Cordoba and the Sierras

We had come to Cordoba for two reasons. To see the city and its colonial sights with its Jesuit roots and as a base to get our weekly jobs done. Neither of these did we manage to do very well. The first day was spent trying to get our jobs done. Unfortunately the campsite was too far out of town for there to be a convenient laundry so it was back to me hand washing while the girls did school. No sooner had I finished than the heavens opened so we had to turn the cab into what looked like a Chinese laundry in an attempt to get the washing dry. The next day we headed into Cordoba to enjoy the sights. But to be honest we were a bit underwhelmed. It did not help that it was a grey day and later that afternoon it pored with rain. The city centre was a bustling modern city which felt like a city in Europe at Christmas time with everyone out shopping. We did visit the cathedral and the Jesuit complex the Manzana Jesuitica but did not find them anything special. Perhaps we have seen too much colonial architecture that we are starting to become picky. DSC01575.JPG DSC01572.JPG We did though have an excellent Parilla for lunch and that evening we met at the campsite a lovely Spanish couple who had been travelling around South America for 2 years. As they were not comfortable in English we spent the evening talking Spanish and were amazed that we could keep a conversation going in Spanish for 4 hours. The next morning we headed out of Cordoba. The weather was beautiful and we had a much better day. We headed the short distance slightly into the hills to the town of Alta Garcia. Alta Garcia is famous for two things. First a lovely Jesuit Estancia which we visited and thoroughly enjoyed, so we can not be completely sick of colonial architecture. DSC01576.JPG DSC01579.JPG We also had a nice picnic of freshly baked Empanadas by the side of the lake. DSC01583.JPG The second thing it is famous for is the museum for Che Guevara. Che Guevara suffered from asthma so when he was small his parents moved to Alta Garcia because the air was better in the hills there. He spent most of his youth there and the house where he lived has been turned into a wonderful museum which Gilly and I really enjoyed. It was great to see the trip he took around South America in 1952 on a motor bike. It looked a lot harder then than what we are doing now. Alisha and Lucy did not really look around the museum though as they met at the entrance two other slightly older English girls who were also traveling. The four of them spent the time we were in the museum busy chatting and playing around. So everyone enjoyed themselves there. DSC01589.JPG DSC01586.JPG From Alta Garcia we were heading to the riverside town of Mina Clavero. As we left Alta Garcia the road wound up into the green hills and the landscape was very different to what we had seen elsewhere in Argentina. It was more moor like and a bit like Scotland. On our maps we could see a small National Park, Parque Nacional del Condorito and decided to head there as we liked the idea of camping in the hills rather than in another town. The park was beautiful and we were able to camp in the car park. There was no one else there and it was a lovely quiet night until the heavy rain arrived in the middle of the night. DSC01592.JPG DSC01596.JPG DSC01593.JPG The next morning it had all cleared and we decided to do the 12km hike to a balcony overlooking a gorge where Condors nested. The walk was beautiful with great views along the way. The view down into the gorge was spectacular and we were lucky enough to see 7 condors. Not as close as we saw them in Peru but they are magnificent birds to see soaring in the sky. Walking in the hills you have to mind your step. I had to call out to Gilly to stop her stepping on a snake. We have no idea if it was venomous but Gilly quickly jumped out of the way and the snake slithered into the grass before we could get a photo. DSC01601.JPG DSC01616.JPG DSC01603.JPG DSC01628.JPG We then headed to Mina Clavero a town that is famous for its swimming holes in the two rivers that flow through the town. It is a tourist town and there were loads of guest houses and camping sites in town but it still seemed quiet when we were there. We thought the holiday season had started but obviously not yet. We had a pleasant wander along the river and the girls enjoyed going for a paddle. DSC01629.JPG DSC01631.JPG As we left Mina Clavero the scenery changed again. We left the green hills behind and entered a much drier flat part of the country. Our destination was Parque Nacional Sierra de Las Quijadas. This is a National Park with sandstone gorges and canyons. The guidebooks describe it as scenery straight from the Roadrunner cartoons. We had some spectacular views from the Mirador that evening as well as a lovely sunset. There was also a small free campsite which was in a lovely setting. Whilst it was very hot when we arrived it cooled down nicely and it was lovely to sit out under the stars. We were the only people there apart from a German couple camping in their tent. As it was so nice Gilly and I decided to have an open air movie experience as we watched the Che Guevara Motorcycle Diaries under the night sky. DSC01667.JPG DSC01636.JPG DSC01661.JPG DSC01652.JPG We woke up at 3am to hear a gale howling outside. There was thunder and flashes of lightning for about an hour but it did not rain and when we woke up again in the morning it was to beautiful sunshine. We headed out on a long hike into a canyon which came out at another wonderful viewpoint. Again we were lucky to see a condor soaring above the canyon rim. DSC01681.JPG DSC01696.JPG DSC01677.JPG DSC01690.JPG We spent a lovely day in the Park. There was a nice breeze so the temperature was bearable in the shade and it was wonderful and quiet amongst the sandstone hills. DSC01703.JPG DSC01720.JPG DSC01715.JPG It was time to head back to Mendoza. We had left Mendoza about 3 and a half months ago and had arranged to meet our friends John and Betti there to meet up for Christmas. We had last seen John and Betti in Colombia 8 months ago and since then both of us had down a lot of traveling so we were keen to catch up. Since leaving Mendoza we had done 17,000kms. Not a bad little side trip! Merry Christmas everyone. DSC01570.JPG DSC01712.JPG

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