I'm struggling with how to sum up our days in La Cumbre. It has been such a weird mix of good and bad that I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this experience (or, lack thereof). Rather than lose a few loyal readers in the process of trying to elaborately map out the details of the last three days, I instead think it might be best to resort to an old-fashioned pros and cons list. Thus, by the end, it may perhaps become clear (at least to me!) whether or not we should declare this visit a success or one instance of where we should have gotten on a different bus.
PRO - La Cumbre has to be one of the most beautiful towns we've ever been in. For those LOTR fans out there, I have even used the word "Shire" when trying to articulate something I could relate it to. Pete and I wandered down some streets that were completely fairy-tale like - lush green trees and plants, perfect cottages with large, perfectly manicured yards. If I were to imagine any place in the world where I would want to see our kids riding bicycles in the streets, this would be it. A town of only 9,000 people, it has everything to offer in a completely homey atmosphere.
CON - We are obviously not the only ones who have this view! La Cumbre's residents include many ex-pats, people who have had the same reaction as above and decided to take root here. While that has it's pluses (we've visited both French and Thai restaurants - a nice change from the usual Argentinian fare!), it also has it's minuses. For traveler's who want to experience "real Argentina", this isn't it. This is where the rich Argentinians from Buenos Aires or Cordoba have second homes (for relatively cheap), and where other nationalities buy property for a deal.
PRO - Beautiful hostel - a large older house, well maintained and on a huge piece of property. Our room is spotless and the setting is the most tranquil we have been in.
CON - The hostel is run by the family of five that lives here as well. Feels like we are imposing on their space, especially when it comes to sharing the kitchen.
PRO - La Cumbre held the world paragliding championships in 1994, so it is a natural place for Pete and Aafke to take their second, much-anticipated plunge. The landscape here is so lush that it would be much different than our jump over the browns of Mendoza. The drive on the bumpy road up the mountain was worth it just for the view alone:
CON - You want HOW MUCH for paragliding during high season? Pass.
PRO - Aafke stayed with friends in La Cumbre that had moved from The Netherlands last year. They have been most gracious to all of us - having us over for coffee and lunch, driving us to a nearby hotel to enjoy their pool for the afternoon, taking us up to Cuchi Corral (the paragliding site). We are always so grateful for generous strangers who become friends.
CON - Aafke, Pete and I were all very excited at the prospect of finding our way to the nearby town of Jesus Maria to take in some of the Gaucho Festival - Argentina's equivalent to the Calgary Stampede! We were trying to think of how we could get there (an expensive car rental or dealing with a bus route that would be a bit complicated), when our new friends offered to take us as they wanted to see the Festival as well. Problem solved! We arranged for an extra night in La Cumbre and were up early to be at their house in time to get in a full day of rodeo action. We were overwhelmed with disappointment when just ten minutes before our departure, they had changed their minds about going. Having already made other commitments for our next leg of the trip, it is too late to try and fit it in another day. I guess we will never find out if the bulls are as brassy or the broads as boozy in Jesus Maria as they are in Calgary.
All in all, this little side trip wasn't a total failure, but 4 days here was probably 2 days too many, and missing the Gaucho Festival is a big disappointment. Back to Cordoba tomorrow afternoon in order to board another overnight bus - this time to the much anticipated city of Salta! Many of the people we have met traveling have commented that Salta is one of their favourite stops in all of Argentina. Pete and I have even been debating sticking around in Salta for awhile... we shall see when we get there...STAY TUNED!