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Published: August 20th 2012
Iguaçu Falls was next on the hit list 16 hours north of BA by bus; the river feeding the falls marks the edge of Argentine territory and the start of Brazil. This waterfall is the longest in the world at over 2km and to be appreciated properly we needed to cross into Brazil to see it from that side which has the best panoramas and the following day from the Argentine side where walkways take you right over the edge and to the base of the biggest and most ferocious falls. The day at the Argentine side was terrible, the rain was relentless and within 15 minutes our fake North Face coats from Saigon were soaked through and we were freezing. I'll let the pictures do the talking as I can’t do the place justice in text.
On to Salta in the north, three buses and 23 hours later we arrived. It is here where the people start to look like the Andean tribes with the very dark skin and a bulging mouth full of Coca leaves. Salta province due to its proximity to Bolivia is the only province in Argentina where Coca leaves are not illegal, most shops sell
them and even 'Lipton' the tea maker has a Coca Tea blend. The main medicinal use for coca is for altitude sickness but to most people here it’s the cultural image that the huge cheek ball projects. Essentially it’s like having a can of red bull that makes your mouth go numb for 30 minutes or so.
The weather up here is very dry and arid, by day the sun is blinding and by night or in the shade the temperatures plummet. Salta is quite a cool city where the pace of life is very slow in contrast to BA, but the place still retains a city feel with many good steak houses and a vibrant bar street (after 12pm naturally!). Salta is located at the northern end of the Valles Calchequies which houses three national parks so we decided to hire a car and see them all over three days. The Quebrada De Las Conchas is a park on the way south to Cafayate, Argentina’s second most productive wine reigion. Las Conchas is like the Grand Canyon vast and dry, the landscape has been shaped by rivers of old and the harsh winds that swirl around the plains.
By the time we got to Cafayate in the early evening we were parched so we stopped off at a winery for a little refreshment at Bodega El Esteco. The wines were expensive and not to our taste, the region is noted for the Tannat (red) and the Torrontes (white). The Tannat is a very oaky red which tasted mostly of tobacco and coffee due to the High Tannin levels (hence the name Tannat). The Torrentes on the other hand was crisp and fruity but was better at the Bodegas Etchard and Nanni wineries that we visited the next morning, its a good way to start a day driving.
The road from Cafayate to Cachi passes through the Quebrada De Las Flechas and is on the dirt road route 33, all 190 Km of it is a dry, sandy dirt road. The landscape is straight of a Mad Max film and parts of the early Star Wars were filmed here. We found a little house in the middle of nowhere with a gardern full of red peppers drying out in the sun. As we neared Cachi the little greenery there was had now gone due to the increasing altitude,
Cachi is 3500 meters above sea level, that’s higher than Mount Cook in New Zealand. Suprisingly a northerly wind supplied some much needed warmth on our only evening there.
Cachi back to Salta was an epic drive which produced some amazing sights. Vast dry landscapes were filled with Cacti and snow capped mountains together they make up the Parque National Cordones. We were occasionally greeted by the odd group of wild lamas crossing the road, they look like a miniature Camel crossed with a sheep. After the 3 days driving we were sick of chewing dust and were glad to get back to Salta in preparations for the BBQ at the hostel. They don’t mess about with the meat here either. The BBQ consisted of a full rump and a full sirloin together with a string of chorizos and all the sides. When they order the food for the event they order 500g of meat per person! There was plenty of left overs to fill the bigger appetites at the table......!
The run to the Bolivian border encompassed a stay in the sleepy Humahuaca and a bus to the border town of La Quiaca. The only thing separating
these two countries was a tiny stream and a bridge to match where the immigration necessities were completed after 2 hours in a queue. This is where we met Agostina from Buenos Aires and Semon from Norway. We were both getting the train up to Tupiza so we decided to get tickets together. It also helped that Agos was fluent in both English and Spanish.
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