From Mendoza, my next stop was Cordoba, north-west of Mendoza and the second largest city in Argentina. My main reason for visiting was to see a girl I’d met in Viña, who promised a lot of good times to be had there. As it turns out, I saw her for all of 10 minutes during my visit, which was rather representative of my time in Córdoba as a whole. Namely, it was kind of a bust.
For starters, it was hellishly hot. Even arriving at 11 pm, I was still drenched in sweat from the moment I stepped off the bus. I caught a cab to my hostel (which had been recommended by this girl, more out of loyalty to her friends that ran the place than by any actual knowledge of its quality, I suspect). There was a dodgy looking cage elevator in the lobby, which I decided to pass on, and so instead lugged my things up 2 very steep flights of stairs to get to reception. When I checked in, the guy at the counter said I’d somehow managed to book 3 beds instead of 1 (how I did that, I still have no idea, as my reservation confirmation clearly said “1 adult”), but he seemed a little peeved when I clarified that I was, in fact, just one person taking one bed. I was tuckered (and a bit cranky) from my 22 hour journey and decided to go right to sleep. Despite having advertised the place as being air-conditioned, my dorm room had only an open patio door and a ceiling fan for ventilation. It was pretty warm, but at that point I was too tired to care.
The next day seemed to look up a bit when I happened to run in to a couple of my friends from Mendoza at breakfast. The kitchen in Baluch Backpackers Hostel was pretty tiny and the dining area quite tight. No one really bothered to explain the breakfast set up to me, so I just grabbed what appeared to be an available bowl of cornflakes and doused it in the (warm) milk set out on the counter. Some time later, I found out that the bowl of eggs sitting out were there for people to cook for themselves, if so desired, but that was far from apparent. The hot water for the tea was not particularly hot, and a meager offering of bread and butter rounded out the meal.
After breakfast, I set out with Dylan and Mairéad, my Mendoza hostel friends, and we went to go exploring. The heat was fierce and we were all drenched within minutes. One thing we all wanted to visit was the Museo de la Memoria, a similar place to the one I’d found so impactful in Santiago. Inquiring at the tourist office, we were informed the museum was closed for the entire month of January (as that is apparently when the whole city goes on holiday to other — presumably less hellishly hot — places). We tried to visit a couple of other places, which were all closed for siesta or didn’t have tours for several hours. Somewhat defeated, we just set off wandering, which is usually one of my favorite things to do in a new city, but in Córdoba, somehow fell flat. We eventually wound up in a (pretty lame) park, where we sat for a while and tried to cool off. Not knowing what else to do, we went for the old fallback: food. Lunch of steak milanesa (a Córdoba specialty?) was forgettable, but at least the place was air-conditioned!
After that, D and M headed to the bus station to buy tickets to their next destination and I headed back to the hostel. On the way, we did run in to Christian and Manouk, more of our friends from Mendoza, and I made plans to meet up with them later. Once back at Baluch, the extreme heat of the day led to no other options than a long nap. D and M and I had made tentative plans to head back to one of the tours that was scheduled for 6 pm, but when I woke at 5:30, I found them in the hostel common room (the one air-conditioned space) and they were equally exhausted from the heat and not wanting to go back out there. We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on uncomfortable couches watching the Yogi Bear movie on TV (mostly dubbed in Spanish, but occasionally switching back to English for a few confusing moments).
My friends took off for the bus station and I went up to the roof deck to join in the asado being put on by the hostel. At this point, I’ve joined in a lot of hostel asados, but this one was a little different. It was advertised as starting at 10 pm (crazy late for dinner by anything other than Argentine standards), but didn’t end up getting going until after 11. Once the food was ready, there was plenty of it, but not so with the plates or utensils. There weren’t nearly enough to go around, so I ended up sharing with some new acquaintances from Holland, Germany and Spain. Between the four of us, we had one plate for salad and sides and one of meat. I had the only fork, each of the others had either a spoon or a knife. The food was delicious, even if the serving was a little unorthodox, and we enjoyed the meal, but by 12:30, I was ready to call it a night as the others planned to head out on the town (I was later to learn that the evening was also a bust, as the hostel organizers ended up ditching the group and most everyone came back without having made into a single bar. Glad I passed). This was also the night I ran into the girl I’d (sort of) come to Córdoba to hang out with. We chatted for a bit before she disappeared, and that was the last I saw of her.
The next day dawned to…a torrential downpour. As such, everyone mostly hung around the hostel, which didn’t have nearly enough common area to accommodate all people staying indoors. Moreover, the bulk of the hostel guests were a big group from Israel who were not at all interested in meeting new people and primarily just spoke to each other (in Hebrew) and didn’t engage. (Also, once they learned that I was not one person taking three beds, 2 new girls were moved into my dorm and they spread their luggage out EVERYWHERE with no regard for other people’s space. I literally had to climb over their crap to get into my bed). With no other real options, I mostly lay in my bunk reading (and napping), waiting out the storm. That night, the rain let up and I headed out to meet Christian for dinner at Antares Córdoba, a local microbrewery. We had a great dinner and afterward went back to his hostel, which from just my short time hanging out there, I saw was clearly superior to my own, thus I developed a mean case of hostel envy. When I got back to Baluch, I decided that enough was enough and I booked 2 nights in a local hotel with a swimming pool. My mood had been heading steadily south since I arrived in Córdoba and I decided a little bit of luxury was just the ticket.
I hung around the hostel the next day until it was time to check into the NH Urbano, the cheapest not-terrible hotel I could find in town. Even at (the relatively reasonable) $65 a night, it was a total budget buster, but at that point, I simply didn’t care. It had a/c, a rooftop pool, and best of all, I would be ALL ALONE in my room, which also had a sparkling clean bathroom and tub.
I spent those next two days wandering the city as much as I could stand before wilting from heat, and then retreating to the pool and the deliciously cool room. I had a few good meals (most notably at Kaori-Teller, where at 8 pm, I was the only one dining at such a freakishly early hour, but the sushi was great). When the time came to catch my next bus, I was more than ready to go.
I knew that there would be times along my way that I wouldn’t be having fun, and my time in Córdoba was the first of what I assume will be other low points. I’m not sorry I went (well, maybe a little) but I wouldn’t go back. But, those are the trials of the road! From here, it was on to Iguazú, a place at the very top of my bucket list and home to the most spectacular sights I’ve seen thus far. The upside to travel lows is that the next destination is always just over the horizon. Let’s all shake off the disappointment and move on!
(Don’t forget to check out — and Like! — my Facebook page for full photo albums from every destination)