1 – 7 September
When I arrive in La Rioja after a long day on the bus my host Dani welcomes me with a warm dinner and a cold beer, together with her brother as well as two other couchsurfers (Martin and Rami) from Mendoza, Argentina. Martin and Rami are musicians and actually finance their trip by making music, and Dani also plays the guitar and sings. Consequently, I get to enjoy a lot of music during my stay in La Rioja: in the apartment, on the street and in various restaurants to make a few bucks. As another cold front hits the region we spend the days cooking, chatting, making music, playing pool and drinking a lot of mate, Argentina’s signature drink – a bitter, herbal tea that is served in a special cup that comes with a straw. Also, it usually only is one cup that is shared and refilled for every individual (similar to the way of drinking beer in some other Latin American countries like Peru and Bolivia – a big bottle and one class that is passed around). We treat ourselfs with another specialty called “sandwich milanesa”: a breaded piece of meat slipped into a baguette stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickled onion and sauce – simple but delicious!
I continue my way south and stop in a place called San Juan. When I arrive in the late afternoon I am quite exhausted, thanks to a baby crying six hours straight on the bus, and just crash at a hostel near the terminal, even though I am supposed to couchsurf again a little out of town (at this point though, I simply cannot bother finding my way there).
Slowly but surely it is getting warmer again and I can feel that spring is in the air. San Juan is a lively, smaller city with very easy access to nature. The city itself is nice and green and the Andes are just around the corner, inviting me to leave the city for an afternoon to explore the barrier lake “Dique de Ullum”.