Well, finally here it is – the lowdown from my excellent time in Salta. Stayed at the must-stay Backpackers, and, for the first time on my trip, a hostel was practically more exciting than the place itself.
So, from my quick stop in Córdoba, I went to Salta, with not a clue as to what to expect, just that this would be my stop before heading on to Bolivia.
My bus was ridiculously late after waiting a mere 40km outside of Salta for a connecting bus. But, nonetheless, Augustine was at the bus station to fetch me 3 hours later than expected. I got into the trademark Backpackers van and we headed off to the hostel. If I remember correctly it was Wednesday when I checked in and Wednesday at Backpackers means asaado (braai/BBQ). A big one at that. There were over 50 people, which is the norm, and the meat was good! Almost all you can eat, but a big hint: sit at the end of the table closest to the braai to make sure you get the best meat! Yes, I’m very experienced, and eating meat is now almost a profession for me.
From there after much cheap wine and meat it was off to Barney Gomez – named after Barney in the Simpsons. No-one could believe I had the stamina to go out straight after my bus ride, but it was no problem, where there’s a party, there’s a will! (I think that’s slightly adapted from the norm). Barney’s was good fun, and after not spotting Mark, who was in Salta that night, I missioned off to his hostel to wake him up. He was leaving early the next morning, so faded – Australians!!
Then for the next few days it was party central, every night most of the hostel go out. It’s quite routine, but every time there are different people in the hostel and so, it’s almost completely different. The next week, the most legend bunch of crazy girls arrived. Fearing they were your typical Americans, breaking the ice was tough, but after a very short time, my generalised impression of Americans was shattered. These girls were clever, friendly, funny and they knew that Argentina existed in the first place. Laetitia, Cassie, Sylvia and Maegan made up the crazy crew and more crazy times were to come.
The first meeting was at the first event of Llama races. Well, before someone came up with the very clever idea of using little Llamas, they were horses (actually aces pretending to be horses). The game became an institution after the asados, and with my crazy brand of commentary and deafening, controlling voice, the races were hit. Their origins stem from an Aussie in BA, but the Llama adaptation was a miraculous brainwave, that saw northern Argentina brimming with delight, much light the anticipation for the Melbourne Cup or The Grand National. The races became so much a part of my repertoire, that I actually had to smuggle my little Llamas across the Chilean border, and come to think of it I haven’t seen them in a while – they might have run away. 🙂
So, the girls and I, sharing the same crazy sense of humour became good friends and we attempted some crazy trips. The first was up the little hill in Salta on the gondola-type things. I hate those lifts and they had a good laugh at my expense while I had practically welded myself to the inside to try to keep some sanity.
The next day trip was a very ambitious mission up further north of Salta to a place called Tilcara. Up at 6am, to be on the bus by 6:45 was heavy going, especially since going out at night was tough on the body. But nevertheless we made it. The adventure was only about 5 minutes underway when some over-the-hill local woman decided to use the toilet. And, as we were sitting at the back of the bus, Murphy’s Law, as always was in effect and to our disgust and the rest of the bus, the toilet door refused to close and swung open while the over-the-hill woman was occupying it. Man, I think she slaughtered 3 pigeons in there as the smell was excrutiating! Anyway, after some luck, she managed to pull the door closed and all we had to deal with was the awful stench! That was just a few minutes into the ride – still another 3 hours to go. But, company was good and conversation was better and the rest of the ride was ok.
We arrived in very picturesque Tilcara and headed to a pleasant restaurant for lunch. The sun was baking and umbrellas at the restaurant were great. We then headed off to find some pre-inca ruins. Cassie being the budding anthropologist believed these would be impressive. On the way we found what seemed to be a very pleasant Llama! No such luck, the damn bastard, after posing for a photo, spat in my face!! It was unpleasant, but quite an experience. We moved on to the ruins. Well, there was nothing much ruined here, they were reconstructed and it seemed a bit futile to me. But, there were a lot of cactuses (cacti) and that was impressive – very much like the wild west. After leaving the ruins with a bleeding toe (cactus needles are sharp!) and Llama spit in my face, we headed back into Tilcara to take a trip to nearby Purmamarca. It’sa quaint little town situated at the foot of Cerro Siete Colores (The seven coloured mountain). Did some shopping and sightseeing and attempted to head back to Salta. We caught a remis (taxi-type thing) to a police outpost and waited there for the bus. It was freezing, but luckily earlier purchases were fine Bolivian-type blankets and they helped. The bus arrived – typically late and it was full!! So we stood for an hour till we reached Jujuy and managed to get a seat when everyone got off. Eventually we arrived in Salta – what a trip.
For the next installment, see Salta – Part II