Salta – Far Northern Argentina

Posted in Northern Argentina at 3:39 pm by Jackson Lee

With the terrain outside the bus slowly fading from endless green pasture to the first curves of the taunting Andean mountains I realised my visit to Argentina, land of beef – sleepness people – the swirling tango – political chaos- was coming to end. One last Argentine city to visit – Salta.

Located in the far North of Argentina, the people of Salta (which means ‘jump’ in Spanish) are the first sign of the indigenous ethnic mix more common in the South American countries – Argentina, surprisingly, has over 95% genetic hereditary from Europe (see the mighty wikipedia) . The streets, are indeed, populated with darker skinned less Mediterranean looking people.

Arriving early in the morning, I spent the day in the local hills trekking through bush followed by a climb to the summit of the main tourist peak (complete with fake waterfalls at the summit) – it was here that I first noticed the effects of being at altitude (1152 meters).

My travels through Argentina hadn’t been thorough. Being the 8th largest landmass in the world, most backpackers spend literally hundreds of bus hours soaking in the different sights. From the wine country in Mendoza, the titanic Iguazu waterfall, the endless trekking of Patagonia, to the frigid city of Ushuaia in the deep south. I had only visited three locations in Argentina (over 6 weeks) but the urge to head north, to Bolivia, the Andes, the third world, to pre-Columbian history, was un-ignorable.


Argentine Demonstrations

Posted in Northern Argentina at 1:20 am by Jackson Lee

Argentines are very good at holding public marches. The most famous being the pots and pans demonstration during the economic crises in 2001. The government called for a lock down (state of siege) of Buenos Aires to attempt to control the situation, the public responded by taking to the streets banging pots and pans. It got epic – take a look.

I got a little taste of the power of Argentine demonstrations early Thursday morning with the sound of a marching band, very loud fireworks and voice’s of protest (I’m still not sure what they were marching about). Check out these photos.

Some women across the road were removing some posters, can anyone translate the meaning?


Córdoba – Cultural Capital Of The America’s

Posted in Northern Argentina at 5:01 pm by Jackson Lee

Cordoba is described as the cultural capital of the Americas (yes, that includes the US). With a population of 1.5 million, it is no small scratch on the landscape and with 7 universities, it has a thriving, hormonally challenged student population (roughly 10% of the total) and a amazon-like jungle of bars and nightclubs.

Founded a bloody long time ago (1573) by an enthusiastic Spaniard, Cordoba is Argentina’s second largest city and has the perfect contrast from the intensely population streets of Buenos Aires.

Like Buenos Aires, Salta is also stacked by a hurtful amount of dangerously beautiful women. Downtown is an easy to negotiate grid of city blocks intersected by rolling hills and a few bodies of water.

For fellow nerds out there – I found a cafe where a couple dozen old fella’s were playing chess over glasses of beer and coffee. Their banter kept me smiling for blocks after (… nunca, nunca, nunca…). I also stumbled across a Taiwanese owned takeaway and enjoyed a slice of the Orient.

Interesting fact for the day – Chile is the longest country (4300km) in the world, apparently it is 30 kilometers longer than Russia. In case you are also wondering, no one has walked the length of Chile – probably because of the extreme weather variations found in the Northern deserts and Southern tip.

Politics and religion have a tight relationship in South America. The topic of Abortion was raised last night and I learned some interesting realities of Chile and Argentina. Basically, Abortion is not legal. Divorce only recently became legal in Chile. The Chilian I was speaking to mentioned that of his group of friends (around his age of 30), 70% regularly attend Church on Sundays. Obviously there is a lot more to learn as I feel like learning about these topics will give interesting insight into the midset of South America people.

One of the local Ultimate players did a survey of the 20 different hostels in Cordoba, his conclusion was that the people (Diego) who run Morado Hostel have the best attitude and setup. Blind, internet search engine, luck got me there. I definitely recommend this place if you head this way.

Hostel’s are random places. Being flexible is the best way to ride the eclectic wave of events in even given 24 hours (why hasn’t anyone done a reality TV on a hostel?) in a hostel. This morning I found myself exchanging stories with Norm and his wife from Southern California – they celebrated there golden jubilee together last year in New Zealand (and were both born in 1930).

Sitting around last Wednesday night after midnight (which, it is worth mentioning, is treated more like 9pm by Argentines) we noticed a pile of musical instruments start to form on the rooftop patio.

Couple hours later, the band ‘Relay’ completed their setup and started a 3am to 4am concert for the small group of Hostel backpackers who were still awake at that time. There music is a mix of hard and punk rock and it was loud. Loud enough to keep anyone trying to sleep in the Hostel awake not to mention the surrouding neighborhood. Are people from Cordoba lunatics?

Apparently not, as the police (or noise control) didn’t show up to shut things down. The lead singer, is the duty manage for the night shift, which raises many interesting questions about how South Americans see life and free-heartedly prioritize living passionately over living reasonably.

Cordobans, Asados & Good Times

Posted in Northern Argentina at 12:37 am by Jackson Lee

One of the most rewarding parts of backpacking is meeting and getting to know the local people. My last 24 hours in Cordoba turned out to be one such experiences. (The map below shows the Cordoba region in red, Buenos Aires is on the coast to the east).

Using powerful clan contacts made while staying in Buenos Aires I organised to meet and coach the local ultimate community. Here, I firstly met a loco local Cordoban who had colourful stories about a game show he was recently involved in called “Wipe Out” (filmed over a week however the audience is led to believe it happened over a single day), and also Tomy, who quickly invited me to his friends Asado (BBQ) and who kept his family tradition of being a incomparably brilliant host.

Little did I know that Tomy’s friend lived in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Cordoba. The Mansion like house worked into a large backyard complete with a crystal blue swimming pool and a grass lawn where I took the liberty to coach correct rugby passing technique (Argentines seem to be stuck in the Grant Fox era).

A large group of Tomy’s university friends had gathered to enjoy the summer’s evening. If you are wondering the kind of personality people have (and let me generalise a little) who grow up in a city surrounded by oceans of beef-grazing farmland, great weather and neither-hemisphere brained politicians, then I would say simple ‘bloody excellent’.

Interestingly, the Argentine university system has many different styles of examination. The most common system sees the exam period spreading across the entire summer break. In New Zealand, they give us 5-6 weeks to test our nohow, Argentina give its students 4 months to set and pass exams. It is also common to sit some exams more than once during this time. I can not speck from experience, but my guess is the exams are substantially more difficult than equivalent kiwi exams. It is during the one week break from exam and classes recommencing where I met everyone.

Fernet is a drink who’s origins are from Italy but who’s main consumer is Argentina. The real blokes style of drinking Fernet is called ‘90210’ and is made as follows –

  • 90% Fernet
  • Two blocks of Ice
  • 10% Coca-Cola

An unexpected but very enjoyable traditional evening of great food/meat (yes, I still hold vegetarian values), enjoyable conversation (mostly about Argentine and Chinese politics), a bunch of new Spanish slang (tell me the papa!) washed down with good ol Fernet. My memory’s of Cordoba are set in stone as great ones!