San Lorenzo - back again

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

We had heard great things of Salta and Jujuy provinces in the north of Argentina. This is where most Argentines take their holidays so surely they can't be wrong? They are not! Argentina is a very large country and is tremendously varied in terms of its scenery which, as it is approximately 4000 kilometres from top to bottom, I suppose it is bound to be!

Salta, or Salta la Linda (the beautiful) to give it its full name is a lovely city with lots of colonial buildings surrounding beautiful squares and is the sort of place where it is nice just to wander around and hang out in the many squares around the city. San Lorenzo is a nice village about 6km from the town of Salta, where those in the know seem to stay in preference to staying in the city of Salta.

We liked it so much the first time that we stayed at Casa Hernendez in San Lorenzo, that we decided to come back. We spent about 10 days in total here. The buses run every 15 mins or so from the village into the town, so even without a car, it was easy for us to enjoy the benefits of town and the tranquil pace of life of San Lorenzo. Casa Hernadez itself is a really great place to stay, thoughtfully and tastefully designed with large rooms, lovely gardens, a swimming pool and two great hosts in Alex and Reijke, a Dutch couple, both of whom are a mine of information on what to do and where to go in the north west. Amazingly, the cost of rooms here are more hostel price range, although the style is much more boutique hotel.

San Lorenzo may be a village, but it boast a handful of restaurants and a few good delis to service the discerning locals and tourists. There are some very nice houses here. A local told us a little of the owners (ex-president/mayors etc) and a little of the prices - beautiful mansions at around 250,000 Sterling. Along the village main road there are often guys riding along on their horses (and sometimes with a cart attached) to get their shopping. For visitors it is easy to step further into the countryside. We decided to look at the countryside from that back of a couple of horses. Riding here was different to Chile. For a start the horses were much, much more docile, smaller and very lazy. The saddles, stirrups and style of riding also differed, but more of that later.

The Museum on the main plaza of Salta, has an exhibit which is a 500 year old inca mummy. She is believed to have been 15 years old when sacrificed. Each year the Incas sacrificed one child by fattening them up for 4 months before, then given corn alcohol to induce sleep before they were left to die in the cold high in the mountain. This girl (and two younger children were found in 1999 in an icy pit on the side of a volcano. Photographs are not allowed in the museum, so I have found these on the web.

Often when we were in Salta we came across something happening in the Plaza - perhaps some horse guards parading, many a time we found a large band playing, or a cycle rally from Route 40, stopping off for a celebration, to name but a few of the events. Salta boasts a few cathedrals, which were truly splendid. Of course, there are many parillada restaurants. I think that we have possbily eaten at least a whole cow between us since we have been in Argentina.

On one of our days in Salta we take the cable car to the top of the mountain to take in the view of the city from above. Well worth the 12 pesos as the view is spectactular and, like so many of the cities we have been to in South America, Salta seems to be surrounded by mountains. There are many places to buy locally crafted goods in Salta. We liked the Sunday Arteasans Market (much better than the permanat arteasan market, which was tacky and overpriced).

On our final day at Casa Hernandez, we ask Alex to fix us up with an afternoons horse riding on a nearby Finca. A young guy (lets call him Jose because I can't remember his name!) calls by to pick us up. He is fresh out of college and keen to practise his English so as we drive to the Finca he explains that he has been riding ever since his mother put him on a horse when he was a baby. We talk about where we come from and discuss the relative prices of property in our two countries. As well as the current global banking crisis. Jose commented that "I hear things are really gloomy in London with all the banks going bust" and "we don't worry about that sort of thing here too much as it happens here every year" was a classic!

We arrive at the Finca and meet up with our trusty steeds and Jose allocates us each a horse. They don't seem as lively as the ones we rode in Chile, which, quite honestly is fine by me. Jose also points out that mine is a bit lazy and tells me that I shall have to kick him hard to get him going "you need to show him who is the boss". After more years than I care to remember in management I am quite use to being the "boss ", but try as I might this horse was not going to play ball. As we kept falling further and further behind, Jose suggested the added incentive of a stick, but quite honestly I didn't have the heart to use it as it should be used. Cleary I am not cut out to be a gaucho! Accompanied by the three farm dogs, we ride up through the hills and again, everything is incredibly quiet and peaceful four or five eagles are swooping around us and hunting for small animals in the undergrowth. After a while we get off and tether the horse to a tree whilst we sit down for a drink. The tree itself is covered in yellow orchids, the first time we have seen them growing outside of the jungle.

We continue our ride through the hills amongst the cattle. The Finca runs to 11,000 hectares (including part of the mountain) and the cattle here are the mothers and calves only, once they are old enough to be weaned they are sent off to another finca on a flatter terrain so the meat does not become too tough through all that walking up and down hills. As we ride back to the farmhouse I am still lagging behind. My horse and I have reached an understanding, He will go at the pace he chooses and I will point him in the right direction! Then as we ride down the hill, Carolyn's horse suddenly decides to lie down - with her still on its back! Carolyn is clearly very surprised by this and says "Shall I get off?" Erm! Yes I think so, the horse isn't going anywhere! Jose gets off and literally kick starts the horse, gallops him around a bit and swaps horses with Carolyn and we ride back. Suddenly my horse doesn't seem so lazy after all.

Back at the ranch we remove the tack from the horses and then the dogs take over and chase them back to their field - apart from in a race, I have never seen horses move so fast! They can do it after all!
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