I Left My Heart in the Andes: Salta
I finished up my week of midterm exams and now I am into the final month of classes at the University of Belgrano. Last week, perhaps due to the grey gloom that descended upon Buenos Aires and proceed to soak its citizens into submission, or maybe just because I had a bad case of lazy, I did not update my blog. It feels like I have been going full speed ahead since I arrived here in Buenos Aires in order to take full advantage of every opportunity that I have been afforded. I told myself that after I finished my exams I would take one day “off” to do absolutely nothing. Well, that did not happen, but I did slow it down some last week. This week, I am feeling rested up and ready to take on the world once again. Unfortunately, the weather has remained wet and cool and that has kept me inside more often than usual. Since I have been so lax and have not given you a decent post in a while, I thought I would take this time to make it happen. I have been working on the answers to some of your questions, but first I want to regale you with yet another tale of travel. The recent stint of bad weather in the city of tango has made me remember how much I miss the sun and soul of northwestern Argentina. Perhaps reliving some of the experiences I had there will be enough to warm me up, or at least entertain you a bit. Unfortunately, I did have some technical problems with my camera on this trip, so a lot of the photos didn’t turn out well. I saved what I could and hopefully they will still be somewhat enjoyable.
Up to this point, the posts on my travels have been very in-depth, detailed affairs. From now on, I am going to try to limit them somewhat. I hope to still include the feeling and descriptive prose while keeping them a bit shorter. In other words, we are going to try to skip to the important parts. That being said, let’s get right into my trip to the north-western edge of Argentina, to the city of Salta in the province of the same name.
Whereas my trip to Patagonia was all about big imposing and breathtaking sites, this trip was more about the culture, the people, the food, and the beautiful weather. The people are warm and friendly and the culture is rich and steeped in the traditions of folklore and gauchesca. That being said, there were plenty of amazing things to see and do, and I did most of them.
This trip began with a long bus ride, about 22 hours, from Buenos Aires to Salta. I started the adventure with a bus ticket and a couple of nights booked in a hostel. The bus was actually quite comfortable, a far cry from the greyhounds at home. There are several different bus companies to choose from, and most of them offer similar accommodations. The buses are large, with two levels of seating. On the bottom are the “full-cama” seats. These are the most comfortable, and most expensive. They are larger and convert in something resembling a bed (a cama). That’s about all I know about the bottom level, since I have never actually been seated there. On the top level is the “semi-cama” seating area. This is where I have spent all of my time on the buses here in Argentina. They still recline and provide support for your legs, but they are not as comfortable or roomy as the “full-cama” seats. On long trips, something resembling food is provided and there are lots of bootleg movies playing on the televisions to keep you occupied while you travel. Overnight, the televisions go off and you can try to catch some shut eye. I usually end up staring out of the large windows and marveling and the innumerable amount of stars that appear once you get outside the bright lights of the Capital Federal.
Eventually, I made it to my hostel and began planning what I would do for the next week. There is a lot to see in the province of Salta and in its neighbor to the north, Jujuy. I made some plans for the next few days and, after that, I took my first in-depth look at the city itself.
My first few outings were trips through colorful quebradas and canyons, and up through the mountains of the Andes of northern Argentina to visit small pueblos full of wine, food, and buildings that preserve the feel of the colonial villages of old.
First, I traveled through the Quebrada de las Conchas, a colorful landscape full of strange and magnificent rock formations that looked as though it belonged on an alien planet.
On the other side of the quebrada lies the pueblo of Cafayate, a small town know for its numerous bodegas that create some amazing high altitude wines. By the time I got there, the sun was beaming down upon me while I beamed back up at it, once again marvelling in my extreme good fortune.
From Cafayate, I made my way back through the martian landscape of the quebrada to the city of Salta. The next day, I took a trip through the mountains to another pueblo: Cachi. This trip was much greener at first, but it transformed into a world like nothing I have ever seen. Part desert, part mountains, all beautiful. As is the custom for the people living and working in the mountains, I chewed coca leaves to combat the effects of the altitude.
After another great adventure, I once again returned to my “home base” in the city of Salta. I found it hard to sleep during this trip. After all, why bother sleeping when your dreams have to struggle to match the amazement of what is happening in your waking life. The best part was, this was only the begging of my amazing experience in Salta.
Remember when I said I was going to skip to the important parts and try to shorten up these posts a bit? I lied. I realized as I was writing this that they are ALL important parts. So, I am going to end this post here and give you something to read while I work on the next one. There is much more to come, including the province of Jujuy to the north, so stay tuned and I will try to get the next installment up as quickly as I can. Until then, Chau!