Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Day Ten: Argentina – Condor country


It dawned on us that such large animals would not be stupid enough to be hunting those smaller creatures hiding from the rain. Yet here we were – humans! The most intelligent species, wearing shorts and t-shirts in pouring rain on top of the mountain getting soaked and blown by the wind.

My tenacious personality persevered, giving a thumb and a huge smile – the largest I could muster; when to my utter surprise a small van pulls to the side of the road….

The morning brought a heavy dehydrated head and my dry lips from a night beneath a fan as it struggled to keep us cool. I could barely move and the thought of a 18km trek by foot to see condors (we had made a pact the night before with Roel) was far from appealing. A cold shower, 2 coffees, breakfast and several glasses of faux orange juice later I felt nearly human.

The hostel managers had spent some time calling a few friends and tour guides about getting to the condors at Parque National Quebrada del Conorita – they has been worried we may get lost – however to my relief it would only be a 40 minute walk from the bus stop. Suddenly the day trip seemed much more appealing. http://www.quebradacondorito.com.ar/

The day’s heat started early, by 10am the sun was pounding on our backs as we navigated the city’s grid. We packed our bags with fruit, pastries and sweets – typical Argentina. The mini bus terminal would lead us on our next adventure AR$38 one-way – ticket in hand awaiting a bus that goes in one hour.

The road to the national Park was long winding and took us up and down the hills to the West of Cordoba. The two-hour journey would drop us on a remote corner of the highway, 2km from the Condor viewing spot.


As we climbed the final incline the bus stopped at a restaurant for a pee break. On climbing from the vehicle we saw above us 2 condors obviously hunting against a grey skyline. The restaurant played host to a Condor museum, showing the true size of these incredible birds. To our sheer dismay as we went to board the bus for the final leg of the journey we heard several taps on the roof – the heaven’s were about to open.

The bus pulled over on the grit at the side of the bleak highway and left us exposed to the wind and the rain, the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees from central Cordoba. No more pounding heat. No raincoats. We pulled on all the clothes we had and set off on foot for our trek to the viewing spot. Our bellies continued to burn with hope of seeing these magnificent creatures.

On the dirt road to the tourist centre we came across two fighting bulls seemingly putting on a display of their sheer strength. The national park had a multitude of viewing spots our sheer determination marked the point of return. Roel, Francois and I bounced along with the enthusiasm of kids; within a few minutes of constant downpour our hearts were fading. Passing viewing point 3 and not a single condor it dawned on us that such large animals would not be stupid enough to be hunting those smaller creatures hiding from the rain. Yet here we were – humans! The most intelligent species, wearing shorts and t-shirts in pouring rain on top of the mountain getting soaked and blown by the wind.

Fauna was good to us however; several ant highways, wild guinea pigs and a selection of colourful chirping birds. The views were spectacular, except for the heavy dark clouds and the distant deep rumbles of thunder. Point 5; we had passed visitors drenched heading home – at this point we decided to turn back.

So returned to the edge of the bleak highway on the highest point for at least 10km, awaiting the next bus not scheduled for another 45 minutes – however we noticed buses rarely run to time. The down pour was becoming ferocious and within 15 minutes the storm was right above us – thunder crashing in our ears with lightning flashing across the sky striking the occasional high point just kilometres from us.

A bus for Cordoba failed to stop, in the rain we started to try hitchhiking – another party of 3 (1 French and 2 Swiss) joined us. After 10 minutes of thumbing passing cars their hopes had faded – yet my tenacious personality persevered, giving a thumb and a huge smile – the largest I could muster; when to my utter surprise a small van pulls to the side of the road.

We ran to the vehicle with baited breath, the driver ushered us in, squeezing all 6 into the back. The return journey was fast and furious, the driver compromised the soaked winding roads at speeds of 120 – 140km/hr. My heart didn’t slow until we were dropped 56 blocks from central Cordoba.

That night we went to an old man’s restaurant with Roel, Francois, a Dutch, German, and Irish. Good food, lots to drink and only AR$37 each (£6). We went to another bar for cocktails before heading dancing.

Cordoba was quiet until we found people bursting out onto the street in front of Beep! A vibrant atmosphere and welcoming locals played host and drag shows (who struggled to keep their modesty as clearly modified breasts continued to jump from out of the Kylie Minogue-style cat suit) followed by pure latin pop. The bar only serves 1-litre drinks – so watch the cocktails. By 5am – we were hammered.  

Crawling out of bed around 1pm we then wondered the myriad of Cordoba shops. It rained on and off throughout the day as we dived in and out of coffee houses. By 8pm we were done, we just wanted to get some sleep – but we had to wait until our 10.45pm coach to Buenos Aires.

Goodbye Cordoba.

COSTS:
Bus to Condor Park: AR$36 return
Dinner Steak: AR$60
Entrance to Beep!: AR$15
Beer in Beep! For 2: AR$10
Bus to Buenos Aires: AR$218