Published: August 7th 2007July 6th 2007
Gawdy God...Igles San Francisco
Just one of Saltas outrageously pink churches
Our first Argentina stop took some getting to, starting in Potosi (Bolivia) we took a 5 hour bus back to Uyuni where we picked up the 9.5 hour overnight train to the border at Villazon. After a much easier than expected border crossing we realised US dollars were of no use to Argentinian taxi drivers and had to walk to the bus terminal where we picked up a 5 hour bus to Jujuy and then a 1.5 hour connection to Salta, finally arriving about 30 hours after we had set out.
First impressions of Argentina were in marked contrast to Bolivia, it´s much more European feeling with less of the traditional trimmings. ´Real´shops have a mixture of modern fashion and all the toiletries we could possibly need, even shower gel which was so elusive in Bolivia.
Salta itself is easy to navigate as it´s based on a grid system (you can take the girl out of Milton Keynes.....) and our hostel El Alcazar was right beside the main square. Plaza 9 de Julio (they always seem to be named after some important date in the country´s history) is one of the nicest we have seen, big with orange and
Carla and Che Talkin about a revolution
This picture would have been so much better without the door to the mens being in shot
palm trees and masses of open air cafes and restaurants, plus the weather has been warm enough to make use of them. The city´s large pink cathedral dominates one side of the square and looks like it´s made of pink wedgewood, it´s one of the least touristy we have seen (no admission charge and lots of genuine visitors) and on the morning we visited there were numerous locals praying and worryingly long queues outside the confession booths.
Our arrival in Argentina coincided with the start of the Copa America football tournament and on our second night we headed out to watch Argentina play the USA. Despite ensuring we cheered each of Argentina´s 5 goals almost as enthusiastically as the rest of the bar in an attempt to prove we weren´t from the states, a waiter still saw his chance to drop a plate of meat empanadas (like small cornish pasties) on my head. Luckily they slid to the side, bounced off my ear and he walked off to serve them without so much as a sorry!
I expected the crowd to be more enthusiastic about the football (though we were in a relatively tame bar) but I guess
Saltas Huge Cathedral
He´s gonna have to prey pretty loud to get himself heard from that far back.
that will come if/when they get further in the competition. Matt is finding it tough, on principle, to get behind the Argies and on more than one occassion locals have mentioned Maradonna´s "Manos de Dios" with us, but seeing as we will be here until the final in a few weeks time we are going to take them as our adopted team.
Looking over Salta is the Cerro San Bernardo, a large hill reached by a gondola or a walk up over 1,000 steps. We opted for the steps which were a hard slog but the views from the top were fantastic, surrounded by peaks the city looked really huge though it was shrouded by a thin layer of smog (cheapskates take note - we managed to get away without paying for the gondola back down).
We decided to sample Salta´s nightlife after finding a stretch of trendy looking bars and restaurants, unfortunately we hadn´t quite adapted to Argentina´s pace of life and ended up being the only people in the huge restaurant we ate at and though the bars we visited were slightly busier it seemed as we headed back to our hostel at 1 am that
The 100th pit of the trip
After 10 months on the road we slept in our 100th bed at our hostel in Salta. Note the bottle of red, guitar, guidebook and ? also in the picture.
the night was just getting started for most people.
The food so far has been good, though the portions are huge (I ordered fish and got 4 huge fillets) and with a distinct lack of vegetables. Whenever we order coffee we get free biscuits and with wine and beer we are always brought at least 2 or 3 plates of crisps/nuts, I think the idea is to delicately nibble them over the course of a few drinks but we always end up scoffing the lot and then being asked if we want seconds.
In a bid to eat healthily for at least one meal a day Matt took to cooking us roast veggie sandwiches each day. Visiting the market in Salta for supplies was unlike any we have been to in South America, no stray dogs roaming and not a skinned bull head (still complete with satring eyes) in sight.
The journey south to Cordoba took roughly 12 hours and we had decided to travel by overnight bus, which we would never have opted for pre-Argentina but according to almost every traveller we had met in South America the buses here are ´out
of this world´. They totally lived up to the hype with our semi-cama ticket (not as good as cama which literally translates as ´bed´) giving us movies, refreshments and seats bigger than we would ever get on an aeroplane which recline so far back you can get a decent night´s sleep. Because of all of this and a J-Lo film we both ended up sparko complete with ear plugs, until I woke around 1.30am to find the 2 gits that had been sat beside us had vanished along with our bag containing food and drink supplies for the journey - hardly the crime of the century but frustrating especially for Matt who got woken up by me to report the theft.
Cordoba is not the prettiest of cities, especially on arriving to find it grey and drizzley. It is the second city in Argentina and has South America´s oldest university dating back to 1613 whilst its cathedral is the oldest in Argentina and from the outside it shows. Within an hour or so of arriving we had booked our tickets out but spent the rest of the following 2 days trying to take in some of the city´s sights,
General Guemes looking a little lost
The guy on the back of the horse led Argentina to victory against the Bolivians and now looks out over Salta just in case they come back
most of which were closed and undergoing reconstruction work.
By our 3rd and final day the sun was shining and the city started to look a little better, we had already decided to spend the day in the nearby town of Alta Gracia some 35km away. The reason for our visit was that Che Guevara´s family had lived there in several different houses including one which is now open to the public as a museum. My knowledge of Che Guevara wasn´t great before we visited and I still don´t know much about the revolutionary side of his life as the museum seemed to focus more on the man himself, with pictures of him growing up, the motorbike he rode on the trip that is depicted in the film ´Motorcycle Diaries´, the famous photo of him now used in all merchandise and the final letters he sent to his children and wife urging them to continue the fight against the injustices in the world. Guevara was willing to die for ´the cause´and was eventually shot dead in Bolivia yet despite all this the museum portrayed the softer side of the man who as a boy had suffered with asthma so
Matt and "little" Che talkin about a revolution
There were 2 items of clothing I said I would never wear...a bandana and a Che Guevara T-shirt. But after visiting the guys house I bought a Che football shirt......but a bandana !!!! NEVER.
badly that his family moved to Alta Gracia where the climate was considered better for his condition.
After spending 2 months in South America you would expect that our Spanish is improving but it sometimes feels like people in Argentina don´t speak Spanish, the pace at which they talk is immense and they use at least 30% more words than necessary. It probably doesn´t help when we make such laughable mistakes, it wasn´t until the third time of getting funny looks in the internet cafe that I realised I had been asking for "2 butters" instead of "2 machines". And whilst in our hostel in Salta Matt found a new friend in the cleaner who played his guitar and would shout "rock ´n´roll" whenever she saw him, one morning she stopped us and in front of some of her friends asked him to play, in his attempt to say he was embarrased Matt actually announced he was pregnant to much amusement from the women.
So time to move on again, this time to Mendoza, whilst we enjoyed Salta and weren´t so impressed with Cordoba we have quite hopes for our next stop which is touted as the wine
Little Che and his family lived here back in the 1930´s...a good excuse to try out our cameras sepia fuction
capital of Argentina,
and our trip there will be in the luxury of cama seats!
There are more photos below