Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Rosario and the Colectividades of Argentina

After a long 6 hour Empressa bus ride (very dirty and uncomfortable) from San Antonia de Areco we arrived at night in Rosario and headed straight to our hostel, La Lechuza, run by a very entrepreneurial and friendly guy named Juan.  In the morning we headed out fairly early for a morning stroll along the boulevard that runs for a couple of kilometres along the Paraná river.  It’s a great place to walk with many cafes along the stretch (although the local population seem to prefer to carry their own thermos, tea leaves and maté gourd rather than pay at a cafe…)  Juan actually taught us the correct Argentinian technique for preparing – and drinking – maté.

6497075331_0761118cfd1) Pour the loose maté tea leaves (which look and smell like lawn clippings) into the gourd until it’s 3/4’s full.

2) Put your hand over the top of the gourd and shake a couple of times and finish by inverting the gourd and then leaving the leaves on a 45° angle in the gourd.

3) Pour a small amount of just boiled water down the side of the gourd without leaves and allow the leaves to absorb the water.  Repeat this with small amounts until the gourd is full of water and a few leaves are floating on top.

4) Take the silver straw (a bombilla) and run in down the side of the gourd without leaves until the bulb hits the bottom and slide it into the middle of the base of the gourd. (Once the straw is in position do not touch the straw as the holes will become clogged with the leaves).

5) You can refill the gourd with hot water until the leaves start to float or the tea looses it flavour, then it’s time to restart the ritual again!

6496957795_7b3053cf46We also checked out the Flag Memorial which is a really impressive building on the waterfront dedicated to Manuel Belgrano who designed the Argentinian flag.  It’s actually even better at night when it’s lit up with blue and white lights (Argentinian flag colours) and all the flaming torches are lit as well. 

For dinner we decided to see what the festival ‘the Colectividades of Argentina’ was all about.  Essentially it’s a celebration of the multiculturalism of Argentina so all the countries are represented; each with an exhibition, some sort of show/dance and a food stall selling all the local specialties for us to sample!  The traditional Argentinian BBQ’s were all around and massive with the fantastic smell of BBQ meat wafting through the night air – a vegetarian would have had to flee the place it was so intense6497166485_520364baa8. We really had no idea what half the stuff was that we tried, but it was all tasty and we enjoyed a couple of hours of wandering through the festival sampling food and drink, watching traditional dances and the locals having a great time.

We had a bit an adventure catching our first night bus in Argentina.  We thought our bus left at 9pm so we were relaxing at the hostel until upon rechecking the ticket at 6.30pm we realised with a shock that our bus left at 7pm! We have never packed up so fast.  Juan helped us flag a taxi and we sped to the bus station where it turns out our bus tickets were only vouchers and we still had to exchange them for the real tickets. We literally made the bus by one minute and the driver was not happy with us at all, but we were just relieved to have actually made it!

Luckily the long distance Argentinian buses are nothing like the buses we’d been catching in Africa and the trip was very comfortable.  We were served brandy soon after pulling out (which helped to calm our still adrenaline fueled selves), followed by a hot chicken dinner with wine and all washed down with champagne afterwards! Needless to say all the alcohol helped us sleep.  It was a 19 hour bus ride and even though it was comfortable we were ready to exit when we arrived at our next destination – Peurto Iguazu.

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