At approximately midnight the taxi dropped me off in front of a blocked off street, and uttered in Spanish for me to walk the rest of the way. Somehow I managed to catch another cold up in the mountains while I was staying in Uspallata, and my brain was too fuzzy to comprehend how uneasy the situation really was. I wandered this dirt road full of staggering deep holes in the dark, hoping the weight of my pack didn't result in me stumbling permanently beneath the streets of Cordoba, Argentina. After walking past the hostel about three times, I finally saw the small sign next to a metal gate.
By the time I had walked up the four flights of stairs to the main floor with my pack, my feverish state was reactivated, and I was ready to collapse. However, instead of being herded to a bunk bed, I found myself in the middle of a birthday party.
"You're from the states, right?" The discheveled Australian proclaimed.
"Come eat asado. It's his birthday." The Australian pointed to the fellow in the middle of a small circle on the balcony. "He likes kisses."
My body was in no state to consume massive amounts of meat, but I did end up enjoying a fernet and coke. Technically fernet is considered a digestive around here, so really I was just self medicating. I sat on the couch watching all the interactions in English and Spanish for about an hour, before I remembered I had a bed to sleep in. Despite the festivities of that night the hostel was vacant the next morning, and I was pretty much the only one there for the next three days. It was perfect. I barely left the hostel, and slept all, everyday, until my cold started to subside. When I did emerge from my private room of six empty bunk bends, I was invited to go tango dancing with the Australian.
The tango dancing included a local lesson, which I barely understood. It was a lot of fun, but confirmed what I already knew; I can't dance. The best part was watching all the dressed up Argentinians glide across the floor in their high heels. After my failed tango dancing, we went to a neighbors house for hamburgers. We opened a couple bottles of wine, and laughed as we cooked the hamburgers outside while it started to rain.
The next day I wandered through the city and all it's parks. I ended up befriending another trumpet player, this time from Utah instead of France. The trumpet player and I were pretty much magnets for each other, as our freckled skin, and his red beard, were obvious factors we were not from here. He is studying in Cordoba, and makes money by playing the trumpet in crosswalks during red lights. He actually makes between five to ten US dollars an hour. We compared stories of El Chalten, and his dreams of becoming a trekking guide.
Back at the hostel, I found that I finally had company. About six eighteen year old boys from the States and England had arrived. I spent the night reliving high school, and realizing I have no idea what the kids are up to these days. There was only so much high school I wanted to relive, and quickly became friends with the only other backpacker, Karin from Switzerland. The Swiss are way to easy to love, and we became fast friends. I am not the only one who loved Karin. A Spaniard, Sergio, she had met in Mendoza, ended up joining us on our adventures. When she visited a local Swiss chocolate shop, but found she could not afford any of the large boxes of chocolates, she asked for a taste, but they declined. She provided a counterargument, "Would it change your mind if I told you I am from Switzerland?" The shop keepers became overly excited, and Karin got her chocolate.
Karin, Sergio, and I made a day trip to the small town of Villa Carlos Paz, outside of Cordoba. We walked with Jesus up the Cerro de la Cruz. The hike provided path markers with religious statements, and at the top of the hill there is a 15-meter high white cross. Next to the giant cross we enjoyed panoramic views of the town, and the surrounding lakes. We also ran into a blind 85 year old man who has been walking this hill everyday for the past twenty years. Despite his lack of vision he knew the location of every step. My new friends and I were given a free tour of the hill by three local dogs. Oh, they loved us so, and we were continually stepped on, or pushed aside so they could walk between our legs. They would run ahead, and then come back to us with their heads tilted to the side, asking why we walked so slow.
One of the dogs actually followed us all the way back into town, where we enjoyed some nice cold beer next to the river. On the way down from the giant cross we became infatuated with the idea of a riverside beer. The consumption of this simple pleasure, led to the consumption of asado and Malbec. As a thank you to our new four legged friend we stored the extra bones in a yellow plastic bag, but before we could give it to our loyal puppy, another dog came over and snatched it. He proudly carried it across the street, and quickly swallowed all the bones.