Tag Archives: Argentina

Where is the first flag of Argentina?

25 Jul

After Iruya (and not having taken the advice of the little old lady who wanted me to stay there) I headed off to San Salvador de Jujuy.

Now I very much like the flag of Argentina and armed with my world factbook I have been advising everyone I have met that the white represents the snow in the Andes and the blue the clear skies while the sun represents the appearance of the sun through cloudy days on 25 May 1810 during the first mass demonstration in favour of independence…so confident was I with this that I have even taken some photos of the sky which look like the flag….

see…

"Argentinian Flag" in the sky above Quilmes

"Argentinian Flag" in the sky above Quilmes

So you can imagine how disappointed I was to be told at the Museum in Jujuy where they have the “first” Argentinian flag that the flag does NOT represent the sky and the snow in the Andes, but instead represents the colours of the Bourbons,the royal family of Spain..

I like a bit of research so thought I would check this out on the net….

However, even after having done some internet research myself it seems that there is not agreement on what the colours of the flag represent……some think that General Belgrano, one of Argentina´s leaders came up with the colours for the flag while he was gazing at the sky prior to a battle..others believe that the blue represents the Rio De La Plata (River of Silver) which is the widest river in the world and the white represents the metal silver….suffice it is to say that there is no agreement on the original of the colours of the flag..however I remained confident that I had seen the “first” Argentinian flag which was a completely different design from the current one,did not have the stripes of colour on it and had the terms “liberty, fraternity, egality” on it….after all the lady in the museum in Jujuy told me it was the first one….

My confidence soon diminished when I got to Sucre, Bolivia where in the Casa de la Liberdad, during a tour, I was shown the “first” flag of Argentina which had the blue and white stripes though with the blue in the middle and two white stripes on either side….

So now I am unclear both as to the meaning of the colours of the flag and which is the original flag…..

When I asked the woman in the Casa de la Liberdad why they claim the first flag is in Jujuy she just laughed mischievously…and then moved on to the next part of the tour….leaving my confusion undiminished…..

Cafayate and beyond…

25 Jul

After Quilmes I headed to the wine region of Cafayate.  There I met Laure and Pierre, a cool French couple who are cycling around the world for 3 years! Wow! They are even cycling the length of Africa on their recumbent bikes. Really wishing I could join them on their trip!  Decided to head out on the bikes with them for a lovely day’s cycle to a small local village.  I now fancy trying a recumbent bike when I get home as they say they are super comfortable and it is really easy to carry loads of weight.

Laure and Pierre

Laure and Pierre

Did some nice wine tasting in Cafayate and sampled lots of empanadas (small pasties) at the House of Empanadas!  And then it was time for more cycling (to work off the empanandas)  from the Gargantuan del Diablo back to Cafayate having put my hired bike into the storage bit of the bus.  I love a country where travelling with a bike is acceptable!!! Some images of the cycle….

Cycling back to Cafayate

Cycling back to Cafayate

Cycling back to Cafayate

Cycling back to Cafayate

From Cafayate I headed onto Salta where I went to the wonderful Alta Montana museum which displays 3 child sacrifices found at 6,700 metres at the top of Volcan Llullaillaco.  A truly amazing museum with loads of information both on the  history of the sacrifices (made as an offering to the gods for good weather or a good harvest) and also on the mountaineering aspect of bringing the sacrifices down from the mountain.  The museum itself is somewhat controversial as the indigenous people do not believe in the children being taken from their resting place to a museum far away from their “community”.  And that is not so hard as understand as their people wanted the children to be laid to rest in the mountains and they think it is bad luck to move them.

I also managed to hit Salta at the time of the Bicentenario celebrations (200 years since Argentina’s independence).

This was cool as it involved loads of free music events and also a huge procession of gauchos on their horses who marched through the city as a mark of the war of the gauchos in the fight for the independence of Argentina led by Martin Miguel de Guemes.

Bicentenary celebrations in Salta

Bicentenary celebrations in Salta

Lots of horses

Lots of horses

Bicentenary, Salta

Bicentenary, Salta

After being in the big city for a bit it was time to head further North of Argentina…next stop Tilcara….

Living with an indigenous community in Quilmes, Argentina

25 Jul

After defrosting from the hike in El Infiernillo it was off to Las Ruinas de Quilmes (the Quilmes ruins).

