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February 14th 2014
Published: February 14th 2014
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Salta really reminded us of Peru- the houses, buildings, surrounding mountains – there were many similarities. We started to feel our language barrier as we checked in to our hotel... the lady at the front desk didn’t speak any English at all, she took my reservation print out and ushered us upstairs to a room that reminded me of a prison cell. I sat down in the chair in disbelief of this junk room, the shower head protruding over the toilet with a drain in the middle of the floor- hadn’t seen that since a hostel in Malaysia. Maybe we are getting spoiled with our trips in Europe or coming from our resort hotel in Iguazu but there was no part of me that wanted to stay here for 4 nights. Binnson downloaded an amazing voice recognition translator app on his phone and we went back to the front desk to ask to see another room. She took us to the room right beside and wow, night and day, still not amazing but had a real shower with a curtain and everything. We settled in and went out to see the main square and grab some dinner.

We were about 8 blocks from the plaza and about 2 blocks into our walk when it started to rain. The forecast called for rain so we had brought an umbrella along and didn’t let it deter us from our mission. Four blocks in and it was raining unbelievably hard, the wind tried to steal our umbrella and then side soaked us from different angles. The streets started to swell up on to the sidewalk when we took shelter on a small cement pad between two buildings. We contemplated going back but we were already over half way... plus we were hungry, what to do?! As we stood on our 4x4ft cement pad looking out into the street we realized that everything is closed, that’s when it dawned on us – it’s Sunday! Sunday is a dreadful curse for many travelers in many countries, while still on a schedule/itinerary sometimes we forget that the locals are living their real lives and taking a day off. Negatives were outweighing the positives but we decided to push on... we ran from building to building and shelter to shelter, completely soaking when we arrived at an open pizza place right on the corner of the main square. Rain- 0, Us – 1.

Salta is a cute town but there is not much to do. Even when you try to go see something it is always closed due to the very well observed siesta time. Basically from 1-5pm, sometimes later, you might as well stay home. All the stores, some restaurants, museums, churches, etc were all closed. This made it very difficult to try and see anything! We came to Salta with the sole purpose of taking a day tour out to the Salinas Grandes and went to a travel agency to book it right away. There were two tours available to take and after many years of cheaping out on tours we decided to take the more expensive option and go on a Movitrack tour. Movitrack uses giant tanks to get around instead of crappy minivans and well, how could we resist.

We had a day to kill before our tour so we headed to a gondola ride that goes up the side of the mountain and then you can either ride back down or take a nice little hike to the statue of Salta’s hero. I guess I had forgotten Binnson’s irrational fear of gondolas but was quickly reminded the minute we left the platform, “Oh god, oh my godddddddd, if we fall from here we are so screwed, oh my goddddddd, yep if we fall from here we are going to die for sure, quit moving around – are you crazy?, how much longer is this thing going to take, *que rattling from passing by a cable support* oh my god –what the hell was that?” At the top of the ride there was a nice park with some man-made waterfalls and a little restaurant. We walked around and enjoyed the view before starting our hike down. The hike was interesting, along the entire path there are monuments for each commandment – there was one guy who would stop and pray at each one on the way down only to turn around and run back up the hill.

There was no shortage of stray dogs, pregnant people, and newborns in Salta. Dogs are everywhere and they surprisingly all look pretty healthy, you can find them on every street, sleeping under every bench, at the park, on the roof, tagging along with random humans, everywhere. There was also a noticeably large population of pregnant people and people with newborns, I haven’t done any research on it but I’m thinking a fertility god must have sprinkled the good stuff on this city... or maybe they had a really cold winter. I did notice two fertility clinics around town so perhaps that had something to do with it.

The morning of our tour we were to meet at the Tastile office by 6:20am, the office was about 20 minutes walking distance away and accordingly we planned to be awake at 5:45am. Binnson was having a rough morning, he didn’t get much sleep the night before and to top it off that morning an arm on his glasses broke right off while he was getting ready. Luckily he had packed contacts as we really didn’t have any time to spare. It was still dark outside when we arrived at the office to join our group of half-awake people waiting for our tank, everyone started to perk up when it roared around the corner to pick us up. Our guide, Remi, was really great and super knowledgeable, there were only 6 of us who spoke English and he made sure we were well taken care of and informed.

The tour started at the “Train to the Clouds” (which is not in use during this season and now only used for tourists) and continued on to a couple of small towns before heading to the Salt Flats. I was stunned and a little choked to find out when we arrived that the flats are completely flooded at this time of year. Visions of all of the fun cheesy perspective photos that I had planned slowly faded away, never anywhere had I read that in summer these flats are consistently full of water and then dry for the rest of the year. Deciding to make the most of it, we took off our socks and shoes and hopped in. The salt was so sharp on the soles of our feet but we had committed to making the best of it, plus other tourists were doing it too so we were going to attempt some cheesy photos and have fun with it. The sun reflecting off the water was super intense but I didn’t care how hot I was – my jacket was not coming off! Sunburn numero tres was not in my future. Our legs were coated with salt when we headed back to the truck for lunch and our faces were burning. We both ended up being a little pink... Sun – 34554279, Us – 0. The Salt Flats are at 3450m altitude and after our stop there we kept going up above the clouds to a total of 4170m before we descended back down to Purmamarca, here our guide surprised us with wine and cheese to conclude our tour before we eventually made our way back to Salta. Next stop, Bariloche!

Additional photos below
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Tight Squeeze

3 m of road for 2 vehicles on the mountain switchbacks is not enough... We lost and had to reverse to make way

15th February 2014

Haven't seen llamas in Argentina so this is a great find...great scenery as well

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