Thursday, November 13, 2008


The overall topography includes wide river valleys irrigated by big hydraulic projects directing the copious Andean runoff, separated by semi-arid, desertified stretches resembling the American Southwest. The long transit from Rioja to Belen impressed me with the vast open empty spaces that exist between the major cities. In some respects, the Western part of this country is like my home state of Arizona at about 1950 writ very large. The desert looks very much like the Sonoran desert, with a bit more precipitation. There are analogues to Mesquite, Palo Verde and Creosote Bush. Goats, sheep, cattle are in the unirrigated regions. The farmland irrigated by the rivers is reminiscent of the agricultural areas around Phoenix.

The people are gracious, friendly and proud. I've had no inappropriate requests for money at any of the police checkpoints. They seem to be focused on the many very old, tiny little cars from the 1950's that are still on the road. Those old cars and the ubiquitous motorbikes make driving very hazardous, although the highways are maintained to the US standard. No potholes on state or federal highways.

There are a few noticeable negatives to living in Argentina that I have identified: It appears that property crimes are endemic. Bars on windows and barbed-wire (or broken glass!) topped walls are a commonplace.

Other features I have noticed:

1. There are distinct cultural differences. Immediately noticeable is the openness of people to socialize and be generous and helpful. National pride is a subtext. Even strangers will kiss you on the cheeks.

2. English speakers are rare outside BA. (Needless to say, I need to refresh my Spanish after 40 years of neglect.)

3. Imported goods are not as common as in the US.

4 There is apparently a moderate state subsidy for diesel—approximately 75 cents per gallon, and

5. Business hours are approximately 8:00 am to 12:30, closed until 4:00 or 4:30 then open until 8 pm. Restaurants start serving dinner about 8:30 or 9:00 pm and go till midnight.

In sum, this is a wonderful country, particularly if you have facility in Spanish, and don’t need to be deeply integrated into the local social scene. Reports from people who’ve immigrated here a decade ago can be summarized: beyond the overall friendliness, the process of developing a familial level of closeness with the locals is slow.

Theory of Art

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Post 16: Quirky stuff...

Being a blog, our trip is in reverse order. Have fun!

The ubiquitous 'cafe chica'. (that cup is about 2" tall)

The national drink, cafe chica is espresso. The other national drink is cafe de leche. Then there's mate (mah-tay) tea...we tried it and it tasted like field grass. Haven't quite developed a taste for it yet...

Dozens of bird nests. A real community of purpose here.

Behind every older home was a bake oven. And used.

These two pics are of brick works. The semi-pyramids smoke during firing. We saw lots of them everywhere. Most all buildings are brick.

Post 15: Tucuman to Cordoba

We're heading back to Cordoba for our flight to Buenos Aires, transfer airports and onto a plane for Miami.

This was the food basket of Argentina. Very lush.

We saw this thunderstorm from a distance and then drove through it. Really beautiful.

Jeez, those feet just never leave.

Post 14: Tucuman

Tucuman was beautiful, hot and humid. These are all buildings around the main town square.

(Two catholic churches.)

Government building.

Tucuman's concept of Liberty in their main square. She was beautiful.

Here's the view from our hotel room onto the main square in Tucuman. A four star hotel for an equivalent of $80US per night.

The other of two Catholic churches on the town square. The interior was unbelievable but we didn't feel comfortable taking pics while they were doing the mass.

Tucuman is an economically vibrant, substantial city. The old center is especially overcrowded with chaotic traffic. Based on a couple of conversations with locals, the mountain valleys to the West of the city are very verdant and somewhat cooler than this subtropical city.

Post 13: Belen to Tucuman

Monday was a very arduous transit from Belen, Northwest of Catamarca up to Tucuman. It was six solid hours on rough dirt two-lane road, starting with passage though extremely dry, hot low back country that supported a few goat ranches until we reached Andalgala.

Just outside that tiny dusthole, we began a long grinding series of switchbacks up a steep pitch, gaining 5,000 feet in no more than ten kilometers of horizontal travel on the map. Along the way we met a regularly scheduled passenger bus traveling to Andalgala from Adumbrera! I don´t know how he negotiated some of the hairpins.

At the top of the long climb, the environment quickly transitioned from the dry hillside to scenic farmland and quaint villages. Unfortunately, our camera batteries ran out about the time we reached to top of the desert side. Twenty kilometers or so further the mountain became much wetter and soon we were in subtropical forest as we descended from the ridges. Beautiful lush valleys visible from the road thousands of feet below.

The descent was also arduous switchbacking for over an hour, but it was much cooler and wetter. Finally got to pavement at Concepcion, about 50K outside Tucuman. Lush farmland all the way into the city. Beginning of sugarcane and banana agriculture. Tucuman is warm now and humid. Gets to upper 90´s with over 50% humidity in summer months.

Post 12: Mendoza to Belen

Passing on the right.

The bright colors didn't come through here, but this is a cemetery along the highway. It looked like a miniature town.

Old doors/buildings are everywhere.

Maybe they want to keep the goats out??

Southern Arizona redux:

Here they come...

...and there they go.

Tree breaks are planted everywhere.

More views from the highway.

It's hard to see, but in this pic there are goats, sheep, cows and horses. The only thing missing was the chickens.

Belen was the first town we saw that was poor. The northern regions have the largest indigenous populations. They have a longstanding history, were taken over by the Incas in 1000s and then survived a US West-like slaughter in the 1600-1800s.

We stayed the night in a hostel-type hotel and it was probably the best lodging in town. Their rock work was amazing. Old and new.

Post 11: Chacras de Coria

This is a suburb of Mendoza about 30 minutes south of downtown.

The neighborhood's streets.