Buenos Aires, Salta, Purmamarca, Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Tucuman, Buenos Aires

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July 12th 2009
Published: July 14th 2009
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4 days - more than 60 hours on train and bus - 1 beautiful experience

Wednesday morning before work: Rush to the train station to book the well planned trip to the North of Argentina. Plan was: Going to Salta, see surroundings, go to Tucuman and take the train back. Thats what we booked.
Ended up being just a little bit different, but thats the fun about "backpacking", I guess😉
Provided with many advice where to go and what to see by the very friendly and welcoming people at my workplace, we left with a luxurious "cama"-bus (reclining seats up to 160 degrees) Buenos Aires at 18.30. After roughly 18 hours - including 4 movies, which I all watched in Spanish...well, there were in English, but due to the perfectly located aircondition (above my head), I got to enjoy the movies by just reading the Spanish subtitles:D), 2 meals and countless songs on my iPod - we arrived in Salta.
There we decided to alter our plans a bit. We booked a bus to Purmamarca, changed our ticket from Salta to Tucuman into Jujuy to Tucuman (longer trip, lower class and 5 pesos back, juhey:D) and decided to check in Purmamarca how to get to Jujuy in the end.
Our bus to the little village with P stopped around 17.30 at the intersection of two big streets in the middle of nowhere. Pointing to the street that was going uphill, the busdriver left now five - a little bit irritated - people with a "esta dirección, 3km" and "buen suerte" - good luck:D
Lucky enough, a "taxi" (or lets say a private car) passed by. One driver, five passengers (cosy), 3km and one peso each. Arriving at the "main" plaza of the beautfiful village, we were instantly offered tours and beds for a night. We followed a guy into a street that got darker by every meter...but it was worth the thrill:D
Instead of paying 100 pesos in a hostel, we got to sleep at a locals place (very friendly guy!) for 20 pesos.
Craving for some food, we enjoyed our first evening in the North with a decent wine and a piece of Lama (or Llama). Very tender meat, different yet tasty. A nice beer (Salta negra), interesting conversations with an American guy, who just spoke Spanish, and folklore music in a bar rounded up the evening!
But the best event at the night was definitely the look at the stars. No clouds, and stars as bright and shiny as they ever could be. I could have spend hours just watching the stars. Never seen them that beautiful!

Friday morning:
Getting up at 6:40 to catch the sunrise in front of the Mountain/Hill of the Seven Colours. At 7.20 it was still dark and three people were sitting on the wrong side of the hill, waiting for the sun, freezing. Yet it still paid of. Well hidden in between some mountains and hills we did not hear anything at all. Complete silence. Really, complete silence. Not a wind, not a whistle, not a car, nothing interrupted. An event which is even more enjoyed after living the noisy life of a porteño (People of Bs As)!
After a 3km trail around the hill through some more mountains, of which many would have deserved the name "hill of the seven colours", we made it back to the "city", still "contento" by the impressions of the area.
After a satisfying breakfast and a cold shower we took a trip to the Salinas Grandes, an area that used to be a lake in the mountains and today is a salt desert of 525square-km. Even the ride there (again in a private car, since we were too few to fill the tour bus) was already stunning, but seeing WHITE wherever you look just tops it. The sense of distance gets completly lost and offers lots of possibilities for funny pictures😉 While the sun was shining like crazy, you could not see anything without sunglasses. Add a lot of wind and the feeling of 3 degrees you really could not see anything without sunglasses.
Back in Purmamarca, we walked the market a bit, got one or another souvenir and then head on to the bus station. We bought a ticket to Jujuy for 3.10pm. We did not know yet that we were in for two hours, sitting in the sun with a random dog lying in the shadow we were providing, waiting for the bus. A tree had fallen somewhere on the road to Jujuy, prohibiting to pass in either way.
Eventually we made it to Jujuy, which is - sorry to say that - an ugly place, compared to the silence and beautifulness of Purmamarca and the adventurous Bs As. Somebody tried to "steal" something out of my backpack...which was kind of funny. 1.: Who would ever put something valuable in the front pocket? 2. If you open it, do it in a way that the backpacker doesnt notice...kinda spoils it when you make him turn with your hasty zip-opening-action.... (I actually think, we did better in school, pulling that "joke" on classmates 5 years ago:D)
Anyway, had a nice hostel and then: the B E S T steak ever in my life=) Bife de chorizo (Sirloin) - completo (with fries, two fried eggs and a little piece of pepper). Huge portion, but the tastiness forced me to eat it all:D

Relaxed day. After breakfast and a short walk around the town, went to the bus station to catch the one leaving to Tucuman at 12 o'clock. On the province boarder the whole bus got checked for drugs. That means: Everybody get off the bus and get your bags checked. A very trustworthy police officer (wearing usual adidas clothes, but hey: a cap that clearly identify him as a narcotic traffic controller:D), checked two out of my four backpack-pockets! On the bus again and off we went.
Arrived in Tucuman, which seems rather like the place we should have stayed at night, ....but thats just how it goes.You always know better afterwards. Dined at a good pizza place with a very friendly waiter. He talked a bit with us (constantly reassuring us that our Spanish was fine!) and made sure, we make it on time to the train leaving to Bs As.
The 25 hours train ride itself was.... hell?:D
The reclining chairs offer 120 degrees of uncomfortable sleepiness. Add snorring from the row behind (hey, how did he get to sleep?), cold and warm changing every 10 minutes, state-of-the-art washrooms (do not use the bathroom while the train is inside a station...why? oh I see, you basically just flush the toilet ingredients out of the train:D) and a restaurant that wouldnt give you a bottle of wine or beer to get over it😉 (but: they had lovely sandwiches de jamón y queso:D)
That goes definitely down on the list: stupid things I´d do to save 100pesos (20€)😉 But for sure an experience...
And after 200 rounds of Truco, even a 25h train ride reaches its end at some point.
All in all, still a very impressive trip that was 100%!v(MISSING)ale la pena (worth the pain!)

Any time again....

(and maybe at some point even a report about the trip to montevideo last weekend😉 maybe...)

P.S.: Flight back leaves in 2 weeks and 4 days=)


16th July 2009

Well now you've made me want to pick up and travel again, even if I just got home. It sounds like you're having a great time but I can't want to see pictures! By the way, how many languages do you know now?? Obviously it's enough to make most Canadians look very unimpressive in comparison haha I'll send you a longer email soon, enjoy your trip!

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