A 23 hour bus ride from Iguazu to Salta left me feeling a little drained, but it was still good to see a familiar face in Jay when I arrived. Through some fluke we both ended up there at the same time, and were planning to travel north in roughly the same direction at the same time too. high five
Salta was warm, fairly tranquil and generally a nice city. We stayed at one of the HI Hostels (the one in calle Buenos Aires) which, as well as having a bar, breakfast and a good feel also had a pool and dinner included most nights as well. This was a great opportunity to meet people and have some good food while saving that precious ca$h.
My accomplishments in the week I was in Salta were few. Jay and I climbed the nearby hill – by the steps, not via the pansy cable car doohicky, mind you. 1070 steps up, 1070 back. It was a good walk, though it did remind me how unfit I am! I sampled many a coffee in the areas around the main plaza too – nothing too memorable there.
We met some other guys and gals on a day tour to Cafayate, which took us through some beautiful countryside as well as a short walk in a few gorges and finally to Cafayate itself where we sampled wine at two vineyards, had lunch and lazed on the grass in the sun in the main plaza. We also got to have photos with the “World Famous” llama named Thalia. Thalia selected Jay as the only member of our tour to spit upon, which he narrowly avoided due to quick reflexes. It was a great day.
One memory I will keep from Salta: The night before the Cafayate tour I wasn’t able to sleep, so I got up at 5.30am or so and went for a walk. Continuing with my trend of speaking with homeless people, I started talking to a vagabond (Fernando) who had some stories about how he lost his daughter and how he had been living on the streets for years, as well as a bit of poetry here and there. He shared some gin with me while a working girl came up and started talking to us as well. There was an awkward silence at one point which was then filled by Fernando’s (impromptu, I think) recitation in Spanish. I can’t remember the exact Spanish words, but the gist of it in English was:
I have no words for you, friend
Only the warm sun on my face
And the gentle breeze at my back.
After which he gave me a hug and wandered away into the early morning light, almost-empty gin bottle dangling loosely in his fingertips.
We went out to the clubs a few times – all the clubs are on one street, and were OK. While walking home one night with Jay and Claire, we saw what appeared to be a working girl sauntering towards us, dressed in the expected revealing attire. As we passed this person, they let out the biggest, most masculine grunt imaginable – as if to prove the point that “she” was in fact a “he”. We all looked at each other as we kept walking, and finally burst out laughing uncontrollably. It was so unexpected, and, while I am not capable of describing it well, was hilarious.
On our last night we went to a traditional restaurant that is not well known by tourists, but is popular with locals. The food was great, and there was a group of 3 guys (with guitar and cajon) singing Andean music which was excellent.
Eventually Jay and I bought our tickets to La Quica (the town on the border with Bolivia) and caught a bus up there. We had heard about unrest in Bolivia (it turned out to be only parts of it). We had even been told by the information desk at the Salta that the Bolivian border was closed and we couldn’t enter. They were wrong.
We slept through our 6 or 7 hour bus ride to La Quiaca, stayed the night in a random hostel and then walked across the border to Bolivia without incident the next morning.