Stuck in Salta doing some caramel pulling.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"Can we stop and take some pictures of The Toad, The Friar, The Castles or maybe Titanic?"

"No, we don't have time. We need to go to the winery, and then we need a few hours in Cafayate as well."

"A few hours??? What is there to see in Cafayate?"

"A plaza, a church, the police station, and maybe the post office building."

"Oh, I see. A few hours definitively makes sense then. I can't wait to see the post office. I am sure it will top Torres del Paine and Iguazu Falls."

I'm on a full day excursion going from Salta to the tiny town of Cafayate. The only reason I came, was because I wanted to see Quebrada de Cafayate (The Cafayate Gorge) and the Quilmes ruins south of Cafayate. I have just learned that we won't visit Quilmes, because I was the only one in our 11 man tour group who wanted to go. And although the road from Salta to Cafayate snakes it's way through The Cafayate Gorge, we don't seem to have time to stop. When I booked the trip, I was promised a stop at all the major rock formations in the gorge, that's somewhat reminiscent of the landscapes in southern Utah and northern Arizona, as well as Badlands in South Dakota (maybe not as spectacular, but still very nice). So I am a bit pissed off, as the driver and guide seems in such a hurry to get us to Cafayate, before our return to Salta. The other tourists also seem oblivious to the beautiful scenery along the road. The next time I'll hire my own car, or even a bicycle! Well, in a way I guess I can understand the driver and guide, as it's a 13-14 hour round trip excursion. Add hotel pickups and drop-offs, preparations, paperwork, car cleaning, getting to and from work etc. and I guess they probably don't get much sleep and time with family, before they have to get up the next morning and do it all over again. But I have paid for this trip, and insist that we at least stop at some of the rock formations and vistas on our way back to Salta. It's probably not the best excursion I have been on so far, but then I skipped the post office in Cafayate, and went for a whiskey ice cream instead. So who's to blame?

It's my fifth day in Salta so far. The first weekend I spent partying with Tobias and Johan who I met in Tucumán, as well as a German guy I met in Montevideo (I am sure you know, but it's a small world on the backpacker circuit). It's winter holiday in Argentina now, so the nightlife was great, and Salta is practically boiling. After waking up with a hangover a couple of days in a row, I just idled around the city, visiting churches, plazas as well as Cerro San Bernardo with it's great city views. Yesterday I went on another 14 hour excursion, to Quebrada de Humahuaca, stopping by Purmamarca, Maimará, Tilcara, Pucará and San Salvador de Jujuy on the way. All in all a very nice trip, and I noticed that we are getting close to Bolivia, as the beautiful color and chaos reminded me more of small indigenous villages in Bolivia and Peru, than what I am used to from Argentina.

Five days or so in the Salta area is probably enough (especially when there is so much other stuff I still want to see), but I have just found out that I have to wait another five days for the next available bus to San Pedro de Atacama (in northern Chile), my next planned stop. There's no other way to get there easily to be honest. I could of course just skip the Atacama Desert, and head for Tupiza (close to where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid found their final resting grounds) in southern Bolivia instead. But then I really want to see the Atacama Desert. As far as I can remember, it's only the second time so far on this trip, that I have been stuck in a place for a few days. Last time was just a few days ago, when I had to wait two days for a bus from Mendoza to Tucumán. Not a big problem, but I am not too keen to wait five more days in Salta. Well I guess I can only blame myself for not doing more pre-planning during the Argentine winter holiday. But then maybe Salta isn't the worst place to get stuck in for a few days, it's a beautiful and lively city, with a nice and sunny climate at an altitude of 1200m. I have seen most of the surroundings, so I guess I'll just idle and party for most of the time. I could of course have taken the spectacular "Train to the Clouds", one of the main reasons I came to Salta in the first place, but it turns out that it's under maintenance for a few weeks. If maintenance is the reason, it's bloody brilliant planning to schedule it during one of the main Argentine holidays. So party it is then, or maybe I should just walk around and visit the cities many restaurants, in order to look at the funny translations they have in their English menus. So far I have gorged on grilled kid, pork with spies, roasted dock, pepper streak, salamon, banana spit and caramel pulling. Delicious stuff!

Next up is San Pedro de Atacama (as I said), before I move into south-western Bolivia and the awesome Salar de Uyuni. I can't wait, as it's two more places I have wanted to visit for years. So there should be more spectacular photos coming your way soon. Stay tuned!!
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