After months of planning, preparing, and organizing we have finally embarked with our little family in the camper on our road trip from Argentina to Montana! We could never have left without the help of Tomas’s family, especially his mom Raquel, and brothers Andres, Pablo, Santi, and especially Gisella and Flor who helped immensely by playing with Eva and Coco so we could get all of our packing and organizing done! It was very emotional saying goodbye to them, and to all our friends and family in Buenos Aires, as we’ve grown very close over the last three years. We hope to be able to return soon!
This was a difficult trip to pack for because not only are we bringing everything we need for the next year, but the things we need are for different climates, terrains, and seasons. Add to that the fact that we are bringing clothes and gear in the next size up for two toddlers, and you have a complete packing nightmare. Our philosophy seems to always be “when in doubt, bring it.” So I’m sure you can imagine the cramped baggage situation we departed under, with the entire back of our truck filled completely with suitcases and crates! I can tell now that this is going to be cumbersome, but I’m confident that once we get through these first couple of months and out of the cold climates we’ll be able to shed some bulky clothing items and blankets and make some room!
We had hoped to make it all the way to Villa Rumipal, Cordoba the first day, but as the sun began to set around 5pm we thought it best to take it easy and stop in the first campground our GPS sent us to. This happened to be in a place called Los Surgentes, a tiny town right on the border of the provinces of Santa Fe and Cordoba on the shore of the Rio Carcaraña. There was a pretty tree-filled meadow with a campground right on the river that we got to by driving a little past the town and down a long dirt road. No signs indicating the presence of a campground of any kind made us a bit nervous, but we were assured by some locals that we were on the right track and soon were greeted by a friendly aging campground attendant who managed an entirely empty campground. He pointed us towards the bathrooms (no hot water though) and drinking water (a rusty old tank behind his house) and showed us where to plug in, then pretty much left us on our own.
This would be our first test to see how the heck we were going to manage our two little ones in our small camper. I wasn’t sure we would be able to pull it all together, that the lights would even turn on and that we’d have heat (very important in the 40 F weather!) Heading to a hotel is always in the back of my mind as a last resort, but as it turns out that wasn’t necessary. The electricity worked and we were able to plug in our space heater; the gas worked and we could cook dinner. And surprisingly, Eva and Coco fell asleep just fine in their bunkbeds, which was amazing as it was Coco’s first time out of a crib! (Though he did end up rolling out of bed a few times in the night onto the pillow we put on the floor)
The next day we headed out – though not soon enough in the day as we couldn’t help but take the time to enjoy riding bikes with the kids near the river. This was our first big mistake and lesson learned: a day can either be for driving or for hanging out, not both! We didn’t make it to our next destination (Embalse Villa Rumipal) until well past 10pm and the kids were in meltdown mode! Luckily we had already stopped for a quick dinner at a greasy roadside rotiseria that made some kick-ass milanesa nepolitana and fries (but unfortunately smelled nauseatingly of freshly-sprayed Raid). We found the campground fine, but had trouble finding a site where the power worked and had to re-hook everything up once and move the trailer because we realized our power outlet to our site wasn’t working. Add screaming tired kids and freezing weather to the mix and you can image the degree of un-fun we were having. Noted, setup and camp-spot choosing must happen in the daylight!
The first half of the next day was spent heating up water on the stove so we could bathe the kids in the tiny camper bathroom (our hot water heater doesn’t heat the water enough, darn!) and showering ourselves in the campground’s nice hot showers (though freezing facility). Once freshly cleaned, we were able to enjoy some exploring and hiking around the embalse (reservoir). We found a lovely viewpoint near the dam you could access by scaling a long flight of steps, which of course the kids loved climbing. At the top the landscape was very rocky and full of boulders, and Eva was more than excited to try to climb them, declaring one rock her pirate ship and herself Captain Hook. Coco just wanted to follow Eva everywhere, even up the biggest rocks, but was also perfectly happy sitting in the dirt and finding tiny pebbles. It was wonderful to see the kids so happy and full of the excitement of discovery. The best part is, all of the exertion tired them out and they fell asleep early and deeply and we could relax and enjoy a bottle of wine by the fire! Camping win!
Our final day in Cordoba was blessed with sunny warm weather, and we spent it exploring a tiny town in the mountains called La Cumbrecita. It’s a little German village nestled in the pines that is mostly pedestrian-only. It was a great day hiking around the village with the kids on the stroller, picnicking by a waterfall, and dipping our feet in the cold river. It really felt like a German village with cute little Tea houses and German architecture. The fact that it was a pedestrian-only made it great for walking and enjoying the natural environment, and we didn’t even spend a dime! A big contrast to Villa General Belgrano, another German town just down the road that is known as the beer capital of Argentina, hosting a popular Oktoberfest every year. The town is full of German-themed gift shops and bars, which I’m sure would have been great to stop and have a pint in. However, since we save our alcohol drinking for after the kids are asleep, we stopped instead at Café Rissen and paid about $200 pesos for 2 cakes and 2 coffees. A complete ripoff, but what can you expect in a tourist destination. A cute town nonetheless but La Cumbrecita was more our speed.
Next stop – provincia San Luis! Feel free to recommend any great places you know of in the comments. See you there!