Published: September 28th 2011September 16th 2011
We all woke up feeling a little worse for wear after the night before and Ben went to collect the car while Steve and I stayed in bed. It took us about two hours to actually get up and have breakfast and so we weren't even ready to leave until about 10, when we had planned to leave at 8! I felt really bad for Petra (the German girl we had promised a lift to) because she had been up and waiting for us since 8am. We loaded all of our stuff into our sexy little VW "Gol" and were just about ready to leave, however, in my hungover state I apparently had other plans and managed to lock the keys for the car in the boot, with all the other doors locked...Ben was distinctly unimpressed, whilst Petra was very nice about it considering she had already been waiting for two hours. We got on the phone to Diego and explained the situation but he arrived without any spare keys so we had to wait for him to go back and get another key and come and open the car. Finally, about 3 hours late, we set off on our road
trip. We were a bit nervous about driving around the city as there are hundreds of cross roads but NO traffic lights so every junction is pretty much a free for all, whoever gets there first goes first. We made it out of the city in one piece and onto "Ruta 9", our road to the north, which at first was just like a motorway but very quickly became a windy maze which sloped up a huge mountain, with a sheer drop to the side of us. I started to feel really ill in the car, partially to do with the hangover and partially do with the carsickness and partially to do with the speed at which other cars where coming around the bends so we had to pull over for a few minutes.
After about 3 hours we arrived in Purmamarca, the home of the "7 coloured mountain". We were all really hungry so we found a little place and had some lunch, Ben ordered the Llama and Steve ordered the Asado which is usually a lot of beef, I stuck with a steak to be safe. Everyone elses food arrived, Steves Asado was in fact also Llama,
I tried some of Bens Llama, it was not nice, but he seemed to not mind it. Everyone had nearly finished theirs before my steak finally arrived! We finished up and took a little walk up to the 7 coloured mountain, which Ben couldn´t see properly because of his "colourblindness", we followed a little path around the side of the mountain which lead around the back and up to some pretty nice mountain views. Steve was feeling a bit worse for wear after the lunch and the persistent hangover and had a little lie down on a rock. We followed the path all the way around the mountain and it came back into town on the other side, right by a little textiles market with loads of alpaca jumpers and really intricately embroidered blankets. I got a really cool scarf, which Ben wanted to buy as well...Im starting to worry about the number of times he is copying me!
We hopped back into the car and onto Tilcara, this time the road was much more straightforward and it didnt take us very long. When we arrived in Tilcara, we had said to another girl (Merlot) in our hostel in
Salta that we would meet her there in a certain hostel, however, when we arrived at the hostel it left a lot to be desired as there were no lights and it was really damp and the beds looked pretty unsafe so we checked into another hostel over the road. Petra on the other hand didn´t like either of these hostels and decided to walk for miles up a hill to check into another hostel which was nearly 3 times as much!
Before leaving Salta we had read a few other blogs about the towns we were going to visit to get an idea of what to see there and one of them had mentioned that the stray dogs in Tilcara were to put it nicely...mental. As we went to get our stuff out of the car we saw a cat walking down the street being majorly harassed by two dogs, then one of the dogs picked up the cat TO EAT IT!! and the other dog started pulling on the cats leg trying to get a bit of the cat to eat!!!! Luckily, as we all stood completely shocked at the situation unfolding before us (Ben was laughing),
a very brave woman managed to save the cat from the jaws of the horrible dogs and carried it off down the road, while the dogs followed her still trying to grab at the poor cat! After this encounter, I was pretty much terrified of the dogs as you can imagine, but have you ever seen a dog actually try to EAT a cat!
In the evening we went out to try and find some dinner and ended up wandering round about 10 different places as we couldnt all decide on somewhere to eat. Finally we settled on a place and all attempted to order what we wanted...unfortunately after we tried to order anything we were met with a stern "No tengo" (meaning "I dont have") by the waiter and by the end we were all trying not to laugh everytime he said it again. Most of us ended up ordering pasta which was ok but as we were eating we heard a little boy, dressed up in a poncho and cowboy hat start telling the diners in the other room a pretty dramatic story in Spanish in echange for money. We thought we had managed to get away
without having to hear it but unfortunately this wasn't the case and after he finished up in the other room he came and started telling the story to us. However, half way through his story a brass band and parade decided to walk through the square outside and as they got nearer and nearer and louder and louder they were drowning out the sound of the his story so much to the point that he had to stop. They even let off fireworks right outside the window! At this point Steve said "that band is really raining on this kid´s parade". Me, Steve and Ben found this so completely hilarious that Ben was actually crying with laughter but Petra was less than impressed at our laughter and kept telling us to shut up! Those Krauts have no sense of humour.
