Softly softly Cachi monkey

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, May 25, 2007

We left dank, moist Iguaz˙ for yet another long bus ride this time heading west to the northwest Andean province of Salta. Not wishing to endure another 20+ hours watching awful films we decided to split the trip and stay overnight in the town of Resistencia. There was nothing there except a cold bus station, a large plaza full of sculptures, and a cheap hotel room with cable TV. Having spent five minutes at the bus station, half an hour in the plaza and about 30 hours in front of the idiot box it was time again to bus it overnight to the city of Salta.

Salta is a pretty big city close to the Andes where the locals seem to speak a completely different version of Spanish. And quickly. I felt like a Japanese tourist trying to make sense of a Geordie or - heaven forbid - a Scotsman after having learnt English in Essex (innit). But we managed to order some excellent steaks, hunks of goat and cheap wine for three consecutive nights. As good as the steaks are the vegetables and salads leave a lot to be desired, and after this particular meat frenzy I needed a break and decided that tomorrow I was going to try a whole 24 hours of vegetarianism. It's not hard to see why:

Spot the difference 1             Spot the difference 2

Around Salta there are lots of small towns and villages high up in the hills and accessible by windy unmade roads mainly suited to four wheel drives. So we decided to get the public bus for the 60 mile, four-and-a-half hour trip to Cachi (nearly 7,500 feet above sea level) stopping every few minutes to drop villagers off and pick up packages for delivery. The scenery was quite dramatic as we swerved round blind corners billowing dust as old farmers smelling of wee and cabbage (the first evidence of the vegetable in South America) hung on to their seats for dear life. It was a bit like being on the bus at the end of the classic film The Italian Job (no, not the blasphemous Hollywood version but the original one with Benny Hill). Before I finished whistling 'We Are the Self-Preservation Society' for the tenth time we had arrived in Cachi is the dark. And it was too blimmin' cold for veggies.

The next day brought warm sunshine which was just as well as it was May 25th: Argentina's Revolution Day holiday and the town was hosting a biathalon. Men and boys of all ages - and one girl - competed in the traditional race wearing all sorts of inappropriate gear: some without laces in their canvas shoes, baggy tracksuit bottoms, and some in jeans. They rode bikes and ran around the town (some so proud of their bike helmets they ran wearing them) and finished to applause from the crowd on the main square.

Fortunately the race finished in time for us to catch the bus back down to Salta, but unfortunately we got a puncture barely ten minutes into the journey. Fortunately we made it to a mechanic who jacked up the entire bus - with everyone still on board - on a jack that would have struggled with my Mini. Somehow it didn't fall off and once the puncture was repaired (the only spare tyre here being the one developing rapidly around yours truly) we were soon twisting and whistling our way back to Salta.
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