Alta Gracia is a small town less than one hour south of Córdoba city. A well paved four lane highway cuts through the flat farm land which makes for a fast yet otherwise forgettable ride. The town was founded by the Jesuits when they built a mission there in the 17th century. The town grew up around the mission and now has about 50,000 people living there. The mission is now just a museum but the property has been maintained and is the main draw for tourists. Cafes, shops, restaurants, museums, and a small cinema line the main streets nearby.
The mission was originally an estancia (ranch) that was used as a way to fund the Jesuit university in Córdoba. After the Jesuits were expelled from the country the ranch was donated to the workers to help establish a village.
In one of the main parks in the town, a small traveling circus had set up their big top tent for a few nights. Before leaving the hostel to walk over to see the greatest show on earth, I met two new travelers from England and invited them to join. The three of us walked up and bought our tickets at the entrance. We were escorted into the big top to see a depressingly small crowd. There were a few families towards the front and two couples in front of our row. We didn’t pay for the premium seats so we were seated in the back, with a dozen empty rows in front of us. The next hour we were treated to quite the show. An acrobat, contortionist, juggler, a clown, a magician, and even Barney, gave us our moneys worth.
After the show, I hung out with one of the Brits. We walked over to one of the trailers on the street that was selling grilled sausage sandwiches. We picked up a few bottles of wine and headed back to the hostel courtyard. We stayed up talking about our experiences producing, working in film and television, and of our travels. It was after 4am when we finished the last bottle.
I woke up late the next morning and walked to the kitchen for coffee. The owner of Hostel Alta Gracia said good morning and asked if I had been out by my motorcycle late last night. At about 4am I did go out to my moto to show my new friends what it looked like. She said “oh, so you were sorting through all your things in the driveway?” That instantly didn’t sound good. I walked to the back driveway to see my things sprawled about the ground. I quickly started looking through it all. Tent? check. Sleeping bag? check. Riding pants. Check. Tools, lock, and everything else seemed to be there too. A few minutes later I realized my tripod was the one thing missing. The owner called the police to report the incident. The restaurant next door was broken into and they got away with several HDTVs, sound system, and more. I felt bad for the young female owner of the hostel who was shaken up to know that burglars had easily scaled the 10ft walls and gate. I was glad they weren’t interested in camping, as my camping gear was worth 10x the value of that tripod. It was pretty beat up anyway and I had the camera mount on my camera so they have a useless tripod. Only 500 or so miles left on this trip and someone finally stole something from me. I was so close!
I spent the rest of the day riding around town, checking out a house Che lived in as a child, and walked around the lake.
At night there was a local band playing a free show at the community arts center. For being a small town, the arts venue held events almost every night of the week in a well designed space. The trio played a solid show to a small crowd of what appeared to be girlfriends and parents. Outside in the main plaza, car enthusiasts parked showcase style to show off their stereo and light setups. Chainsmokers #selfie was blasting from the overworked speakers as LED lights flashed and changed colors. The town is quieter than Córdoba so the streets were quiet not much later than midnight.