Quilmes means “between the mountains” and the setting of the settlement is truly that.  After a 5km walk along a dusty road I arrived at the base of the ruins and it was totally spectacular. Although there has been some reconstruction of the ruins much of what remains is the original settlement.

The Quilmes inhabited the area from AD1000.  They managed to withstand an Inca invasion and were only removed from their lands by the Spanish at which point  some 2000 made their way to Buenos Aires (though many did not survive the journey).  There is a city which bears the name “Quilmes” there in recognition of the people who made it.

Their fight for their land did not stop there. In fact their battle continues to this day.

For the Quilmes people the territory is sacrosanct.  They see it as the place where the blood of their ancestors was spilled in defending their culture and existence.  The ruins was also the place where ceremonial activities were carried out and where offerings were made to Pachamama or Mother Earth.  It is for this reason that they call the ruins the “Ciudad Sagrada” or “Sacred City”.

Even today they are fighting for their land after part of it was taken out of their control and passed onto a private landowner who built a hotel and a swimming pool (amenities which the Quilmes´people think an insult to the Sacred City).  They started a legal battle to have their rights recognised in law founding on a title which was given to them by representatives of Spain in 1716.

In 2007 they evicted the private landowner from the land and at the beginning of 2008 they decided to take possession of the Sacred City by force.  The hotel and swimming pool remain closed but now the Quilmes people allow visitors in and do tours of the site while also informing visitors of their legal battle.

I decided to do some volunteer work at Quilmes as the whole place just fascinated me.  So I went to speak with Mathias, one of the coordinators who said he would need to speak with the Cacique (The Chief of the Quilmes people) at a meeting of the people to see if I would be allowed to assist the community.  A few days later a meeting was convened and it was agreed that I could do some translation work for them.

After the meeting I met Juan Molinos.  Juan is an artesan at Quilmes.  He carves boxes out of cactus wood and makes jewellery.  He said we could stay with him. His address “Juan Molinas, Quilmes, Dos Quadras de la Escuela” which translates as two blocks from the school. Had a lovely walk through cactii to his house stopping en route to make offerings to Pachamama with white quartz stones.  That night we collected fire wood for his wood fire, went for tea with a local family and then Juan played his guitar for hours for us.  Truly delightful.

All in all I stayed 10 days with the Quilmes people.  Their kindness was remarkable.  I learned a lot about their lives, their struggles but most of all I found that they had great peace within themselves. They love their land. They do not believe in land ownership.  They believe that all the elements of the earth (the land, the soil, the air, the flora, the fauna) should be shared and that the spirituality of Mother Earth allows them to exist.  They don’t have much.  Their houses have no heating and no hot water.  There are no luxuries in their lives but they are at one with what they have which was very moving to see.

David, one of the Quilmes people, told us that he had lived in the city for a while.  One day he was sitting by a river.  He heard a frog.  He took that as a sign to return home to Quilmes as he did not want live away from his land and in a place without nature.  Maybe it is that sense of being at one with nature which epitomises the Quilmes people and gives them the aura of peacefulness? I am not sure but it certainly did show me how simple life can be and how little you need to be content.

Community meeting, Quilmes

Community meeting, Quilmes

Las Ruinas de Quilmes

Las Ruinas de Quilmes

The sky above Quilmes

The sky above Quilmes

Me and Juan

Me and Juan


Thanks Marco for the video.

And yet more Argentinian kindness

10 Jul

Now would you meet two foreigners who were looking for someone else in your place of work, invite them back to your house for tea and then give them the keys to your house while you were away so they had a free place to stay?

Yet again I think not…

But this is exactly what happened in Tafi Del Valle, my next stop after Tucuman.

Tafi Del Valle is a small town set at about 1,800 metres. It is surrounded by beautiful hills and the ride from Tucuman was spectacular. I arrived intending to do some hiking as there are some good walks around the area.

But first, I wanted to meet Gustave.

Moises had told us we would find him at the local school. There was only one school in the town and it was a stone’s throw from the hostel so that was my first port of call in Tafi.

Schools in Argentina seem much more fun than schools at home…I did hit the school right at the end of term when the pupils were moving onto high school so maybe it was just a fun time to be there. Anyway there seems to be a tradition of throwing flour on everyone (teachers included)..the kids even left the school to buy more flour in the village when they had run out. Fun indeed!!!!! I asked at the school reception where Gustave was. A woman with the most amazing eye make up I have ever seen told me she would try to find him.

