Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barbecues, mate and revolutionaries

I left Mendoza quite reluctantly - I could have easily spent another week there, however Cordoba called. Cordoba is located in the Central Sierras of Argentina. While they are not the Andes, it´s a beautiful area of rolling hills and good weather. Cordoba has beautiful cool dry winters - the first day I spent there was a beautiful day, which I spent (again) horseriding through the sierras.

Again it was a small tour, myself and a couple from England along with Belen, our guide, and her boyfriend Juan who drove us and helped to eat the barbecue. I couldn´t help but envy their jobs. This time I rode Cocina (which means kitchen). Cocina was a big horse... Isabelle, also on the tour, referred to her as my elephant. However it was only tough in respect of getting on and off... and also the fear factor that there´s further to fall.

We spent a relaxing morning walking around the area, before getting back for the real highlight of the day - the Argentine barbecue. Almost every excursion you do in Argentina seems to feature a barbecue - it´s the national dish. Usually it consists of throwing a slab of meat on the grill, seasoning it gently with salt, and letting it cook, along with a variety of different types of sausages (including morcilla - a black sausage which I wasn´t game to try!). This barbecue was great in that rather than feeling like I was on a tour, I felt as if I was meeting some old Argentine friends who were telling me all about their life there. At one point Belen´s mother turned up for a bit to join in, and then we started the mate routine.

Mate is a plant that is grown in the north of Argentina, and is a little like green tea. The drink is made by pouring enough mate into the gourd, and then pouring hot water of the top, and sipping it through a straw with a filter on it. There is a ritual around it - it is a drink for sharing, and it must go in rounds. I quite enjoyed my taste of mate, though it was described by Josh, the other half of the English couple as a mixture of ´green tea and cigarette ash´.

When coupled with the free flowing red wine, all in all it was a great afternoon!

The other thing that Cordoba is famous for, is Che Guevara, who spent much of his childhood and teenage years in the Cordoba area. His family had a home in Alta Gracia, one of towns within the Central Sierra, about 40 minutes from Cordoba, where they moved to deal with his asthma. The home is now a museum, which I visited one day. One of the most famous quotes from Che was "I don´t care if I fall as long as someone picks up my gun and keeps fighting". The whole museum is testament to both his comfortable and relatively happy childhood, as well as his life as a revolutionary. Make what you will of his politics, it was obvious from his writings, speeches etc. that he believed in what he was doing - he saw himself as part of something so much bigger and devoted his life to it. I found the museum incredibly interesting, and a great insight into the man.

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