27 – 31 August
This time, Al and I have more luck and find a small truck willing to take us to our next destination. The first half of the trip is still relatively comfortable but as soon as we hit the mountains things start to get very rough as the road is quite curvy and bumpy. The worst are the constantly dropping temperatures and the ice-cold wind though. Anyway, it is a free ride and it just takes a while for us to warm up again when we arrive in Tafí del Valle, a small town surrounded by mountains.
Our plan to rent bicyles and to explore a lake in the area does not quite work out as it is low season and none of the three bike rentals we check is willing or able to give us two bicycles for a few hours. To be honest, it is probably for our best that we cannot get our hands on some bikes as it actually is super cloudy and cold that day. We decide to just go for a little hike up to some viewpoint instead, from where we can at least see the lake in the distance. For the first time in months I have some really good cheese as well as a delicious llama salami that we bought earlier to take with us on the hike.
By the time we get back to town we feel pretty cold and find shelter in a cozy and warm little cafe where we treat ourselfes to an enourmous piece of (birthday-) cake and some hot coffee before we end the day with a game of chess, a yummy dinner and a warm fire at the hostel.
When we wake up the next morning, all the surrounding hills and mountains are covered in snow. Snow in the end of August! Sure, it is still winter over here, however, snow/rain yet is very unusual for this time of the year as it is the dry season. Also, it is the first time I experience rain/snow since Huaraz, Peru, almost four months ago.
Another first-time-experience I have these days is couch-surfing. Eventhough I cannot count on how many couches and in how many different beds I have slept in my life I have never officially couch-surfed before, so it is about time to give it a shot. Al and I are invited by Mariana and her family to stay at their place for the time we spend in Tucumán, 4th largest city in the country and much more tropical than Tafí del Valle. Mariana, her mum and her two sisters are super welcoming and hospitable and it is great and challenging at the same time chatting with them and getting used to the Argentinean accent that is quite different than any other Latin American accent. We spend the evening playing cards, drinking Fernet, chatting and getting to know eachother.
After an extensive breakfast, Al and I head out to explore downtown Tucumán and realize (again) that everything shuts down from 1-5 PM in oder to have a siesta. Consequently, the time to have coffee or a mate (bitter herbal tea) accompanied by some cake, pastry or icecream is about 6-7 PM and restaurants open for dinner around 9 PM at the earliest.
After a stroll around the city center and a park session we have dinner together with the family and quietly end the day at the house just chatting and working on our Spanish skills. It is a wonderful first couch-surfing experience and I am very thankful to have found such a lovely first host-family.