While I was waiting, I met Silvanna. She taught history at the school. She asked me back to her house for mate. Now if some asks you back for mate it is quite an honour so I did not refuse. Her house was quite bizarre. The roof was made of corrugated iron. It seemed rather more like a barn than a house and it was pretty cold as well. In the room at the back of the house, which was all tiled (I am not sure if it had been a butcher’s shop previously?) she played tennis against the wall. Again random…

We chatted for ages.

Drinking Mate with Silvanna

Drinking Mate with Silvanna

She had been married, divorced and now had a partner who was a lawyer. She lived in Tafi during the week and went to stay with her partner at weekends. It was the last day of term so she was heading out of Tafi. Since she was not going to be in her house she offered us the keys of it so that we could stay there for free while she was away…again what kindness…something I would never do at home…she showed us how to heat water, here they heat only exactly the amount of water they need to shower, filling the tank then plugging it in..water and electricity does not seem a good mix to me but hey ho…..cooking was by gas with a calor gas bottle, took me back to caravanning days…and the house locked simply with a padlock and hook, nothing more…..we arranged to go to the school the next day to collect the keys…

Next morning, we got the keys and met Gustave as well. He suggested that we try a walk which started from a place called “El Infiernillo” which started at 3042 metres above sea level, ie, pretty damn high. We would set off from there and the three day route would take us to Cerro Negro, the Black Hill. There was no map of the route available. This seems to be quite common around these parts. You just follow a path and hope for the best.

We spent the rest of the day getting ready for the hike and attempting to hire bikes in Tafi, a task which seemed to be pretty much impossible. The first place which rented bikes was, randomly, the local supermarket but they charged a fortune to rent them so we were then referred on to the local glass shop, which also rented bikes but the guy from there was at the local school for his son’s last day of term so that did not work either. Eventually we just went on a walk up the valley where Lieke, my Dutch travel mate, found her swiss knife which she had lost the day before.

We also stocked up in the local shops on bread, pasta, some sausage and nuts for the trek. Leike needed to buy a camping mat. We were sent around from shop to shop in the town eventually ending up in one which sold everything from washing machines, to computers, to outdoor gear, to children’s playgrounds. It did not have a camping mat. But on the way back to Silvanna’s place we found some polystyrene. Result. We used that to make Lieke a camping mat for the trip.

Next morning we got up early, after a rather restless night in Silvanna´s house. Having a house like a barn does not sit well with heat so it was freezing even in my minus 7 sleeping bag.

There was also a very strange noise during the night which sounded like someone trying to get in but which was probably just a dog. But it all made for a lack of sleep and a lot of shivering and worrying! Just what was needed before the hike!

We left Silvanna a gift and a note with our details.  Her kindness was amazing and again something I would not think of doing back home.  Now off to trek…

Drying washing at Silvanna's place

Drying washing at Silvanna's place

“Vivien, Moises, Antionella and Algo” = Argentinian kindess

10 Jul

Now in Scotland would you meet two foreigners in a square,invite them back to your house, feed them, water them and then provide them with a contact for their next destination?

I think not.

But this is exactly what happened in the Argentinian city of Tucuman.

I have to admit that Tucuman was not entirely what I expected….for some reason my guide book reading skills had totally failed me and instead of it being the small backwater which I thought it turned out to be one of the biggest cities of Argentina with many million inhabitants…oops! Had to apologise to my travel companions for that…

However, I did hit Tucuman at the time of the bicentenary celebrations for independence. This meant that there were lots of stuff going on, including free hot chocolate and bread in the main square. Result!

So armed with my bicentenary programme I headed to the square to see what was going on and collect my free hot chocolate and bread. There I met Vivien and Moises and their two lovely kids, Antionella and Algo. Got talking to them when Vivien gave me a copy of a poem which an old man on a bike had given her. All very random…we chatted for a while and then they asked me and my travel companion back to their house for tea. We piled into their car complete with Trinni, a friend of Algo´s and headed out to their place in San Javier passing the lemon plantations en route.

Me with Argentinian kindness

Me with Argentinian kindness

Man their house was super cute. They had a little grocery shop attached to their house. Every now and then a local kid would come in and buy one sweet or some bread. They also had a ladder you could climb in the back yard which let you see the city. Again random but cute.

