asking for directions but not in Spanish in Portuguese which he was trying to get by on. Eventually I took over the map and asking directions this was getting us nowhere. We found the mini bus terminal which was chaotically busy with one man orchestrating it all, telling people where to go sending buses off and directing traffic. With his help we got tickets but buses pulled in and out without us seeing the name of where we were going everything happened so fast and time slipped away as we looked on confused. Eventually the bus station ring leader saw us and realized we missed our bus he put his hands to his head and we could all translate what he was thinking. With his help we were whisked onto another bus that took us to Carlos Paz (which I later found out is a beach resort village on a lake) from there we waited at the bus station half an hour for another bus to Cabalango. When we got off the bus we were in the middle of nowhere in a very dry land with pools of water and small little waterfalls. It was the closet to nature we could get with water to cool down in. I was happy to finally be in nature even though there were tiendas alongside the river; I wasn’t in a city bustling with shoppers and cars.

We enjoyed the water relaxing and sunning ourselves, this is what I needed after a long bus ride. We bought food from a tienda and made ourselves a picnic lunch the Argentine way. That’s when Tracy the Queen of klutz returned to the scene. I thought I had left her behind in San Gil but apparently that wasn’t the case. My worn down havianas slipped on the sand covered rock and I fell scrapping my leg up. All was good though I washed myself off in the water and continued to enjoy the sunshine.

On our way back to the city we decided to make a group meal with us four and the other Irish girls in the hostel (I swear there are no Irish left in Ireland). After getting settled and changed we headed off down the hard marble stairs of the hostel to buy groceries when my havianas let out on me again I slipped and the whole weight of my body landed on my elbow with a loud crack. It hurt like hell and I couldn’t move but I knew nothing was broken. I was going to carry on but everyone else was much more concern than me and talked me into resting and putting ice on it.

People don’t realize when you’re traveling everyone is in the same boat as you, you are all away from home and when something happens or if you get sick there is always a fellow traveler that wants to help you out and make sure you are ok. We have this unspoken traveler bond, someone will always have your back and help you out of a shitty situation as you would for someone else.

The hostel owners of the Baluch hostel were very sweet as well; they bought me ice and were very concerned. This could be partly because my accident happened on their property but none the less I was impressed with how attentive they were.

I was feeling fine and lapping up being the centre of attention when I removed the ice from my arm it seemed the whole kitchen dropped their jaws at the sight of my elbow. From my angle I couldn’t really see what was going on but after some inspection I discovered my elbow had swelled up and it looked like I was growing a new arm, I had a huge knob coming out of my elbow. I wasn’t the prettiest sight in the world but the worst was seeing people’s reaction when I showed them, this is what made me start to worry. I showed the hostel owners, the three lads and they immediately called in a Doctor who they paid for then took me to a nearby public hospital which was free. They paid for the taxi and my anti inflammatory pills. We were all in good spirits going to the hospital joking around that I had three body guards but I had to pretend I was in a lot of pain to get ahead in line at the hospital.

I taken in by the most beautiful doctor, I have seen a lot of attractive men in Argentina, this does seem to be the land of gorgeous men I have been in search of and I discovered even the doctors are stunning. I was x-rayed and then returned to beautiful doctor who was accompanied by a second equally as gorgeous doctor, both agreed I had no broken bones and I was going to be ok, I just had a lot of fluid billed up.

In the end I was fine, my knob magically disappeared the next day but I suffered severe bruising for a few weeks afterwards. I was able to explore the city of Cordoba and get out and see the Che Guevara museum. The guys at the Baluch hostel treated me very well and I believe they are going to do a fantastic job running the hostel, as long as they are there I recommend the Baluch hostel to stay in Cordoba Argentina. It has a beautiful view of the city from the rooftop patio and delicious asados with lots of wine for an amazing price.

Friday, January 14, 2011

One week in Luis Guillon

When I arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires I was greeted by my Argentinean friend Max and his little boy Manuel. It was so nice having someone waiting for me on the other side. I didn’t have to figure out buses, hostels, taxis, I just jumped into his car and we were off. I met Max in 2007 when I was in Egypt. My boyfriend at the time and I arranged to do a Felucca trip on the Nile, which is an old wooden sailboat with nothing much to it. There was Me and the boyfriend, a Canadian/German couple who were kind of hippyish (we picked them up along the way when we admired how they rented bikes to Philae Temple), two Asians who only spent one night, a girl in her mid 30’s who was either also Canadian or Australian I can’t quite remember and then Max the crazy Argentinean. I remember having chats with him on the boat, hearing his crazy travel stories and borrowing his lonely planet which my boyfriend refused to buy. The one thing I remember most about Max was his batteryless flashlight which you were only supposed to wind up once and it would last for 24 hours but you could constantly hear his flashlight during the night grinding.

I had kept in touch with Max and during my time in Mexico, Central and South America he always asked when I was coming to Argentina. This time I could finally answer him. I would be in Argentina in December and he told me I could stay with him in Buenos Aires.

What I didn’t quite realize was he didn’t actually live in Buenos Aires...well he lives in the province of Buenos Aires and close to the airport but very far from the centre so I was staying in a suburb and had to commute into town. At times this was frustrating and it seemed every time I went into the city I didn’t get there until the late afternoon and I got completely lost. The nice part about staying in Luis Guillon was it was quiet and relaxing. I got to experience real Argentinean life staying with a couple. Max’s girlfriend is a beautiful talented woman, I got to practice my Spanish with her and meet their friends. One evening we were invited to her friend’s apartment for drinks and dinner which started around 11:30pm. It seems everyone does some sort of art form in Argentina, Max’s partner Paula makes bubble glass art and her friends make ceramic and paint. I had always admired the Argentinean artisan lifestyle whenever I had seen them traveling in Latin America.

I was happy to be able to wander around the city and come back to Luis Guillon with Max and Paula to have a nice late dinner with wine, conversations in Spanish and learn about what they do, Buenos Aires and Argentina in general. I helped Paula with her website for the items which she sells so she can see who is looking at her site and have it translated. We spent a while discussing how she could better sell her products but I was thinking more so business minded and she thinks more like a Argentinean Artisan traveling to different ferias in the country and sometimes in Spain. Her products definitely have a niche and would sell very well but she needs to get into the high end market and away from hippy markets.

Most people come to Buenos Aires for the parties and huge night clubs I came to see the real life as I do everywhere and just be. Instead of Pacha I spent a Friday night at Max and Paula’s personal film festival with just a few friends, drinks and homemade sushi which was fantastic. We watched the most bizarre movies till late in the night and discussed them a little afterwards which I didn’t need an enormous Spanish vocabulary for all I really needed was “Que malissima!”

I enjoyed my time in Luis Guillon with Max and Paula but I wasn’t really experiencing all that Buenos Aires had to offer and I wasn’t really getting to know Argentina or so I thought, so I decided I would leave to come back and really know Buenos Aires. I knew I would be back to visit Max and Paula they were amazing genuine people and were becoming very good friends. There was a reason I had stayed in contact with Max he is one of the those special people you meet when traveling that you can meet up with after years and it’s just the same if not better. It was a very different Buenos Aires experinces than most would have but it was my one week in Luis Guillon.

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