The pace of most of the trip usually was to stop in a city for 2 nights or so before packing up and moving on. I had planned to travel for 5 months in total, but by the time I crossed into Argentina, the 5 month mark had already been passed. Having gone well over the allotted time for traveling, low on travel budget money, and exhausted from 5+ months on the road, I was making miles day after day in Argentina with just one extended stopover in Cordoba.
Paula, whom I met back in Colombia, was from Cordoba, Argentina. She told me to stop by should my travels take me through Cordoba, so I dropped in to say hello. I visited with Paula, her mother, and her sister. They fixed me lunch and taught me all the nuances of sipping mate (pronounced maaaatay, it’s the national beverage of Argentina). A tea-like drink, Argentinians take their mate very seriously. Google “mate etiquette” sometime if you want a crash course in how to drink the stuff.
We tried several times to get a decent picture, but the lighting was terrible. Paula kept insisting we get another picture, and by picture #3, mom and sister had about enough. I was enjoying the company and had just been fed lunch, so smiling was about the only thing I felt like doing. Here’s pic #3:
Paula’s father was also kind enough to spend his Sunday afternoon driving us around the city to show me the sights. Beyond the city limits, he took us to a real nice lake west of Cordoba that locals use for weekend retreats. I don’t think he’d met many, if any, Americans in his time, and he didn’t know any English. My communication with dad was possible mostly through Paula’s translation. He was ready to have a serious discussion about politics, but lucky for me it never happened due to the communication barrier.
Unrelated photo: Cutting the grass in Salento, Colombia
From Cordoba, it was southward to Pilar, another small town between big cities. In Pilar I found the most luxurious of small roadside hotels. A bus stop adjacent to the hotel was the only logical explanation for such a nice facility in a small, rural town. Nevertheless, it was clean, cheap and the heater in the room not only kept me warm and comfortable, it dried my sink-washed clothing rather quickly.
That evening, I trekked across the street to a sausage shop with hopes of finding a beer. Successfully cleaning your clothes in a hotel sink always calls for celebration, so a beer was in order. Argentina has an unparalleled love for meat, and small meat stores are in abundance. It was in this little store where a very memorable experience occurred.
On my way to the cooler, I passed this guy who was sweeping the floor in the shop.
Meet Edgardo. He said something to me as I passed him in the store, but since I didn’t understand his Spanish, I gave no response. It was when I was fumbling trough speaking with the cashier to purchase the beer when they both realized I was a foreigner and not just some snobby guy ignoring the guy sweeping the shop. I told them I was from the US, and the conversation went on from there. Mostly in my broken Spanish, but Edgardo also called his wife to the store for translation assistance. She had taken some English classes, and helped with the communication. I went in for a quick beer, spent two or three hours in the store talking about anything and everything, and walked out with a few new friends.
Unrelated photo: Somewhere in Peru, dogs lining up to chase me down the road