We chatted with them for several hours. What a nice couple. I told Vivien she looked like Julia Roberts. She did. Moises said he had been told he looked like Nicholas Cage. He did. A bit.

Vivien told us several times she hated to cook. However, she gave us a lovely lunch of tongue with a vinaigrette dressing, locro (she couldn’t be bothered to put the meat into it though and she forgot the beans which are one of the main ingredients of locro!) and a cake which she had made with bread, milk and some eggs in a round shaped baking tin!!!!

They were among the most open people I have ever met. Their house had an open door with local kids popping in all throughout the day and the kids bringing in their friends to meet the “foreigners”.

They showed us their wedding photos. They married in secret. Her family did not approve of him. She borrowed a dress and got up in the middle of the night to head off to marry him. None of her family were at their wedding. I love a good old fashioned love story! The first meal she made him (she hates to cook) she burned all the potatoes. At the time, he did not have the heart to tell her so he ate them anyway!

Moises’ dream is to set up an institution to rehabilitate children. While he has the skills to do this, he does not have the money for it. Meantime, he works as a post man delivering the letters on his bike. Vivien does not work. She likes to bring up her kids herself and decided not to work so that she could do this.  And what cute kids they were!

The family

The family

I tell them I am headed for Tafi Del Valle next and they give us the name of a guy Moises used to work with who lives there and who loves to hike (he is called “Gustave”). They give us a little slip of paper with his name on it, tell me he works in the local school and write a message for him to help us however he can…these people are among the kindest I have ever met. They even drop me back at the hostel after letting me see the lights of the city from the top of the ladder in the garden.

I know that I would never do this back home in Scotland but it certainly makes me think about whether I should? Now off with the slip of paper to meet “Gustave”.

Bariloche:the home of moving quotes disguised as graffiti

18 Jun

Who would have thought that Bariloche would be the home of moving quotes disguised as graffiti?

Certainly not me.

I thought Bariloche was just about chocolate, swiss-like houses, a big lake that looks like the sea and the “ings” trekking, cycling, riding..

It is about all these things.

The main street is full to bursting with shops offering the most incredible looking chocolate treats with free samples for a budget traveller like me.

It also does look very Swiss.

Swiss-like buildings in Bariloche - not the tower block in the background

Swiss-like buildings in Bariloche - not the tower block in the background

It is set in a stunning location and is the perfect place to do the “ings”.

Here is the lake – Lago Nahuel Huapi.

It is huge and when it’s windy the waves on it make it look like the sea. It is ringed by spectacular mountains.

Lake Nahuel Huapi

Lake Nahuel Huapi

As always for me exercise comes before culture…

So I decided to do some hikING at Cerro Catedral which was beautiful though it is rather difficult to find especially when you are hiking alone (like I was) and without a map!  Still in true Angie style managed to find someone to help me with the route and also share lunch with.

I felt really Scottish that day as all I had for lunch was cadbury’s chocolate and crisps but met Marco who very kindly shared his organic vegetable slice and organic cake in exchange for some really unhealthy chocolate and crisps!

Cerro Catedral - look at the spires on those peaks!

Cerro Catedral - look at the spires on those peaks!

On the way to Cerro Catedral

On the way to Cerro Catedral

There is also some great cyclING in the Chico route though managed to get a puncture outside a police station on the back tyre of a mountain bike.  Now anyone that knows me will know that I don’t do puncture repairs especially when watched by the local police officer.  With no other option and no one to help me, I took my time, got the wheel off with and the gears and then changed the inner tube only to be thwarted by a defective pump – how annoying.  Still, help came from the Dutch couple I met in Torres del Paine who had a working pump and let’s face it these Dutch folk sleep on their bikes so puncture repair was a breeze to them!!

Happy bike before puncture, Chico Circuit

Happy bike before puncture, Chico Circuit

Bike in the course of repair

Bike in the course of repair

After doing all the”ings” I could, it was time to get into the moving quotes of Bariloche.

First off, the bus stop where I waited at the end of the Cerro Catedral hike.

this makes you think before you step on the bus

this makes you think before you step on the bus

This was truly beautiful. It translates (roughly!) as “Stop and enjoy life, not only are you losing the scenery by going so fast, you are also losing the feeling of where you are going and why”.

