Trip Start Jun 23, 2011
Trip End Aug 30, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, July 11, 2011

We arrived in Salta about noon on Sunday after our 16 hour bus ride. As I noted in the last entry, the seats on the Argentine buses are very comfortable. However, I didn't note the two things about the bus ride that weren't quite so nice - the temperature and the smell. For anyone travelling on an overnight bus in Argentina, dress warm! We had actually received this warning from other travelers we met in Brazil, and thought we dressed warm enough, but we did not. Or, I should say K-money did not, so I had to lend her my jacket, and then I was not dressed warmly enough, either. To be fair, the coldest part was my feet, which weren't affected by the lent jacket.

As for the smell, we had not seen the seats we had been assigned and they ended up being on the bottom level (pretty much all of the inter-city Argentinean buses are two levels) right next to the bathroom. The best smell we could hope for was the bathroom chemical smell, which was what it smelled like the most of the time. This was by no means pleasant, except when compared with the alternative, which I will leave to your imagination. Anyway, sit upstairs if you can, and dress warm. Words to the wise.

Salta on early Sunday afternoon the day after a national holiday was extremely dead. We grabbed a taxi for the dozen blocks to the center. (Even though we have backpacks and we are backpacking, we have lost some of the verve we had in our youth for carrying them long distances - like the time Nemo, Josh and I carried our bags about 5 miles in Scotland 1/4 of the way around Loch Lomond - not happening anymore.) Cabs are so cheap here anyway, this one was less than $2, and most are in the $2-$4 range. So we wandered around a bit and found an acceptable hostel with a double room available and explored the town. We ate at Dona Salta and I had Locro for the first time, which is a very traditional stew here made from beans, pumpkin and various meats. It was delicious and filling.

Salta is a pleasant place with lots of trees, mountains around it, great weather even in winter (it finally hit 70 again!), and large central square with lots of bars and restaurants around it. The main thing to do here is go out into the surrounding wilderness and see all of the crazy canyons, colored rocks, and mountains, so we looked around for a tour operator that had a trip like we were looking for. There are tons of tour operators in Salta. We ended up going with Nordic Travel, because the girl spoke very good English and was a good salesman, but we wouldn't recommend anyone else do the same. In fact, I'd recommend you avoid Nordic travel in Salta as much as you can, as they did not give us the tour they promised at all and ended up overcharging us.

However, the tour we did, although not as promised, was still really cool, and we enjoyed it very much. More about that in the next entry from Cafayete (Ca-fa-sha-tay in Argentinean Spanish). On Monday we hiked up the hill overlooking Salta, San Bernardo. It was 1,070 steps up. There is a cable car, but we hiked it and looked at it as training for our Inca Trail hike in three weeks, as all we have really done on this trip so far is eat and drink and we are both starting to feel a bit bloated. But as we are now married we realize that it is cool if we let ourselves go a little bit, right? Anyway, we suffered the first injury of the trip when I absolutely rocked my brain by slamming my head into a thick tree branch while looking down and concentrating on one of the 1,070 steps. I was momentarily stunned and had to sit for a minute. It bled a bit and caused a bump, but didn't cause any permanent damage (that we know of). K-money asked how we would know if there was permanent damage. I didn’t appreciate that remark.

After that we had our typical lunch in Argentina of a dozen empanadas and a gaseosa (what soda is called in Argentina). One thing that is different in both Brazil and Argentina that I haven’t mentioned yet is the way drinks are sold. The liter beer is very popular here, and the most common way you see people drinking it in restaurants. You order a liter and they bring a few glasses and you share it. It’s the same way with gaseosas – you get a liter of coke or coke zero or whatever ("I’ll have a liter 'a cola.") and share it for the table. It’s an incredible system, and I think we should adopt it in the US. The liters of beer are fantastically cheap, usually less than $4 in Argentina, and a liter works out to about 2 pints.

After lunch we wandered around Salta some more, explored the main square, found a good bench and sat and read our books a while. Then we went back to the hostel to shower up and get ready for that night’s Argentina match in the Copa America. I should also mention that Salta is the one place where our travels would intersect with the Copa America schedule on Wednesday, the 13th, and we tried to get tickets to the match, but it was sold out, as it was Paraguay-Venezuela, and apparently there are a lot of Paraguayans in northwestern Argentina.

So as usual we headed out a bit later than we should have to get into a good place to watch the Argentina-Costa Rica match. Every restaurant was showing the game, and every one was packed. There was also a huge screen set up in the main square and a big crowd gathered there. We watched there for a minute, but we were starving and needed to get dinner. Finally we found a tiny local place with a free table and watched the game with about 20 Argentina fans who lived and died with each shot and pass. It was a pretty fun place to watch, especially since Argentina won 3-0.

The next morning we headed out on our tour to Cafayate.
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Sarah on

Those empanadas are making me hungry!!!

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