On the Road
So we rented a people carrier and hit the road for a three week 4000km oddessy to the Andes and back….
We planned to cover the trip to the Andes with two overnight stops on the way and then take a longer run back stopping in three places, with the whole run taking three weeks.
It’s worth mentioning a quick stop off we did to see Our Lady of Lujan a major religious site on the road to Mendoza a couple of hours outside BA.
Rufino is like somewhere out of a slasher movie. In the middle of the Pampa it’s a traditional agricultural town surrounded by nothing. The hotel we stayed at added to the movie feel, this time a touch of Bates Motel complete with a lift that looked strangely older than the rest of the hotel.
Doesn’t sound too promising I know, BUT next to the hotel was a social club for something or other with a restaurant open to the public, where after a long day at the wheel the food tasted heavenly and the bill made me smile. For me it was of those nights when everything seems better than it probably is, being in the middle of nowhere eating unexpectedly good food and wine in a place you would never have imagined ending up.
San Luis was a slightly longer stop, we got into town when it was still daylight, so we made a day of it. After checking into the hotel we were Hank Marvin (starvin’) and in case you didn’t know, EVERYWHERE in Argentina serves lunch between 12 and 2, after that you’re on your own. When we rocked up at a place the first thing was for the waiter to get over the shock of us looking for food at 3pm. But once he’d done that, he went into the kitchen and came out 20 minutes later with shed loads of empanadas, chips, chicken, salad and beer, we were saved! I’ve probably said it before but just about wherever we went in Argentina people went the extra mile to be accommodating especially outside the big cities.
After lunch we had time visit a lake that’s popular with the locals for the kids to stretch their legs. We also had time to take in our surroundings a bit, San Luis is pretty dry, but has a lovely Mediterranean type warm light that made the sun going down a pleasant site.
Trapiche San Luis
Trapiche qualified for a stop more because it was half way between Uspallata and our next major stop in Cordoba. It was not particularly on the tourist trail, except I guess for some locals who went camping in the area, or like us rented a cheap and cheerful cabin.
There were a couple of memorable things to share about our couple of nights here. First, an example of Argentine laid backness and generosity of spirit. We arrived at our cabin which we had booked some weeks before to find that our host wasn’t expecting us. So he tried to get the heating going in a cabin and to give us the best welcome he could, before giving up and saying that to be honest there were some better cabins 10 minutes away that he’d be happy to take us to.
So off we went and turned up for two nights in some rival cabins that were in fact nicer. The other memorable part was that this was the only place we stayed at the entire holiday that was so cold none of us got out of bed until midday. That includes kids and dads who are used to the cold. It was bloody freezing.
We never wandered far from the cabins, the lake in the picture was a 5 minute walk away and the cabin grounds were big and had plenty of space for us to explore, play army and cook up a parillada.
So soon it was back in the car and on to Cordoba province, yet another type of scenery and weather what a country this is!
I’m not sure if I was expecting Klaus Barbie to be hiding behind a rock by Villa General Belgrano was less Nazi war criminal and more Disyneyland meets the Munich beer festival.
For Laste and Domenica it was interesting as a pseudo European experience complete with beer halls, more types of sausage than you can shake a sausage at, blond haired, (and a bit grumpy) locals and twee souvenir shops, this place had everything!
So we ate, drank big glasses of beer and bought pointless crap. Us and half of Argentina I reckon. It was busy (not Paris in July busy but busy) and pricey by local standards, (but still reasonable) and OK for a couple of half days.
Closer to the cabins there was a reservoir that offered free walking, so that’s what we did, as well spot some big birds.
All this was close to the cabins and was OK for some easy access cheap fun, but by week three of our expedition into the hinterland we were starting to run out of gas and trips further afield were getting harder to do.
One trip we did manage a couple of times was La Cumbrecita once we went as a family for some advenure park fun and once me and David went for a mountain hike. I’ve put photos of both below.
To be honest if I was in this neck of the woods again I would stay here rather than were we did, it was cuter, pedestrianized, was scenically more interesting and had more stuff for the kids.
The adventure park was loads of fun, if a little pricey, the kids went on an age appropriate adventure and the big kids did some zip wire shenanigans.
As well as the adventure stuff there were plenty of places to eat and drink, the whole town is given over to tourism, nearly all of which is Argentine, so after risking life and limb you can have some hearty fare and a glass of red.
Me and David went for a long walk on our second trip to La Cumbrecita and just look at the name of the range, this alone was worth the hike.
The path is easily marked and we perhaps took about three hours to do the round trip. There were a few others on the trail but it wasn’t what you would call busy.
The view from the top was cool and was seeing yet more condors. And although it was a cold day walking up a mountain soon warms you up and come to think of it knackers you out.
We finished off the grand tour in Rosario on the way back to BA. The city is home to Messi, which is quite appropriate as the place was indeed a bit messy, in fact downright shabby. We stayed outside of town in the cabanias below, which were probably the best of the whole trip. There were swings and what not for the kids a biggish pond and space to explore and great BBQ area.
As we were nearing the end of the trip we weren’t too fussed about wandering around, and as you can see from the photos we spent most of our time hanging out in the cabins. We had the obligatory parrillada. The area itself was classic Argentine Pampa, which is kind of like Iowa or Lincolnshire.
We did manage a couple of trips into the local village, which was utterly forgettable and all the better for it. We got a good staring at from the locals, which made me feel like I was even more in Lincolnshire, but the stares were benign enough. I also have a vague memory of taking a walk along the Carcarana river near the town, and I know that if by some freak of chance I was ever in the area again I would make much more of this. But the kids were small, were getting skint and Lorena and Lastenia are both scared of any body of water bigger than a duck pond, so it wasn’t to be.