La Paz to Buenos Aires and North Argentina

South America
December 22nd 2009
Published: December 22nd 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

The 3 weeks tour with the group came to an end in La Paz and it was time to say goodbye to the comfortable travelling, where I did not need to be concerned about where I will be staying and how to book a tour. I had a great 3 weeks but now I was on my own again. My way lead me further south of Bolivia to Uyuni and the famous Salt Desert. I spend one more day in La Paz (trying to find the famous San Pedro Prison and I actually did find it) before I headed south with a night bus. The next morning I arrived in Uyuni, a small town in the middle of nowhere. I was picked up at the bus station but had to wait another 3 hours before I meet my group I was going to spend the trip through the salt desert with. Our not so youing driver picked us up and we headed out into nowhere in a pretty old jeep (not quite sure who was older, the jeep or the driver). The first stop was the train cemetery, a spooky place with lots of old trains, but kind of interesting. After that short visit, we hit the road to the see the salt desert. The wide open and the white of the salt was amazing, a breath taking view! We drove a while through the desert, I was surprised that our driver knew the way without street and signs, before we stopped for lunch at the Fisher Island. It is indeed a little island, full of rocks and cactus in the middle of the white deser. After the island it was another long drive until the border of the desert and the first little town thereafter. It really seems these towns are far away from anything, there is not much around it. The night we stayed at the salt hotel in one of these towns. It gets really cold at night in the desert, but I guess thanks to the salt it kept us warm inside the hotel. The next morning we drove further into the stone desert and visited many of the colorful lakes. Here we also saw lots and lots of Flamingos, in 4000 meter above sealevel! Besides the lake we also saw some weired stone formation, one of them looked like and was also called stone leg. After a long drive we finally arrived in our "hotel" and were glad to strech our legs. There is not much electricity in these areas so it was not a late night. The next morning we got up at 4.30 am and went first to see the geysers. I felt like being in a different world, or maybe on the moon, it was also smelly! The next stop was a hot spring, I was not sure if I should get in, as it was still very cold, but once in the water, it was just so refreshing, I had troubles to get out! Unfortunately the rest of the day was just driving back to Uyuni, very tyring even though the landscape was impressiv.
That evening I took the night train to Tupiza, close to the Argentine boarder. I arrived at 4 am in the morning and was glad to have booked the hotel already. The next day I was impressed by all the rock formation around me and was eager to discover more. It was low season (again) but luckily I meet another Swiss girl, who was also up for a Triathlon; Jeep drive, Horse riding and mountain biking. We started with the Jeep drive the next day and I must say it got even better once we left the town, the rock formations are very impressiv. After the jeep had to be replace because it broke down, we drove to our lunch place where we got some local food to taste. Later one we got on our horses and enjoyed the red mountains around us. Finally we went up 1500 m and drove all the way down with the bikes (they were not really good, but it was fun anyway). It was a fantastic day surrounded by an amazing landscape.
The next morning I had to leave at 4 am to catch the bus to the Argentinien boarder. It was a short ride and by 9 am in the morning, I was in Argentina again. The next stop was Salta, where I found some time to relaxe and enjoy the warm weather again. After beeing constantly over 3000 meters above sealevel for the last couple of weeks, I was glad being further down again and having warm weather also at night. I strolled around the city and went up the to the little mountain with an amazing view point. Than it was time to head to Buenos Aires to meet my friend from Switzerland, with whom I went to explorer the north of Argentina in greater detail.
The first stop after Buenos Aires was Iguazu Falls again, as my firend Nati has not seen it before. It was still very impressiv and I enjoyed the falls one more time with hot weather.
After that we took a 21 hour bus ride to Cordoba, it is long ride but the buses in Argentina are very comfortable. Cordoba was a very quite city, it was Sunday and not much happening. Later in the afternoon people came out to drink their mate and hang around parks and we enjoyed a nice evening with great meat and wine!
The next day we picked up the car we rented for the next 9 days and off we drove, direction north. This part of the north is very flat and lonely, for many km we just drove straight without a single curve. We stopped at the boarder of another salt desert, but were informed by the police there that we can not driver further in without 4x4. So we left again and drove until Catamarca. It was getting dark already and we had difficulties to find a place to stay, as the next day was a public holiday which was celebrated with a great procession. The town was therefore really busy but we decided to hit the road really early the next day. On the way to Salta we saw many pilgers, on bikes, motorbikes, by foot, it was kind of strange to pass by all these people!
We drove all the way up to Salta, unfortunately the weather was not too good in the beginning and we were wondering, how the world looks behind the fog. Luckily the sun came out later and we could fully enjoy the view off the vineyards as well as one of the most amazing valleys I have ever seen. The rocks were shining in the sun and reflecting the different reds, the blue sky and the green surroundings were a great contrast to it, until it started to rain again.
After an amazing drive we finally arrived in Salta and found a cute little B&B with some lovely hosts. We were undecided how long to stay, but we liked it so much that we extended for one more day than planned.
Our hosts gave us good tips where to go around the area and so we hit the road again to go to Cuyo. Unfortunately we never made it there as the car was loosing oil and we had to return to Salta half way. The good thing was, the car did not have any damage and we got a new and better car, which was an upgrad.
The next day we went further up to Purmamarca and the seven-colored-mountain. The landscape here is very impressing an differes a lot, from lush green rivers to dry and colorful rock deserts.
It was time to move on the next day and we hit the road for our next goal, the wine province of Argentina. We made it to Mendoza in two steps, the first stop was La Rioja, where we stayed in a Cabaña a bit outside the down. It was very cute and we just relaxed on our little terrass, drinking a bottle of local wine and have some cheese and cold cuts, watching the mountains, sunset and the rainstorm coming in. The town itself has not much to offer but there are 2 National Parks around it. We did not have time to see both of them but visited the first one, also called Moon Valley, on our way out the next day. There we had the option to drive with our own car through the area guided by one of the rangers. Unfortunately it was raining at night and the tour started only late, once the streets had been dried. As we had to get to Mendoza that day, we could not make the tour, but I am sure, it would have been amazing. On the way south the landscape started off beeing very flat and dry but soon it began to change and more vineyards could be seen and the fields got green. By late afternoon we arrived in Mendoza where we stayed for one night in the city center. We checked out the lovely little town that night and of course tasted the local wine with some great food.
The next morning we were driving a bit outside the city, where we rented a cabaña for the next 3 nights. It was very cute and in the middle of the vineyards! After so many days driving we needed finally a day to rest and enjoyed the pool, a glas of wine and the view on the snowy mountains in the back.
But now it was time to explorer the vineyards, this was what we came for. It was not easy to find those vineyards, the navigation system send us out into the nowhere and the maps were not really accurate. Well, we found some of the nice vineyards and enjoyed to taste some local wines and got to know the production. It was very interesting! The same was planned for the next day, some more vineyards and wine tasting. We saw some very different vineyards and were always welcomed to have a look around.
The next day it was time to leave the north of Argentina and head back to BsAs. I really enjoyed this part, the landscapes are so different and all impressive, the wine was fantastic and food was rich and so tastefull!
After 2.5 weeks travelling with Nati, I am alone again! I will be spending Christmas in BsAs before heading down south to the Lake District, Patagonia and maybe a side trip to Chile. It is my last part of my travel through Southamerica and I am very much looking forward to it.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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