Next day we got up at 10 and back into the car ready for our next drive to Iruya. Again, we were all ready to go in the car when this time it was Ben who decided to lock the keys in the boot! You can imagine my euphoria at having not heard the end of it for 2
days, now having Ben also do it!! Luckily this time we were able to fish them out of the boot from the back but it did nothing to dull my happiness. We went on our way to Iruya for about an hour on a normal road and then there was a sign to turn off onto a dirt road...for 53km. So for an hour and a half we teetered on the edge of mountains, over tiny rivers, around extremely sharp bends and when we finally arrived in Iruya we all breathed a sigh of relief that both us and the car had made it there in one piece. Just as we were arriving into Iruya we had to stop for a group of donkeys in the road and noticed one right at the back which was walking a bit funny, when we got closer we noticed that it had actually walked into the lid of the teapot and it was now stuck on its back hoof, poor thing, we wanted to help it but thought we would probably end up getting kicked in the face so thought it best to leave it. When we arrived in Iruya we were accosted
by a number of people trying to sell us hostels and a very old lady asking us for something in Spanish which we couldnt understand, she was still by the car holding onto the window when Ben lost patience and attempted to drive off. We all had to get him to stop until we had got rid of her! We parked up in the square and went in search of some lunch which we found in a little family run cafe and when I say family run, I mean we were served by a girl of about 9 while her little sister of about 5 cleared and cleaned the table next to us. After lunch we headed up a (very) steep hill and up to a viewpoint over the whole town which was pretty spectacular because Iruya is set in a canyon and is surrounded by mountains of varying colours. We hung around in Iruya for a bit and then decided to leave around 4 just to make sure that we werent going to be driving along the dirt road at night, after another hour and a half of sweaty palms while we negotiated the mountain bends again we arrived
back at the highway and were on our way to Humahuaca.
The journey wasn´t too long and when we arrived we went in search of a hostel, however everyone seemed to have different ideas about what they wanted so we ended up wandering around for ages before finally going back to first place we had looked at! In the evening, we went to the independence monument in the square and then went and had some dinner, Ben finally got the try a "Locro" which is a kind of pumkin stew which he really liked.
The next day we got back into our car, which was looking slightly haggard by now due to the dirt roads and went back to Tilcara as we wanted to go mountain biking. We found a guy, who basically owned a bike shop but said he had bikes to rent and hired them off him and he showed us a map of some routes. One of them looked ridiculously hard and so we settled for an easier route and off we went. The first part was pretty easy but then we started going up hill on a dirt road and I found it really hard to control my bike and realised I was literally going slower than walking speed so I took to walking my bike up the hill while Ben and Steve cycled. The road was supposed to be 5km to another little town but after 2 hours, we hadn´t seen any towns and probably hadnt got very far, I was on the verge of giving up on walking as well as cycling and so I said I would wait by this little verge bit while Ben and Steve carried on for a little while. While I was waiting on my own I got to hear just how silent it was in the mountains, all you could hear was the noise of the wind and the occasional bird, it made me wonder how the Gauchos do it as they sometimes dont see another person for months whilst they are in the mountains, it was quite nice to be in absolute silence for a few minutes though.
The cycle down was a hell of a lot easier and much more fun and we managed it in about 20 minutes, although I think it took Ben even less as he just bombed it off at full speed (gonein60secondsLAD) while I had to keep my brakes on the entire time. When we were at the bottom there was suddenly a mini tornado which appeared out of nowhere and then went off into the sky, Ben said it was one of the warm air currents which the Condors use to fly on but whatever it was it was pretty cool. We took our bikes back to the man and asked him where we could find a car wash as the car had to be returned clean. We found the car wash and the guy cleaned the inside and outside of the car for 20pesos (£3) bargain! Then we set off back to Salta to return the car. On the way into Salta we dropped our bags off in the bag hold in the bus terminal, dropped the car off and then went out for (what we thought was) our final meal in Argentina.
We went to a restaurant which had been recommended by the guy from the hostel and he mentioned before we went that the steaks were VERY big, which was obviously music to Bens ears. We all ordered steaks and got chips and salad and red wine...a proper Argentinian meal. When I ordered my steak the guy asked me if I wanted a smaller one because they were really big, luckily I said yes I'd have a smaller one, because about 20 minutes later he bought out Bens steak, which was literally the biggest steak I have ever seen in my life, it took up the entire plate and was about 2 inches thick!! Ben took this as a challenge upon his manhood and decided he would have to eat the entire lot, but this meant that he wasnt able to talk for the entire meal while he attempted to eat this monstrosity of a steak in record time before he got too full to finish it. I was amazed but the man did good, he actually managed to eat the whole thing and then order ice cream afterwards!! It would have been a good way to end Argentina, if the following events had not occurred.
We then headed towards the bus station in plenty of time for our 12:30am bus and waited and waited and waited....finally at around 1am a guy came over to us and asked if we were waiting for the Andesmar bus to La Quiaca and told us that the drivers had gone on strike and there wouldn´t be another bus until tomorrow at 7:30am, so back off to the hostel we headed...not before being refused a lift from an entire row of taxi drivers! We checked back in for one final night and fell alseep pretty pronto.