La Falda, or A series of blunders

I’m not sure if this many unfortunate things happen to people and they just don’t let on, or if I’m unlucky.

Regardless, we had a stretch of several days off and decided to go camping again. I think this shows that I can be very stubborn about money. I dislike camping, yet it was my idea to do it two nights in a row (with poor sleeping bags). Because we will likely travel through Mendoza later, and the Train to the Clouds is currently closed (December 2014 to at least March 2015), our best and cheapest option was to go into more pueblas in the sierras.

La Falda, about two hours from Cordoba by bus, is in the Punilla valley and draws many tourists, though I’m not quite sure why. One of its greatest attractions is the former Eden Hotel, where Albert Einstein stayed once. Other sights include the Seven Cascades, El Silencio (a 17th century castle), Tatu Carreta (a drive-through zoo thing) and many hiking trails in the mountains surrounding the town. It has one camping ground, Club de Lago, that is about four and a half kilometers from town.

Because of the Cosquin rock festival, it took us four hours to reach La Falda. Traffic was backed up for many kilometers through all the rural highways. It also didn’t help that our bus driver decided to take an hour-long smoke break right when it was time to get on the road. Still, we weren’t beholden to a specific schedule, so I just read a book and Jordan watched a movie on the bus.

To get to Club de Lago you must purchase a bus ticket (from the company Lumasa) for 4.50 persos. During high season (December through March) entrance to the campsite is 88 pesos a person, which Jordan and I thought was exorbitantly expensive. It costs us 20 USD just to pitch our tent and use their bathrooms (sans toilet paper). But it was still cheaper than hotels in town, and Jordan hadn’t been lugging the tent around for no reason. Still, if you have an adjustable budget, we don’t recommend camping there.

We thought, despite it being a “tourist trap,” that food was decently priced in town, in supermercados and restaurantes alike. We split a pizza and a coke, which is normal fare for us when we need something cheap and quick.

Because I was in an uncommonly wise frame of mind, I encouraged Jordan to put up the rain cover over our one-and-a-half-man tent. I had brought two blankets along with my pillow and the sleeping bag. So, there we spent our Valentine’s day, camping beside a lake. Our conversation for the night went something like this:

“I hate camping,” I would say, trying to make something comfortable to sit or lie on.

“You’ve told me,” Jordan would remark, cheerily pulling out his wires and iPad and power brick.

“But this is Valentine’s Day,” I would remind. “And it’s your Valentine’s. And we’re camping. And it was my idea.”

“You should’ve thought about how I don’t know the language, the options, or what you want for a romantic evening before you whisked us off to Argentina through the month of February.”

“I don’t care if it’s my turn to do Valentine’s next year–because of this, you have it in 2016.”

He just laughed.

We woke up at 3 in the morning to heavy thunder and lightening. Because of the (barely functional) rain cover, we were able to go back to sleep. Or, in my case, becoming intimately familiar with the gravel and stick lying below my sleeping bag and tent.

By 9 in the morning, Jordan poked his head out and saw the lake rising. He convinced me to begin rolling up the sleeping bags.

By 9:30, we could feel water streaming down the hill just under the tarp.

“Stick to routine?” Jordan asked me.

“How I hate that we have this down to a routine,” I lamented. “Have I told you that I hate camping?”

At this point Jordan just ignored my complaints because, although he knew they were sincerely meant, it would not impede me from pulling my own weight and getting things done.

“The lake,” he reminded me, so I slipped my shoes on and bolted from the tent. He sat still inside, handed our 20-pound backpack to me, then our 15-pound daypack (it had water and fruit in it), then my pillow. I raced up the hill and only almost fell twice, and found shelter near the overhang from the showers. I waited while Jordan stayed in the rain, taking down the tent.

We lost each other, and he had to track me down in the rain, because of course we did, and finally we stumbled, half-soaked, into a dry, indoor recreational building. Everyone else was already there, playing cards, eating crackers, and children running wild.

