Monday, November 10, 2008

Trip Report: Oktoberfest, Villa General Belgrano, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita

[I originally wrote this post a month ago, but didn't get around to finishing it until now.]

I'm going to keep this trip report from being too tilty. In my last post I wrote about having moments when I roll my eyes and exasperatedly think "Argentina!" I think about half of those moments so far have been on this trip. In the penultimate post to this point, I wrote about having a sense of foreboding about this trip.

So Thuy and I show up at the bus station and get to the platform. There's a bus leaving from our company to Cordoba. We're pretty sure it's not our bus, but we ask the driver of the bus anyway. He says no. We talk to some Americans Thuy knows who are on the same bus. They'd also tried to get on that bus and were told no. So we wait, and never see our bus. After an hour, we ask inside what the deal is. Guy checks the computer and tells us our bus left. Unbelievable.

Although when I'd bought tickets we'd gotten like the last ones, we somehow managed to find 4 tickets to Cordoba leaving 4 hours later. So, time to wait more. Eventually our bus comes, we go to Cordoba. Standard.

At the Cordoba bus station, we go to complain. Everybody blames it on another company. We go to the government regulator. They aren't too encouraging. I decide to dispute the charges with American Express. I am annoyed, tired, but ready to go. We buy tickets to Santa Rosa.

As we get to the platform, there is a bus from our company about to depart to Santa Rosa. We try to get on it, and our told that it's not our bus. I think I've seen this movie before.

We wait. 10 minutes later another guy who is waiting asks us where we're going and when. I tell him. "That bus left," he says. I am thinking very unpleasant thoughts. 10 minutes later (20 minutes late) our bus shows up, and we get on.

We passed a lake called Los Molinos (the windmills?). I snapped a few pictures. Some of them didn't turn out that well, but since I was reaching over Thuy, through a window, and moving at 40 miles an hour with a 4 year old camera, it's probably not surprising that they don't look like pictures in a magazine.

I'm not going to lie, for a minute there I really thought about buying one of those houseboats and living on that lake for the rest of my life. These pictures don't capture a semblance of the beauty. It was pretty and relaxed.

Thuy and I get to the cabin, then wander around Santa Rosa for awhile til it got dark. I am fascinated by the catholic chapel and vow to go to Mass there on Sunday for the cultural experience. Obviously that was not a vow that I kept, plus I am sad that I didn't get a picture. We ate dinner at a restaurant that was so completely thoroughly underwhelming. We also had a waitress who was pretty bad. She was just new though, and cute, so we ended up talking to her for awhile.

Let me pause in my storytime to say that all food in Santa Rosa is bad. People told us that Santa Rosa is one of the biggest beach places for Cordoba (a city of 1.5 million). If so, you'd think that they'd have good food, but I did not have a single good meal there. Mediocre would be a compliment. And the one meal I had in Belgrano was pretty underwhelming too...Sauerkrat with sausage should not have a hot dog as the sausage. I mean, I haven't been to Deutschland, but call it a premonition.

Cabritos are quite popular in Santa Rosa though. Literally translated, that means little goat. They brought us a sample. It was less than the greatest thing I've had in my life. I ordered a steak instead, which may have been the worst piece of meat I've had in Argentina. And it was expensive.

This is the inside of Oktoberfest. We never did catch up to a friend I was supposed to meet at Oktoberfest, but he told me that there is some cool stuff that happens inside. We didn't really see it, and didn't really see the need to pay $30 pesos to go inside for the privilege of paying more for beer. So we spent most of our time on the immediate outside of the tent. There were definitely people (especially groups of younger kids) who just hung out on the street outside the tent.

It was fun. Until it rained, and I'm going to choose not to remember the hours I spent cold, wet and waiting to get home. Because afterwards we went to Sheik. Now, as far as I can tell, Sheik owns the entire village of Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. It was just crazy. Like 5 clubs and a few more restaurants all scattered about throughout town. Anyway, the main club was crazy. Just totally packed. For once in my life, I turned off my mind and enjoyed the mindlessness of dancing. Perhaps it was because I was rereading Fooled By Randomness, but I felt like getting moved around on the dance floor was like a physical meditation on randomness.

Thuy took this picture. I'm not sure if you can see why we found this hilarious. This picture encaptures basically the entire bowling alley. 4 lanes, staircase on the left of the picture, bar upstairs on the split level. The balls were slightly bigger than bocce balls, and the pins were likewise about a third of bowling pins. Look closely and you'll see legs of the people who were standing there replacing the pins for each frame. That's right: no automation.

Our cabin.

Thuy and Ian on the suspension bridge. This thing moved like crazy. It's probably plenty safe, but it doesn't feel safe at all as it moves around like crazy. Oh, remember how I said this was a beach resort? Much of the beach looked similar to what you see in this picture. I bet even Houstonians would learn to love Galveston if they lived in Cordoba.

Our last morning we took a little hike called Las Cruces. It's just a little hike up a hill that has a bunch of crosses at various lookout points. This was the first, looking back towards Santa Rosa.

This was the top cross.

After the hike, Thuy and Ian went back, while I found some other trail. Of course I got lost first and managed to miss it. I believe the name was something like Waterfall Trails. This was the waterfall. Really puts Iguazu to shame, doesn't it?

Although I was initially disappointed, it was a nice relaxing little walk through the forest. It was quite hot and humid, which of course I appreciated.

This was an ant trail that cut completely through the ground. I found this fascinating, because it was so conspicuous. The ants were all carrying huge pieces of something multiples time their size. Anyway, had to take a picture. It's not terribly frequent that I get as fascinated as I did by stuff like this.

Las Cruces hike, about 1/3 of the way down. Can you see the big cross at the top?

These were more pictures from the Las Cruces hike.

The inside of our place. Yes, we are all very neat people.

I've decided not to write much about the rest. Suffice it to say that our return tickets went to waste. Then I lost one of my running shoes, my pocket dictionary, I couldn't sleep on the return trip and my Ipod ran out of battery. So while there were some very fun moments, there were also some very frustrating moments.

This was the road outside of our cabin. Wait, you say, that looks just like a sapling in the middle of the road. I just can't slip anything by you, can I? I have no explanation for planting a tree in the middle of the road. Which is why there is a picture of it.

One thing I should note: the Cordobeses speak much more slowly than the people of Buenos Aires. Much more slowly. I could actually understand them most of the time. I also felt like I got to use my spanish quite a bit on the trip, as I spoke the best Spanish of the group. Somehow that was encouraging.

However, what was up with the fact that no one from Cordoba has heard of Texas? I was starting to think they were messing with me, except that it seemed like no one had a clue what Texas was . . . but they all knew New York and California. That is not a sign of a happy place.

No comments: