Published: August 30th 2009August 20th 2009
This was the first time that I visited Salta. Salta is located in the northwest of Argentina, and is a popular tourist destination by the Porteños and the rest of Argentineans. I have heard of Salta before, but truth be told, I did not know what to expect when I decided to visit her. But by now you should know I like adventures, so I decided to check it out.
(Note: For those of you who are not familiar Argentina, Porteños refer to the residents of the Capital Federal, the city of Buenos Aires. The people of the province of Buenos Aires, however, are called Bonaerenses)
I bought the overnight bus ticket that goes from San Juan to Salta. The bus was complete with a washroom, a small kitchen to serve us meals, and very cushy bed-like seats. It also has a foot rest (see picture). They really tried to make the passenger feel comfortable.
I finished my visit of Valle de la Luna in the province of San Juan and was driven back to the capital of San Juan at 9:30 pm. I Immediately started repacking, and went to the bus station. At about 10:50 pm the
bus departed for Salta. I was so tired and so I immediately passed out on the bus. The bus arrived to Salta around 2:00 pm next day (14 hours+)...even though the bus was comfortable enough, the fact that sitting in one place for so long tired me out, and I entertained the thought of reveling in a hot shower...
I checked in my hostel Las Rejas Hostel and was informed that I arrived 1 day earlier than my designated arrival date. Good thing the hostel was not full, so I was put in a dorm. Later I realized that they put me in a mainly female dorm. There was one young lady, very pretty, in the room- Margarita. She is from Buenos Aires and was traveling the north of Argentina too. She studies art and has a very disarming disposition. Her bed was on top of mine. We chatted a bit in Spanish when we met each other in the dorm, and I was surprised how I could communicate in Spanish on a range of matters.
The hostel is a a house converted into a hostel. It has a garden, a cafe and a common room inside. It
is very clean and comfortable, because the owners live there too. It makes me happy to lodge in a good hostel during traveling.
The the rest of the day, I pretty much rested in the hostel and tried to settle in. At night, I walked to the main square in Salta, Plaze de 9 de Julio, and was amazed at how beautiful it looks at night. There is a lot of light projecting off the ground and from the buildings...it looks like a festival of light. The downtown area is quite clean and well-maintained and there was police standing in key areas, so I felt quite safe strolling around and looking at the shops and the buildings.
The next day, I first went to the Franciscan basilica San Francisco. In the afternoon, I met up with my friend Juan in Salta. Juan is a tall, cheeky 24 years old who appears a bit reserved in the beginning. He was shy to speak English when we first met, but it turned out he could understand and speak English quite well. He completed high school education and is studying to be a chef. He is considering to try out being
a flight attendant. A very down-to-earth, sincere person, and even though he does not have a university education, he appeared to be much more sensible and real than many I have met in my life. He took me to San Bernando, which is the hill overlooking the city of Salta. He proposed that we climb the 1000+ stairs to the top of the hill, and I gladly accepted the challenge. It turned out that I was in better shape than Juan after the climb.
We stayed on top of the hill for more than 2 hours, enjoying the warm weather and the beautiful views. You could see the entire city from the top of the hill. Salta was and has been the door to Bolivia and Peru, and is said to be the only remaining place in Argentina that still retains some Inca culture. It is also renowned for its share of folkloric music singers, that is why it has the name "La tierra de los cantantes".
During the conversation with Juan on the hilltop, I noticed that he had an about 10cm scar on his forearm. I asked him how he got it. He said that he
had three operations on his arm due to carpal tunnel syndrome developed on his previous job. He suffered wrist pain and lack of strength from the syndrome. He added also, without a show of any resentment, that the French company which he worked for fired him after he got the operations...
We descended the hill and bid farewell. At night, I sat with Margarita in the common room and watched Talento Argentino together (like the American Talent but the Argentine version) and laughed at the hilarity of the show. Margarita is a really kind girl, without any attitude. It was great spending some time with her. When I walked in the dorm late at night, it was dark and I did not want to turn on the light lest I would wake up everyone else, she provided some light for me with her cellphone. A little act of kindness but it speaks volumes about a person.
The third night in Salta, Juan invited me to go to his friend's birthday party. We walked into the house of his friend where she had friends and some family members sitting around a big table in the living room. The living
room is not big, so the atmosphere was intimate. They served Argentinean barbecue, 'asado' for dinner. Everybody just sat around chatting and chilling. When the dinner was completed, two guys took out a guitar and an Argentinean drum "Bonbo" and initiated the singing. It turned out to be an extraordinary night of Argentinean folkloric music. Everybody, men and women sang in full throat beautiful melodies from the Argentinean folkloric tradition, without inhibition or freight. However, they did not just sing, they sang well! Not a stray note was noticed...the room seemed suddenly came alive with songs, some melancholic, some wistful, some happy, some macho- reverberating throughout the entire house. It was unreal and made my blood boil at times. Juan managed to take some video clips and photos of the event, and once I got it, I will post them here.
It was an absolutely wonderful Argentinean night with the Salteños! In the land of the singers, en la tierra de los cantantes!
The next day, Margarita departed the hostel early in the morning and went to Jujuy. She gave me her phone number and email address to keep in touch when I return to Buenos Aires. We
bid each other farewell.
It was also my last night in Salta. There was a new German girl (Gabriele) joining the dorm. Actually she was the only other person in the dorm at the time. She is from Munich and came from a trip to Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. She was looking for company, so I took her to Cerro San Bernardo and spent a good afternoon there. I then invited her to go have dinner with Juan and his friends, and we all went out to the Balcarce area, which is the entertainment district, in Salta. We together had 3 jugs of sangria and sat around listening to a rock band from Buenos Aires playing there. It was a good time again with friends.
Next day, I checked out the hostel and jumped on a taxi and left for the airport. The flight was to Buenos Aires. I felt sad to leave Salta. It is indeed, la linda, beautiful and a place where you could meet awesome people.
However, go I must. Buenos Aires is calling and I need to keep rolling.
Until next time. Chau.
There are more photos below