Saturday, February 12, 2005

Hasta La Victoria Siempre

I've made it to Mendoza, which is an Argentine city just the other side of the Andes from Santiago, located in the shadow of Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia. The journey from Rio has been surprisingly easy and relaxing, Argentina's long-distance buses surpassing even Mexico's for comfort and luxury, and so sleeping in them is no problem, though this is probably helped in part by the country's geography (see previous post). What they do need to sort out, however, is the booking system: first of all they have even more bus companies than in Mexico, and then when you go to buy a ticket, the person at the counter has to call a centralised switchboard to see if there's availability and to book the seat. Things would be so much easier if they were done by computer.

Rosario proved to be a boring, yet relaxing stopover. It's famed for its many statues dotted around the town, but most of them are insignificant and easily overlooked. But is was so hot anyway that I spent most of the day lazing in the central plaza reading my book. My next stop was Cordoba, Argentina's second city. I had been wanting to visit Cordoba for some time because for most of his childhood it was home to Ernesto "Che" Guevara de La Serna. In a town on the outskirts of Cordoba there's a museum to El Che in one of his former homes. The thing about Che Guevara is that he is such an icon (that picture of him adorning countless posters, T-shirts, mugs and many more) but most people seem to know very little about him. The museum helped put a background and context to the legend and was very informative. The centre of Cordoba is easily accessible and exudes a laid-back atmosphere, which isn't surprising for the country's main university town.

And finally Mendoza, the centre for viticulture in Argentina. Boy was I glad to get here and check into a hostel this morning as I had been wearing the same clothes since Rio and was beginning to be pungent. There probably isn't enough time for me to climb the almost 7000m of Aconcagua, so instead I think I might visit a winery or two before leaving Argentina for good, something for which I am glad because I'm itching for a different country stamp in my passport (with all the to-ing and fro-ing in Tierra del Fuego I'll have no less than 10 Argentine stamps in my passport).

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