As we leave the beautiful Quebrada del Condors, we drive eastbound towards the province of Cordoba for a change of pace. A quick overnight in a slightly dodgy cabana sets us off to the beautiful town of Jesus Maria, where we check into a massive luxurious Airbnb house.
Meeting up with friends from London!
The reason for this splash in terms of accommodation is that we are splitting the cost ;-). Our friends Kasia and Brian from the UK are actually on a holiday in Argentina with their kids, and we have thus all made an effort to meet up along their itinerary to catch up and have a relaxing time. As we arrive at the house first we get the place ready for some fun and chill time, do the groceries, get some snacks ready and await the arrival of our friends. Unfortunately the flight they are on gets delayed so the patience of the boys is put to the test. But then at last, with Bo checking the road in to the house every minute the car arrives with our friends! We pull out the bubbles we bought in Mendoza, prepare snacks, kids in the pool and enjoy the rest of the evening together. As an extra benefit there is a beautiful ‘fogonero’ at the house, a fire pit where it is so incredibly comfortable to sit with the warm fire that we all spend the evening there until it’s bedtime – needless to say the adults went very late :-).
The next day Pablo comes to meet us in the morning, who is the brother of another friend in Argentina and happens to live a kilometer away. We are dying to get to know the true asado-culture, and as it is Sunday and our house has a fantastic outdoor kitchen, we invite him and his family to come to us and teach us how it is done. First stop: the carniceria for some beautiful meat and other necessities (no room for vegetarians in Argentina!), then on to the grill to start heating it up. The kids love all the preparations and help where they can, but simply watching a fire is always the highlight. The men are keen to learn, and along the way the plans for similar outfits in the home backyards start to form.
What we are served is a never ending supply of meat from different parts of the cow, some we have never tasted before, others are very familiar but much better tasting variants. The quality of meat in the country is obviously outstanding and simply preparing it with a bit of salt and pepper is enough to bring out the flavor and fill the tummies. Add a salad, some bread and plenty of wine et voila; your Sunday lunch is taken care of! Apparently the leftovers are always used up, either with a bit of mayo at night as a snack or cut up in a pasta sauce the next day, so really no meat goes to waste on these family events.
Fully satisfied and a bit giddy from food and wine we say our goodbyes to the family and decide to walk of a little bit of the feast towards the Jesuit museum in town. A good display of times in the past and nicely preserved rooms and church, giving all of us a whiff of the culture in the area and making us feel good about this very rounded day. Of course it is topped off by a splash in the pool, some soup with bread (there is no more room for meat) and again a fire in the firepit… There are certainly worse ways to spend the day!
The next day we say goodbye to Kasia, Brian, Danny and Emmy, all of us continuing our respective journeys by car and on to new adventures. Our round of ‘catching up’ has not finished yet, so we continue south, passed Cordoba for a quick visit to Alta Gracia. Here the Che Guevara museum is a great addition to our earlier history at his mausoleum in Cuba, as it is located in the house he spent much of his youth in, and chronologically tells his life story. Very well set up, we enjoy it for an hour or so and spend another hour walking the streets and playing in the playgrounds that dot the town.
Rio Cuarto – Another place to relax
We take the scenic route past German-inspired Villa General Belgrano, and end the ride for the day in Rio Cuarto, the home of Bastiaan (Dutch) and Belen (Argentinian), friends of the family who live here and have kindly invited us to come by. It is a fantastic opportunity to catch up, but more importantly to ask all those questions we have about Argentinian life and its peculiarities. We planned to stay just one night, but they kindly tell us to stay longer and make use of this time to get some affairs in order. So the next day is filled with a lot of administrative chores (Kim), hairdresser and car maintenance appointments (Sven) and homework and gaming (the boys).
After getting all this out of the way it is time for another night of asado, this time we can see if Bastiaan has integrated sufficiently to get an applause at the end of the parilla time – a proper Argentinian tradition. The carniceria round is again lots of fun and results in another pile of delicious looking meat, as the grill has already fired up a few hours before. It is a real art and we have to say that becoming a vegetarian does not seem to be in the cards for us anytime soon :-). Sticking to Argentinian tradition the food is ready late, and with a beautiful glass of red wine in hand we toast to a fantastic display of food and the gracious hosts. After a few bites it is clear the applause can be requested as their son Valentin does graciously, and the thunderous roar that follows confirms the food is approved! Top that with a kilo of ice cream (another feat the Argentinians are well known for) and it is no surprise the kids fell over into their beds and snored within minutes.
As difficult as it is to say goodbye to such gracious hosts, we have a plan to continue and thus pack up our sleeping bags and air matrasses again the next morning. Of course we can not leave Rio Cuarto without visiting Belen’s beautiful tea shop and buying our own stock of the Yerba Mate to join all those Argentinians carrying around a thermos of hot water and sharing cup. We are very impressed with her brand, Cura Te Alma (a fun play on words meaning ‘heal your soul’), and products that look very luxurious and taste even better! We had a great time discussing opportunities abroad, and with a first step towards Europe we can’t wait to see more of the brand across the ocean when we get back home! We spend the rest of the afternoon on the road towards a small town of Victoria, our final landing base before another try at a border crossing tomorrow – Uruguay! The scenery is one of many peanut fields and factories, another crop we have never seen grow but now experience up close – and buy plenty of ;-).
Another border crossing – Uruguay
While they are normally not that interesting, with Covid these border crossing adventures continue to be quite a hassle. Add to that the upcoming Easter weekend and you have a potential disaster on your hands… The drive from Victoria is still quite long, as most roads are single lane and you never know which truck you get stuck behind, but we make steady progress and roll into the border town of Concordia around 1pm. This is where we stock up massively on everything possible and fill up our tank of gas as Uruguay will hurt financially. We bravely make our way to the border and find a small queue and a relatively smooth 40-minute process – HURRAY! Having done most of the arrival necessities online and not having to PCR because of an earlier infection it seems we roll through easily. All the car paperwork is now becoming routine again and just last week the borders have become more lenient which means there is a massive line leaving Uruguay for a cheap Easter weekend break.
Next week: Getting to know Uruguay!