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Pilgrimage to Alta Gracia

Alta Gracia, Argentina

The unseasonable cold weather was clearly over as it was a lovely sunny, hot day when we travelled the hour or so by bus to Alta Gracia, basically just as a pilgrimage to Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's home. In the hope it would alleviate his asthma, his parents moved from Buenos Aires to the warmer drier climate of Alta Gracia, where he lived between the ages of four and thirteen. We hadn't actually planned to go there, but we were so unimpressed with Cordoba that we felt we had exhausted the city in half a day, and that one night had been more than enough. So we looked in the guide book for day-trip ideas nearby. The town sounded quite nice and I wasn't totally opposed to the pilgrimage idea anyway.

The house had been turned into a museum, which was moderately interesting, though I felt like it was a bit of a spoiler at points, since I am currently reading an excellent biography of him, called Compañero. Each room in the house represented a different period of his life, starting with toys he had owned as a child and letters he had written to his aunt, then the famous motorbike on which he started his travels around South America, until the last few rooms, where it was mostly photographs of him with Castro, then on campaign in the Congo and Bolivia. Actually the motorbike must surely have been a replica, because they left their motorbike for scrap in the Andes didn't they?

Next door was a Cuban bar, where we sat around in the sun listening to salsa music, drinking expensive – and very poor – mojitos, had some empanadas for lunch, and struggled again with the Spanish which I think may be even more heavily accented than Cordoba, before heading off to the town centre. On the way we passed some of the mansions still standing, which used to be owned by Che's friends and neighbours. This was all in a bit of a state of decay as well, in the romantic Venice or Valparaiso way, not in the Mendoza or Cordoba way. We passed the Sierras Hotel, where his parents used to live it up life with their socialite friends. It still looks very grand, but seems to be going through some major renovations after being shut down for some time. Like most things we had tried to see in Argentina it was off-limits because of construction.

The town itself is really quite small, but fairly pretty, and we both preferred it to the supposedly pretty Cordoba. In the main square a young jazz band had set up and were playing to all of the bars and cafes surrounding the square. It seems like quite a lively place as well. But we couldn't linger too long because we had to get back on the bus to return to Cordoba in time for our overnight bus to Buenos Aires, or BA as all the travellers seem to call it, though I never saw it abbreviated to anything other than Bs As by actual Argentinians.

Our bus to Cordoba from Mendoza had been really quite comfortable, better than anything we encountered in Asia, so we expected the same again. Unfortunately it was not so: our overnight bus to Bs As seemed to have about twice as many seats crammed into it and I looked forward to a night with no sleep.

permalink written by  The Happy Couple on September 26, 2009 from Alta Gracia, Argentina
from the travel blog: Michael's Round-the-World honeymoon
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