Just passing through

I was reading a friend’s travel blog the other day, and they were regretting a decision to stay only a night in a couple destinations. The idea was a good one – get in a few more sights on the way to their actual destination, but in practice it just didn’t seem worth it. While not exactly the same situation, I’m certainly second guessing our decisions to stop in a few places during this past week.

After some epic bus rides to get to and away from Iguazú Falls, we arrived in Córdoba, but it wasn’t exactly the relaxing time I had imagined. I visited Córdoba once before and felt that it really merited a stop – the city almost has a Buenos Aires-lite feel to it. But the murderously hot days kept us inside most of the time, and the best thing we managed to do was see a movie (Interstellar – what a treat after 5 months without a new movie!). As some evidence to the unexciting three days we spent there, I don’t have a single photo to share…

Our next destination was exciting for some of the wrong (and some of the right!) reasons, and I don’t really regret visiting Villa General Belgrano, except that it led to some annoyingly long minibus rides on winding country roads. Two nights in a destination is often not enough time, as it really only gives you one full day, which is probably sandwiched between some gross bus rides.

I should have had a project to take photos of all the defunct film labs and shops we’ve seen along the way. Love these old signs!

Maybe my big regret is that we headed to La Cumbre afterwards. It’s a super lovely little town located north of Córdoba, which meant we had to backtrack into the city to transfer buses. The climate was much nicer given the relative elevation, and we stayed at a hostel located in a renovated, early 1920’s English house, on a large property. They advertised on their website that they were a “chill-out” hostel, which is pretty damn accurate as there is little-to-nothing to do in La Cumbre. So, two nights and some uncomfortable bus rides to hang out in a nice-enough place for a day.

Looking out over La Cumbre

San Miguel de Tucumán (commonly called Tucumán, but the long names are really great, right?) was our next destination. After another long bus ride, we arrived and stepped out into a warmer than expected night. If possible, Tucumán was even hotter than Córdoba, with one of the most strict siestas we’ve witnessed yet. Out on the street at 2:30 in the afternoon? You’ll be lucky to see even a stray dog walking around. So, given my excitement level about getting to know the place, maybe it’s a good thing I ate a bad empanada on the bus ride and came down with a violent stomach flu.

Hostel rooftop in Tucuman

Now we’re in another lovely little town outside of Tucumán, called Tafí del Valle. Again: nice climate, beautiful mountains, not much to do. At least the bus ride was pretty comfortable. But it all seems a little bit unavoidable. We simply can’t get on 10+ hour buses every other day (my own rule, as I start to lose it otherwise), but this country is sooo big and there aren’t many destinations worth spending more than a single day along our path. Since leaving Buenos Aires, we have only stayed three nights in two different towns. The remaining 7 destinations have held our attention for two nights or less. It’s a recipe for exhaustion.

Lovely Tafi del Valle

To try to remedy this situation, we’re staying a week in Cafayate. Wine country and canyonlands. I think that should help.

How to celebrate a six-year anniversary abroad

The best way to mark six years together, of which 9.5 months, or 13% of that time, have been spent in near constant company while traveling through South America, is something that must be carefully orchestrated and planned.

So first, the boyfriend must completely forget about said anniversary and book a hostel on his own without consulting you in Villa General Belgrano, a German-heritage town two hours south of Córdoba, Argentina.

Then when you board the minibus to VGB, you should make sure that it’s full of mosquitos. Especially if you’re allergic to them. I mean, what better way to spend two hours than to cower in fear under two jackets and develop and tend a nice little mosquito graveyard splattered on the window next to you? At least you’ll never be bored!

When you arrive in VGB and you realize the hostel is a 1km walk from the bus station, just keep remembering how awesome it is to be mosquito-free as you trudge over. Make sure you arrive at a time when the hostel is full of children. About a hundred kids, to be more specific, on a school field trip. More children can be fine, but not less. They should also be of that tween age where they have no redeeming cute qualities and are mostly just loud and annoying.

The hostel itself should be fairly disappointing. Since it was booked without deference to the momentous occasion that you’re still in a relationship, despite life upheavals of monumental proportions, it can just be a regular ol’ subpar hostel, except with the added detriment of being 1km away from town and full of aforementioned school kids. The boyfriend should feel fairly guilty at this point, and offer to switch hostels for the second night in VGB (which is your actual anniversary date anyway). This is a nice gesture and you should take him up on it.

That way, when you go out to the town (and it starts raining on you), you’ll be pretty happy with wherever you end up booking. Those first several agonizing hours are just to prime you for a truly great anniversary. Don’t worry, the only way to go from here is up!

Villa General Belgrano in the background.

So after you book a nice little boutique hostel that’s only moderately over your budget, and finally find a restaurant that’s open during siesta, you can just sit back and relax. The rest of your stay will be very memorable. This is because VGB is really a very picturesque town, reminiscent of Leavenworth, WA, except authentic in its German beginnings. The restaurants will have delicious food, such as goulash or bratwurst with amazing sauerkraut. They’ll also have artesenal beer that will make the boyfriend happy.

And it will be here that you’ll find the best alfajors you’ve ever had so far in Argentina. The cookie part will be melt-in-your-mouth soft, the filling will be delicious homemade jam, and the whole thing will be covered in a glaze. You’ll want to buy all the types of alfajors with different jam fillings they have, but alas, you’re on a budget and you can’t carry ten thousand cookies around with you anyway. Sadly.

To cap the extremely-better-than-the-day-before day, the boutique hotel’s owners will give you a small bottle of champagne to celebrate your anniversary, just to make things really magical with the first mimosa of the trip. Mm-mmm!

So don’t be too hard on the boyfriend at the start of your anniversary excursion. It’s not his fault that things began so poorly–and look how well they turned out! After all, if it’s going to be the first anniversary that you two will spend outside of Seattle and not at the restaurant where your first date was set, why not make it really interesting?