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Published: September 10th 2013
Armed with Pesos, which I obtained at a decent (50% better than the official) rate in Encarnacion, I crossed the bridge to Posadas, Argentina. My plan for the next couple of weeks was to travel west, towards Salta, then north (and uphill) to the Bolivian border. Instead of staying in Posadas, I decided to make some immediate headway and booked a bus ticket to Resistencia, around six hours away. With what seemed like plenty of time to spare, I had a leisurely lunch and looked on the internet for a place to stay - unfortunately, it seemed there were no hostels in Resistencia, so I would have stay in an expensive (£20 a night at my favourable exchange rate) hotel. However, I forgot that Argentina was an hour ahead of Paraguay, and so when I arrived at the platform, my bus was long gone! After another three hour wait for the next bus, during which I attempted, in broken Spanish on the phone, to find a hotel that would take me at my arrival time of 1 am (at the third attempt, I believed I had been successful but wasn't 100 percent sure), I was underway. I'd heard good things about
Argentinian buses and I wasn't disappointed, as I was served a pretty good chicken meal followed by a glass of Champagne!
Fortunately my reservation had been confirmed and I enjoyed the rare luxury of having a room to myself at the Hotel Colon, near Resistencia's main plaza. The next day, I met up with a local called Armando, who I had got in touch with through Couchsurfing. There are more than 500 sculptures dotted around the city, and we took the free city bus tour which passed many and stopped at the sculpture museum. Resistencia hosts a biennial competition, during which artists from around the world descend on the city to build a sculpture in seven days.
On the next day, Armando was working in the afternoon, but we met up in the evening and travelled to his home city, Corrientes, just across the river from Resistencia. We headed to a restaurant on the river front - a glance at my watch during dinner revealed it was 1:30 in the morning and the restaurant was still in full swing! Aftwerwards, we headed to a bar, then a disco nearby where we met some of Armando's friends and stayed
until it closed at 7am, at which point the heavens opened so I took a taxi back to the hotel, arriving just in time for breakfast! I had a great few days in a non-touristy part of the country and it was a privilege to spend time with Armando, who was a very generous host.
My next destination was Salta, a city of half a million people in north-west Argentina. The city is very Spanish in appearance with some impressive and colourful buildings. I went to the archaelogical museum, which houses the perfectly preserved remains of an inca child sacrificed in the Andes around 500 years ago. At the hostel, I met Andrew from Pennsylvania, USA and we walked up the San Bernardo hill, which gave a good view of the city and surroundings. Andrew and I were keen to explore the surrounds and decided to hire a car for two days. Driving presented a challenge for both of us - me, because I had never driven on the right before, and Andrew, because the car was manual shift. However, we made it out of the city unscathed and headed south for the wine-making town of Cafayate, stopping at
the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) rock formation on the way.
In Cafayate, we did a wine tasting at the Bodega Domingo Hermanos. We sampled three wines (two of which contained the local torrontes grape) and a cheeseboard was included, all for less than a pound! We managed to sample two wines elsewhere for free but the remaining bodegas (wineries) in town were closed, which brought to an end our mission to get drunk on the cheap. We headed back to Salta the next day, stopping in the quaint town of Cachi for lunch. At 2500 metres above sea level, it was noticeably chilly here. We carried on towards Salta but were met by flooding from an unseasonable rainstorm on the way. Having contemplated spending the night in our little Chevrolet, we decided, after about an hour, to take on the flooded section of the road - thankfully we made it through!
At the hostel in Cafayate, Andrew and I met Mariano from Buenos Aires, who was heading north to Bolivia like me. We met again in Salta, then the three of us headed to the small town of Purmamarca, which is famous for having mountains of seven
With Andrew and Mariano in Purmamarca
With seven-coloured mountains in the background
colours. We spent a day walking and enjoying the scenery, before moving on to Humahuaca. We arrived just in time to see the animated Saint Francisco Solano figure make his daily appearance at the church at midday. The town also includes an impressive monument to the heroes of the independence, at the top of a staircase where there are good views of the surroundings. Andrew left us here as he was planning to take the bus to Chile, while Mariano and I carried on up to the Bolivian border which lies between the towns of La Quiaca and Villazon, around 3500 metres above sea level.
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