Poetry, Bariloche

Poetry, Bariloche

The phrase in the top right of this graffiti “podran cortar todas las flores pero no defendran la primavera” means “you can cut all the flowers but you cannot stop spring from coming”. It’s a quote by Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet but has also been linked to Che Guevara and the Chilean musician Victor Jara (who was tortured by the Chilean military in 1973 and has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights and justice across South America). Again very moving.

On the same wall was this….

another moving quote

another moving quote

This one in Spanish is “vola libre sin que nadie interrumpa tu vuelo” and translates as “fly free so that no one interrupts your flight”.

So while you can do all the “ings” in Bariloche and eat chocolate after doing them there is more to make you think in Bariloche than first meet the eye.  Just look at its graffiti..

Now off on the next adventure….

he phrase in the top right of this graffiti “podran cortar todas las flores pero no defendran la primavera” means “you can cut all the flowers but you cannot stop spring from coming”.  It’s a quote by Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet but has also been linked to Che Guevara and the Chilean musician Victor Jara (who was tortured by the Chilean military in 1973 and has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights and justice across South America).  Again very moving. more moving poetry

El Chalten – the mountain smokes…

18 Jun

After seeing the awesome glacier headed to El Chalten with Lieke and Bern, my dutch and ozzie mates, to do some trekking in the Fitz Roy range. It was super cool travelling with Lieke and Bern. Lieke made me sandwiches and even delivered them to me on the early morning bus from El Calafate to El Chalten. She then became known as “mum”.

The bus to El Chalten is quite funny. The driver stops to let you take photos on route..can’t imagine this happening on a “normal” bus at home, man they don’t usually even give you change on buses at home.

Beauty personified - Cerro Fitz Roy

Beauty personified - Cerro Fitz Roy

Then, more novel, when you arrive at El Chalten they whisk you off the bus and into the park ranger´s office where you are given an ultra fast speed talk about the area, and importantly how to limit environmental damage, and a map so you can plan your hikes. Brilliant!

Decided to save some cash so we picked the cheapest hostel we could which was adjoined to a restaurant..this cost 25 pesos or 4 pound 38 pence…seemed fine..until we met Pablo and a guy he was trekking with…the guy said he had just bought a camera at our hostel as he had lost his…he said our hostel offered a  great selection of cameras..man, the mind boggles….

Did some wonderful hikes in El Chalten. What is fab about the place is that the hikes start from your doorstep.  You are literally surrounded by beautiful mountains and wonderful hikes.

Hiking in El Chalten

Hiking in El Chalten

It was cool too as Bern is a chef so he cooked for us in the ultra tiny kitchen of the hostel. It was delicious and that is when I decided to call Bern “dad” so I was travelling with mum and dad to look after me! Perfect!

"Mum" - Lieke

"Mum" - Lieke

"Dad" - Bern

"Dad" - Bern

Fitzroy - the Smoking Mountain

Fitzroy - the Smoking Mountain

They call Fitzroy the smoking mountain because of the clouds which surround it at almost all times.  It is quite simply totally stunning.

El Chalten is pretty cool too.  It seems to be under development at the moment so if you want to see it in its unspoiled state head there super fast.  It has only recently got a cash point but, according to some French folk I met in the hostel (who were having a “quiet night” with a bottle of whistle, some beers and a few bottles of wine between about 3 of them) they had a crazy night out there and were taken to a local’s birthday party and then onto a strip joint..all seems rather hard to believe in the butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth El Chalten I saw!!! The same French people wanted me to go to El Bolson with them and share a tent but I decided to decline!!! The morning after the “quiet night” they taught me the French for hangover while describing how they felt!!!!

El Chalten was also the beginning of my obsession with the many uses for mini caravans in Argentina.  Having had a lifetime of caravan holidays as a child and then being the owner of a motorhome (man I sound so uncool) I loved the cute uses they put these tiny little caravans to..

A mini caravan as a work of art

A mini caravan as a work of art

A mini caravan as a mini and cute shop

A mini caravan as a mini and cute shop

And lastly this one was not in El Chalten but was so super cute I just had to include it beside its caravan friends.  This one was in Tafi del Valle in the Tucuman Province of Argentina, that is, further North…

A mini cinema

A mini cinema

This was a little mini cinema that they took around to country areas to show the kids movies..how cute..it was at the ruins of Quilmes (again further North when I took this piccie) maybe I should have done that with my motorhome rather than walk up all those silly Scottish hills with no view at the top!!!!! Might have been more satisfying….

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