The one bright spot of this ill-fated adventure was Augusto and Elien, a couple around our age that had camped two spots down from us. They had originally planned to camp for a week, but explained that it was supposed to rain for eight days straight now (funny how the weather predictions didn’t tell anyone that until it started happening). They invited us to sit with them, share mate with them (a favorite drink of Argentina) and didn’t laugh as I stumbled through Spanish to communicate with them.

After an hour the rain had picked up, and we knew it was raining in La Cumbre, the other town we meant to spend a day in. Returning to Cordoba early (again) was our cheapest and driest option. At this point, I also learned the Spanish word for wet. The lake had also risen and covered our campsite and many others’ as well.

A worker at the little convenience store said a bus would be there are 11:30 or 11:45. So we walked out, no trees or anything to shelter us, and tried to drape the tent’s rain cover over us while we waited for the bus. By 11:45 it was not still there. So we waited a little longer, now completely soaked. A few cars passed by, mostly people escaping the deluge at the camping grounds.

“If it isn’t here by 12:30, I’m going back inside. This is how people die in novels,” Jordan informed me.

For the next ten minutes I alternated between complaining about rain, camping, and the outdoors in general, and regaling him with scenes from Sense and Sensibility when Marianne walks through the rain and discovers that almost dying for love is not nearly as romantic as it sounds. Pneumonia rarely is, I suspect.

By then we were utterly soaked and Jordan just wadded the rain cover up and we walked back toward shelter. He used the restroom and I went back to the convenience store.

“Oh, in five minutes! There will be a bus at 12:45,” I was assured.

“Okay, okay!” I said, certain that I could withstand five more minutes. I prayed my pillow wouldn’t be smote with incurable mildew. So we trudged back out and covered ourselves in the rain cover once again. It didn’t block the wind, but it did help with the rain. A car passed us and people laughed inside. Jordan was convinced they were saying, “Look at those gringos! They’ll be here for hours!” Jordan didn’t think it was amusing, either.

“It’s 12:47,” Jordan told me.

“Buses are always late here. We can’t wonder until it’s 10 minutes late,” I whispered through chattering teeth.

Well, 1 pm rolled around and by then we were convinced no buses were coming from the rain.

We reentered the resting area, embarrassed, and took a few more rounds of mate from our friends. They laughed and clucked their tongues and told us how wet we were.

An hour later, once we knew we wouldn’t expire from hypothermia, I ran back through the rain to the administration’s office. One of the owners took pity on me and explained that the buses don’t run in the rain.

“But, but, we waited for an hour and a half out there,” I said, wringing water from my hair.

“No, no, not during rain,” she said.

“How do I call a taxi?” I inquired, so utterly miserable at this point that I was considering walking the two miles back to town. I was already soaked, and we had nowhere to spend the night.

She called a taxi for us, and an hour later we were at the bus station in La Falda. Buses were delayed because of the rain, but eventually we made it back to Cordoba (the buses also drove slower because of the rain). We saw very little of La Falda and none of La Cumbre. This morning I woke up with a cold. I suppose that beats Marianne’s pneumonia (if not in a dramatic storytelling sense, at least in constitution).

So, for those that read this whole long post to see what there is to do in La Cumbre, here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • Lots of paragliding and skydiving
  • Trekking and hiking
  • Swimming in the river
  • Admiring the architecture (reminiscent to English country cottages)
  • Golfing
  • Speaking English (because original settlers came from England)

We are not attempting camping again, any time soon. We are not going into the sierras without checking weather repeatedly. We are saving our money and not choosing expensive resting places. And today I haven’t left my bed, except for hot chicken soup and tea. It’s the small things in life.

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Categories: Argentina | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “La Falda, or A series of blunders

  1. Tanya Karasek

    Oh my! This will be a Valentine’s Day to remember! Felt like we were there waiting for the bus right along with you. And we have been in a tent with rain and a rising lake or river just outside the door. Quite the experience for way faring adventurers!

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