Posted by: robinson2000 | August 19, 2013

Return to Tucuman

Tucuman – Wednesday 7th – Sat 10th August

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After a great few days in Buenos Aires we were ready to leave the hustle and bustle of the big city behind us and head for quieter pastures in the North of Argentina. A short taxi ride took us to Retiro (the main bus terminal in Bs As) where we boarded a double-decker coach heading for the city of Tucuman. The journey was rubbish from start to finish as initially it was late to depart (no real surprise there, all buses in South America so far had been late to arrive and even later to get us to our final destination!), the coach was filthy dirty and it was inhabited by 3-4 families with loads of screaming babies and children. To top it all off there was a fat bloke a few rows back from us, clearly an Argentine chav, who played his cumbia music out of his phone for the whole coach to hear. After an hour of tolerating him I turned around and tried to tell him to turn it down. Obviously he didn’t understand me so Nicola had to jump in and politely translate my annoyance. This appeared to work but after a few minutes of quiet he turned it back on! To save him from another one of my tongue lashings we decided to seek refuge downstairs where there was only one other person sitting. The rest of the trip passed peacefully (although we had to endure the smell of the toilet for 18hrs) as we arrived in the largest city in the North just before lunchtime on Weds 7th August.

We were very grateful to be collected at the bus terminal by Jorge, a friend of Nicola’s who drove us to the hotel we would be staying in, in the centre of the city. Jorge had scoured the city for us searching for cheap, clean and safe accommodation and he came up trumps with King Hotel.  Not quite fit for royalty but it suited our budget just fine.  Weary from our long, unpleasant journey we showered, went out for some food and returned for our first, much needed siesta. Feeling brighter a few hours later, and keen to make the most of the scorching hot temperature, Nicola showed me round the main plaza in the heart of the city, la plaza  independencia, and the Casa de Gobierno (government house) and cathedral which surround the pretty plaza. We then walked up the main streets filled with shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. You wouldn’t know the country’s economy was suffering from the amount of people shopping and having dinner out. We re-traced Nicola’s steps when she was living here in 2002 and 2005 and she showed me the English school she worked in, the flat she lived in and her favourite places to have a submarino! In the evening we headed back out to la plaza as it is beautifully lit up at night and waited to be picked up by Jorge and his wife, Eleanora, who took us to dinner. Something I will never get used to is how late Argentinians eat. We must have eaten at around 11.30 to midnight and this is not unusual. The lack of sleep from the night before had caught up with us and after several Quilmes beers, we were ready for our bed at 2am!

The following day, Thurs 8th August, was nowhere near as hot, unfortunately. Tucuman can look bleak without the sunshine. After a regular Argentinian breakfast of tea/hot chocolate/coffee and small croissants called medialunas (much tastier) we went off to get some money and find a laundrette. As in Puerto Iguazu, we had to queue again some time for the cash machine. Pesos in hand we went to New World School of English to catch up with Nicola’s old boss and good friend, Luis Barry. We spent a good couple of hours talking and looking round his school before being picked up by Jorge and Eleanora again to see more of Tucuman. They drove us out of the city to the wealthier barrio of Yerba Buena which has shopping malls, restaurants and a small mountain/hill called San Javier. On top of the mountain is a much talked about statue of San Javier which is really just a tiny version of the Christ the Redeemer from Rio.  It is quite a climb by car to reach the top with several hair pin bends, it would idea for cycling downhill! We went past tiny villages, picturesque churches and a paragliding spot. The best part of the afternoon was spent having tea and cakes at a very posh hotel right at the top, which overlooked Tucuman. In the evening we were treated to dinner by more of Nicola’s Argentinian friends (ex-students of hers’ from the language school, some 11 years ago!), and we were having a great time chatting in a mixture of spanish and english, drinking beer and eating nice food until our evening was cut short due to an allergic reaction with the chicken pie that I ordered.  Sad to leave her friends but delighted that they all said she hadn’t changed a bit (!) nurse Nicola accompanied me back to the hotel and made sure I was alive.

Feeling better the next day, Friday 9th, we took it easy in the morning, browsing the shops and visiting the Casa Historica – an interesting little museum where Argentina’s declaration of  independence was drawn up.  From here we went to lunch at a brilliant, traditional restaurant called El Portal. Regaining my appetite we ordered some beef empanadas (my favourite food in Argentina plus they’re only 80p each!) and a locro del campo which is a hollowed out small loaf of bread filled with a hot stew consisting of meat,beans and potatoes (tastes a lot better than it sounds). With our bellies full we strolled around a huge park, parque 9 de julio and then went to order our bus tickets for the next stage of our trip. Typically the bus company that we decided to book with wouldn’t accept our credit card to pay for the tickets so I had to run back to our hotel to retrieve some cash. We should have learnt by now that in Argentina, simple things often don’t work!

Tucuman was a nice place to visit, but only for a short time and was handy to have some friends who live there. It was extra special for Nicola to be reunited again with so many of her Argentinian friends after so many years. Next stop Salta.

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