Paragliding and a giant gaucho fiesta with our fearless companion Bachi.....La Cumbre was pretty epic.
Thanks Toni for the recommendation to go here, because this was a great side trip from Cordoba!
Some more great Argentians
I gotta give a props to the Argentians. You all never cease to impress me with your kindness.
When we arrived, we settled into a campground called El Paso. During dinner we met a couple from Buenos Aires who were professional tango performers on summer vacation, and we hope to see them perform when we go out to some tango clubs in BA. We also met Bachi, a friend of the owner, who became our fearless guide for the next two days. Normally I am not one to want a guide, but Bachi was different. He owned a beat up Toyota 4x4 and was a really interesting guy to talk to....this was not a typical tour company experience. And we are glad we took him up on the offer because he showed us some parts of Cordoba we would have never been able to encounter.
Monkeys and the Rio Pinto
The following day, we started our outings with a trip to the monkey rahab center up in the mountains. As some of you may know, Ryan has a history of chasing monkeys around in the jungles of Ecuador, so this was an opportunity for a trip down memory lane. For me, this was a first to get this up close to cage-free howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys in a really caring environment. To be able to see all of the various expressions on their faces and playfulness with eachother was a priceless experience.
Next we headed down for a swim in the Rio Pinto, a river located at the base of one of the world´s best
paragliding launches. Earlier that day we had hopes of paragliding, but the wind was not cooperating. To give us a preview of the launch Bachi drove us up to the top where we coul
d not believe our eyes. It was a 1250 foot drop to Rio Pinto through condor-filled canyons. I felt my stomach turn....could I jump off this cliff? And Ryan replied that yes, in fact, I could and that this was too good to pass up. Bachi drove us to Pablo´s house where we chatted with him over beer about the great forecast the following morning and upcoming possibility to fly.
In the morning they were right! The wind was blowing in the right direction and at a speed perfect for flying, so Bachi escorted us up to the launch. From there, everything was like clockwork. The pilots Toby and Pablo strapped us in before I even had a chance to freak out.
I watched Ryan take off, and I followed close behind. The take off was smooth and graceful as the wind lifted our parachute and floated us into the air. Bachi hooked us up with the best paragliders in town. Toby had 20 years experience and Pablo had 15 and ran the paragliding school. I asked Toby what his favorite trick was and we started in on the acrobatics. We dove and dipped through figure eights and spun in circles, and I screamed as I felt like I was on the craziest carnival ride. Unbelievable to feel like you were in the zipper, but instead of the view of a carny and carnival lights on the drop down all I could see were canyons moving closer and further away from sight as we dipped and lifted.
As soon as I had no acrobatic distractions, my mind would race and arms would tense up nervously as we were soooooo high up in the air and nothing to protect us except strings and a piece of cloth. Toby was great at putting me at ease as he sang Italian opera and joked around saying "Muy Bien!" and that it was the perfect day for a ride. As we made our way down to land, a wave of motion sickness came over me and later I found out that pretty much everyone gets motion sickness on the ride. And probably if we would have been up there 15 minutes longer we would have been puking. Toby landed us perfectly and in time to get some great pics of Ryan landing with Pablo. Epic!!
Gaucho Fiesta in the Middle of Nowhere
So after that adrenaline rush, Bachi drove like a banshee on a two and half hour, bumpy gravel road to a fiesta on a ranch nearby where he grew up. Again, I was hit with another wave of motion sickness from Bachi´s crazy driving, and I made him slow down. He give me some shit, but slowed down for about 20 minutes before he ramped back up into high gear. We were in the middle of nowhere. As soon as we reached the land, there were masses and masses of gauchos from the surrounding hills everywhere! As we sat down to eat, we witnessed the carnage that was taking place on everyone´s table. The ranchers were literally eating cow neck on a platter with skin and fur still in tact. Although I consider myself an adventurous eater, Ryan and I both agreed that we would not have been able to stomach that asada.
Bachi kept saying in Spanish that that this was "Argentina Profundo" as we were soaking up all the people at this event. At first I thought he was serious, but later, I realized that he was throwing out a bit of mockery. He had grown up as a cow rancher for many years right next door, but it was evident that he had rejected that life in many ways. He now sported khaki´s and a polo shirt and had taken to the urban life. I must admit the scene was pretty entertaining. Gauchos dressed in formal cowboy attire, eating cow neck, and drink cheap beer and wine. Pretty much a red neck affair. But I thought it was great! Come to find out from Bachi that Argentinian´s name for redneck is "frenta blanca" (white forehead) which refers to the tan line a gaucho has from wearing a cowboy hat. Priceless.
After lunch we watched some amazing gaucho guitar jam sessions and checked out the ornamentation of all the horses that were ridden to the event. We were probably two of four gringos at the event, so it was pretty difficult to try and fit in. Kids were staring at us with intensity. Alas, we headed off into the sunset in Bachi´s pick up.
La Cumbre and surrounding campo in the Sierra Mountains proved to be truely amazing, especially witnessed with a local who was a total loner but well-loved by everyone in town. We had a unforgettable experience there. We are now back in Cordoba before we head out to see the penguins at Puerto Madryn an Saturday.