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Published: February 9th 2016
R: So, while Cate gets to tell you about our day on the ranch (see previous post), I get to tell you about the rest of our start to Argentina.
We started out, as previously mentioned, with a bus ticket we didn't know would work. Everyone said it wouldn't, remember? It did work. People in San Pedro de Atacama know nothing. Our 9am departure from San Pedro rolled out at around 10:50am, so we were off to a flying start. For some reason, the online booking engine gave us a row which did not exist in "semi-Cama" seating (ie. Basic seats) and had instead given us "Cama" (fully reclining, leather seats) for the same price. Win! The bus company (Frontera del Norte) was better than the previous one (Tur Bus) and provided snacks and tea! The film of choice was Fantasic Four this time, dubbed again into Spanish - it was actually quite noticeable that we were some of the only foreigners on the bus. The bus trundled slowly through the desert up into the Andes via scenery akin to what you have already seen in the other blogs.
After about 2 hours, we ground to a halt -
border control! This was an arduous process consisting of 4 stages which seemed to get more pointless one after another. Anyway, with fresh ink in the passport, our popcorn once again maKing it through Argentinian customs, and 2 whole hours later, off we went again. And that's when it got really interesting. The scenery for the next three hours was stunning. We crossed at Paso Jamo, and then went down across the Andes into Argentina, via the salt flats of Northern Argentina, which had been flooded, leaving giant reflecting pools of water, dotted with cone shaped piles of Salt throughout them. (Note, our bus windows were covered in dust and salt, so my photos aren't that great). We passed lagoons with resident flamingos and Vacunias lined the road and groups of them swarmed around nearby. The road itself was extremely steep with numerous switchbacks and a great view down of the road to come, snaking off into the valley in the distance. The rocks themselves were vivid red, orange, greens, and there were cacti dotted all over them. I'm glad the bus had good brakes.
We arrived on a flatter section, and route 9, about the time we were
supposed to arrive in Salta, but we still had 2 hours and one stop to go. By the time the bus pulled in at Salta it was 2 hours late and I was in no mood for the man who wouldn't let go of my backpack until I gave him a tip. Our ATM card refused to work, so we couldn't get a cab to our hotel, so we had to walk, but it turned out alright... The long, main park that runs through the city was lined with foodstalls and music and people out for a 10pm walk. We quickly found an ATM and McDonalds, and decided not to join the locals that night.
Next day was off to the ranch, and we returned on Saturday at about 12pm. We did a bit of city sightseeing, but apart from the main square, Salta hasn't got that much to recommend. The square is pretty - Spanish colonial style buildings and a pretty park. So we sat out for lunch, I ordered a beer - which turned out to come in a Champagne bucket and was a whole litre (I Wish they served two pints like this in England!) and
people watched. In the evening we headed out for steak and red wine - £3 a bottle! And merrily wandered home.
It's Carnival time here at the moment and there have been various musical events in the main square with dance and horse-battle reenactments and parades to keep us entertained, so every now and then, we have just stopped and watched.
There is a giant hill outside Salta with a gondola that rides to the top. Along with everyone else in Salta, we decided to do this on Sunday. There's a nice park at the top, where we grabbed a jug of lemonade and some Empanadas at a cafe and enjoyed the view, before strolling around the various view points over the city. We had to queue for over an hour to get up here, so we were determined to enjoy it. It's still pretty warm here, and muggy too. There's been various epic thunderstorms overnight while we have been here. Neither of us have been feeling too good, so in the afternoon we decided to attack the plans for the next part of the trip. Looking for a repeat of the steak/wine experience of the previous night,
we headed out, only to come away with a hideous bottle of white wine and rabbit in pineapple sauce - not what I was after. Oh well, we got given some free Champagne!
Neither of us still feeling that well, we booked a flight to take us to Buenos Aires, instead of a night bus to Cordoba and then a flight. The next day we did a ABC (all bloody churches) tour of town so we had seen most of the religion the town could offer, before heading to the airport for our 2.5 hour flight to Buenos Aires. Having now arrived in BA, we know we made the right decision to fly. (Look at it on a map, it's a long way!).
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