Saturday, June 6, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015: Cordoba to Villa General Belgrano

We are leaving the city of Cordoba today for a German village located about a 2 hour drive to the south. This town is highlighted in guide books but we are making this a priority due to the advice of a former Argentina exchange student who we will be seeing in another week. We ate breakfast here at the Holiday Inn before heading out at 9:00.  Part of the drive was on a toll road, after paying toll the first time we were totally out of peso!  We turned off the main road into the town of Alta Gracia to find a bank with an ATM.

Argentinian Corn ready for Harvest

A beautiful Lake
Well 1 ½ hours later we were leaving Alta Garcia – a town that we will never forget!!  We could not find a bank on the main street, as is normal.  We finally found an ATM, but finding a parking spot was just as difficult.  We parked at a questionable location – too close to a driveway, but we figured that for a few minutes we would be OK – they actually could have gotten out.  I went to the ATM first, so Cal could stay with the car, but there was a long line. I returned to tell Cal that it would be a while and to reconfirm the amount I should take out in pesos.  Cal decided to come with me and we went back to the ATM line.  We tried two different cards and neither one worked (still do not know why), so we went inside to ask for help.  Cal decided to return to the car, but he was a minute late!! A traffic police was there writing us a parking ticket!!!  NOW WHAT!!  Cal moved the car and returned to me.  An agent (he could speak English) helped us with the ATM, to be sure we were doing everything correctly, but it still would not work. (Our Debit cards worked fine in Chile, but this was our first try in Argentina)  We asked this helpful guy where we pay this parking ticket!  He directed us to the police station!  Would they take US dollars, as we still had no Pesos? “No”, they needed Pesos!!  They told us where to go to get cash exchanged, as we had dollars in cash.  To our surprise they gave us a very good exchange rate. So back we go to the Police Station with our pesos. The longest part of the whole ordeal was waiting in line for the cashier, to pay the fine of $34.00. But we now have Argentinian pesos!  Nothing was easy in Alta Gracia – finding an ATM, finding the police station due to on-way streets and insufficient street signs, finding parking places, finding the exchange place, but everyone except the traffic cop was very helpful and friendly – they always found someone who could speak English.    

Back on the road again!  But we had not gone very far until we came to a police inspection checkpoint.  When we had passed checkpoints before, they always waved us on, but this time they told us to pull over!!!  He could speak NO English!  The problem was that Cal did not have the headlights turned on.  On this Toyota rental they do not turn on automatically, and Cal forgot when we left Alta Garcia.  Thank goodness there was no fine!  Alta Gracia, we will always remember you!!!
Before arriving in Alta Garcia we drove through an agricultural area of wheat and corn in large fields.  Soon after leaving Alta Garcia we began driving on narrow curvy roads that took us around a beautiful lake and into a hilly terrain.

We arrived in the town of Villa General Belgrano at about 1:00, just as most of the shops were closing for lunch and siesta, to re-open at 3:00. Villa General Belgrano is an interesting little Germanic town in a valley between two low-rise mountains. You would have no idea you were in Argentina.  It is very German and German/Swiss (Bavarian) in the architecture of the building, the merchandise, and the menus – even sauerkraut. Most of the residents are of German descent. We window shopped before choosing a place to eat lunch.  We decided today to have our larger meal at noon, instead of so late at night.  

Entering Villa General Belgrano

As we were eating we saw a group of 6 young adults walking across the street – You could immediately tell they were from the US!!  The one gal had a huge “M” on her shirt –like the Minnesota “M”. When they walked past our street-side table, we spoke to them.  They were indeed from the US.  In fact, three of them attend Luther College in Iowa, and one guy is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Only one in the group was not from the Midwest.  We chatted for 15 minutes at least.  They are having Spanish language immersion in Cordoba for 5 months and have seen very few people from the US in Cordoba during their time here. They were thrilled to chat with someone from the Midwest!  The guy from Cedar Rapids even had an “Iowa State” jacket with him!!    

Some Views of Villa Belgrano

Beer Steins

Restaurant Where we had Lunch

Herding Cattle along the Highway

Argentine Countryside

From there we drove to the town of La Cumbrecita.  To get there we needed to cross the one set of mountains and in fact the town is located in a very hilly area. Again this was a very German/Swiss village.  This is a pedestrian only town, so you park at the edge of the village.  There are lots of hiking trails in the hills around the village, and there are some shops. It is a tiny village in comparison to Villa Belgrano.  This is a village where you come to enjoy the surrounding natural area – we just walked around the village area. The college kids we met wanted to come here too, but were afraid they did not have the time – they had a bus schedule to follow.
La Cumbrecita Village

River flowing through the town

House in Town

Cobble Stone Streets in Town

Laying new Cobble Stones

By the time we returned to Cordoba it was late dusk.  After relaxing for a while we walked to a shopping mall located next to the Holiday Inn. It was a huge mall with everything from major hardware/building supplies, and appliance to shoes and dressy clothes.  We picked up an ice cream and walked around window shopping as we ate it.  We just covered a small part of the mall. 

Tomorrow morning we are flying out of Cordoba to Buenos Aires at 9:07 – another early morning!  We had hoped to drive north of here, but due to our flight situation on Thursday, we will not see that area of Argentina.

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