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Beastly Blog
Monday, 25 September 2006
Into the Pampas...
Hola Beast Crew

Buenos Aires – La Carlota – Valle de Dique – Cordoba – Quines – San Rafael

16th September 2006 – 25th September 2006

After a week of relaxing in the Argentinian sun, we were joined at Dakar Motos by a Swede, Roni, who is to start his travels around South America on his motorbike. He enlisted Sandra to help him to get his bike from the port and customs. Unfortunately Roni had sent his motorbike via TNT, the transport company, who hindered the release of his motorbike and hugely overcharged him for their services. Sandra of Dakar Motos worked her wonders again and managed to get his bike released to enable him to head north up to the Amazon on his three month whirlwind tour.

We had to wait for an insurance bloke to come out to evaluate the cost of the vehicle (apparently they have to inspect every car before they will issue the insurance) and then we had to wait for insurance to come through before we could head off into the unknown hills of Argentina. So a few more days in Buenos Aires, we were treated to one of Argentina’s famous asados (barbeque) by Sandra and Javier. The asado is an art in itself. The meat is only placed on the grill when the coals are grey and ashy. The meat is slow roasted for over 2 hours until it melts in the mouth (apparently – a vegetarian writing this!). The meat is carved up on a wooden board and distributed in small pieces along with the morcilla (blood sausage) and intestines which are supposed to be a delicacy!

The day of departure from Buenos Aires arrived and we said a sad goodbye with our insurance in hand and headed north out into the campo (countryside). We drove through flat agricultural land with occasional gauchos herding their horses across the dusty horizon. We passed little shrines marked with red flags or paint, some ornately decorated with painted stones and red flags, others decorated with waste plastic bottles with the Virgin Mary or Jesus surveying the road and the large trucks lumbering by. That evening we stopped in a petrol station for the night and hid behind all the large trucks, listening to all the rumbles and grumbles of the passing trucks. We headed north up to the small mountain ranges of the Sierra de Cordoba, driving through small villages all offering for sale homemade cheese, salami and bread, dangling temptingly from the one storey roadside shops. The mountain area is an Argentinian holiday destination and is crammed with little art shops and restaurants situated around the holding reservoirs. We stopped in one of the small villages lining the lakes and experienced one of the local liquors, Fernet and coke. Fernet tastes like a cross between Hierbas from Spain and Jagermeister with a slight anaesthetic feeling to the mouth but the following morning your mouth resembles a chewy dried up dog poo with the equivalent breath!

We headed north with our furry mouths and seeking some respite we drove through the mountain villages until we found what seems to be a common feature of South America, a German village. Belgrano is decked out with pretty brown and white alpine houses, sells Sauerkraut, Kasespaztle and even has an Oktoberfest like Munich! We passed through the town of Alta Gracia which has a UNESCO world heritage designated Jesuit church. The Jesuits were thrown out of Argentina when the Pope designated them all as heretics.

We arrived in Cordoba, the province capital, which was set up 1573. We drove in through miles of ferreterias and car repair places into the historical centre. The beautiful buildings crammed into the square are all part of a world heritage designated zone with another Jesuit church as their crowning piece. Cordoba is one of the more Catholic cities with more than 21 churches in the central area alone. We spent several nights enjoying the spring festival with lots of bands and people watching. Greg even had his first Spanish lesson from a policemen, when he had to explain, in rather drunken spanglish, why he was relieving himself in a public place!

From Cordoba we headed due southwest back up into the arid mountains of the Sierra de Cordoba where we sat and watched condors rising on the hot thermals, before heading down across the flat pampas areas towards the Andes and the wine region of San Rafael. Sandra and Javier recommended that we meet up with two of their friends who have moved to the region to grow grapes…. Bring on the wine!!

Notes from Argentina:

• Argentinians in Buenos Aires are obsessional about their dogs. There are dogwalkers who are employed to take people’s dogs for a walk for over 2 hours a day. They can be seen walking down the street with more than 10 dogs all straining at the lead. There are also penned off areas in the parks for the dog walkers to exercise their charges.
• Buenos Aires have a siesta from 1pm to 3pm but most argentinian towns outside of BA have a siesta until 5pm.
• All Argentinean maps have the Falklands/Islas Malvinas marked down as part of Argentina, although you cannot fly there directly from Argentina (you have to fly from Chile). The Falklands have been in British ownership since 1853.
• Over 30,000 people disappeared under the military regime between 1976 and 1983, which became known as the Dirty War. Many were attempting to oppose the regime but some were just protesting against the price of bus tickets. Some of the people were put in jails others simply disappeared. Other people were tied up and thrown out of low flying aeroplanes into the rivers. Their bodies have never been found.
• Argentinean telephones and the networks have the ability to turn into a ‘handy’ or a CB. You can use a number similar to a telephone to ring anyone else with a CB identification in the country. There is also a button at the side of the telephone that will allow you to use your phone as a CB.
• If you want to get car insurance for your vehicle, you must have an inspector come out and look it over before you are offered insurance. It is possible to buy insurance for Argentina and all of the other surrounding countries.

Posted by Alexis at 12:01 AM BST
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