Wednesday, December 2, 2009
(new) Muchas Gracias
There was still no sign of our etickets in my email. But rather than phone South African Airways again, I decided to take a break. It was time for a trip out of town, something we hadn’t done in a while. The phone call to SAA could wait until tomorrow.
Cordoba was an old Jesuit town, even older than the missions we’d visited in Bolivia. And many of those old Jesuit missions still existed in town and even more could be found in the small towns just outside the city. We were headed to one of them called Alta Gracia. But not just for the mission, we’d certainly seen enough of those, but because Alta Gracia was the childhood home of Che Guevera which Adrian was really excited about.
Getting there was easy. We caught a bus from the bus station and an hour later we were in the town. It was bigger than we expected and we had no map. So once we saw what looked like the main street (lots of shops, old signs) we got off and hoped that there would be some signs to point is in the right direction. And we were obviously getting good at figuring our way around these Latin American city because we stumbled upon the old plaza and the original Jesuit mission (called an estancia here) easily. Unfortunately despite the sign that said it was open for another hour, it was closed for the afternoon siesta. We checked out and the small church (photo above) that was open. And then popped into the tourism office just across the street in the old clock tower. With the free map and the help of the woman at the desk we were off to chase Che.
The Gueveras had moved to Alta Gracia when Che was just a 6 and lived there off and on for the next 10 years. The museum was housed in the old family home that had been and still was the leafy rich part of town just behind the fancy-schmancy resort hotel. The museum was small and contained lots of information related to his youth, including photos and copies of his school reports as well as postcards, maps and writings relating to his youthful motorcycle journey across Latin America that looked an awful lot like ours.. They even had a model of the motorcycle he rode on the famous legs and the bicycle he used for another less famous one. Adrian ran around with glee while I was happy with the free admission price.
Somewhere in the middle of the house, a familiar voice called out. Fancy meeting you here. It was Stuart from Santa Cruz but without Max who was still back in Bolivia awaiting a money transfer so he could pay his hostel bill. The two lads were at the tail end of the trip and while Stuart still had cash, Max had overextended himself. It had been 3 months since we’d first met them and another month or two since we’d bumped into them in Uyuni and here we were meeting up in Argentina. We chatted for a bit and then left each other to explore the museum before saying goodbye probably for the last time.
The mission was still closed so we stopped at a café for a little lunch of giant lomitos (beef sandwiches) which killed just enough time until the mission opened as well as filling our stomachs.
Then it was time to walk around the mission. There was a small museum to start filled with a mish mash of old objects from the history of the mission from a Jesuit farming estate up to the time of its life as the home of the local governor. The most interesting was a chair fashioned from the pelvic bones of a cow. Gruesome and yet totally cool – I think Adrian and I both decided we wanted one. The mission itself was lovely and nice and thankfully completely different from the ones we’d visited way out in nowhere Bolivia. But what was just as nice was the free postcard that the attendant gave me when we left. She saw me looking at them and just told me to have one as a regalo. A small gift but it was definitely the thought and gesture that counted and meant a lot. And with a alta gracia (high thanks) we said adios to Alta Gracia.