Sunday, 15 March 2009

Alta Gracia

Alta Gracia is a shortish bus ride away from Córdoba: I can't remember exactly how long it took to get there, but the trip didn't seem long (maybe about an hour?). Perhaps Alta Gracia's biggest claim to fame is that it was the home of Che Guevara at various points of his youth: Che was an asthmatic, and back in those days they sent people with breathing difficulties off to the Sierra. And it's true that the air there is clean even today: as soon as we got off the bus, we were struck by how beautiful it was. It was very refreshing and I felt happy and relaxed instantly. We went to stand by the nearby pond to enjoy the freshness for a while.

Pretty pond

My Lonely Planet guide only mentions two things to visit in Alta Gracia: the Jesuit Estancia and the Museo Casa de Ernesto Che Guevara. The girl at the tourist office highlighted a few other places on the map for us, but in the end we only saw the aforementioned places. I found the Jesuit Estancia to be very interesting: full of old engineering tricks (nice toilets) and creative designs, such as different uses of leather. My interest in learning more about the Jesuits was growing, but maybe not to the point where I'll ever know quite as much about them as my guide, Cecilia... Whatever, the Estancia was certainly very pretty and well worth a visit.

Estancia Jesuita - inside

We mooched around looking for a place to eat, found very little on offer, and ended up back at one of only two eateries we'd come across. After eating, I needed to lie down in the park under the shade of a palm tree and have a snooze. It was quite blissful: a quiet town, at a quiet time of the day, with fresh air galore. The experience would have been perfect had the ants not annoyed me: at one stage, one of them decided to actually crawl into my ear, which I found a bit annoying...

After my little snooze in the shade, we headed for the Che Guevara museum. Neither of us had any real interest in seeing the place (if anything, we had more of an interest in not seeing the place), but there was little else on offer. We had a nice walk from the town to the museum, passing plenty of big houses. We asked ourselves what the people of Alta Gracia do to earn such a tidy living. The neighbourhood of the museum is clearly for rather wealthy people (a quick glance at a couple of posh girls who passed us by in the street confirmed this belief). Anyway, we got to the museum and reluctantly entered. It was small, it cost $5 to get in, there wasn't really much of interest there for either of us. Although I did learn that Che wasn't massively fond of killing animals or eating meat. He made an exception in the case of cows, though. The man couldn't resist a bit of beef! I must admit, resisting the red stuff over here is far from easy... Anyway, the museum was one of several houses Che lived in while growing up. I got to see the toilet he used to sit on and everything. Special.


That was Alta Gracia: we headed back to the bus stop, pausing for a good while at the pond where we started our visit. There were some nice creatures hanging out. It was a very relaxing place. The holiday was getting better, and I wondered what the next port of call would be like... After tasting the air, I was certainly looking forward to staying a few nights in the Sierra. I decided that I'd stop taking my asthma medication to test how I coped in the cleaner environment...

Orange-beaked duckie

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