A surprisingly difficult last journey through Argentina
29.02.2016 - 08.03.2016 28 °C
With the bus finally able to pass through the Andes from Chile to Argentina, we enjoyed the 8 hour bus ride through beautiful scenic mountains into Salta, the largest city in the north of Argentina. We found a nice hostel in Salta and headed straight our for a late dinner. The friendly owner suggested a nearby place to buy empanadas, which Salta is famous for. We shared a dozen meat empanadas ($8) which were absolutely delicious, thin shells of baked pastry stuffed with chunks of beef and veges. We added ½ a litre of Argentina wine when we realised it cost $3. It turned out to be the best wine so far in our entire trip, although to be honest that isn't saying much.
The next day we had a look around Salta, which seemed to be winning a competition against itself for the brightest coloured cathedrals. It was a really nice city and felt a lot more developed and familiar than anywhere we had been in a long time.
We also visited a museum which had a lot of old artefacts, including ancient voodoo dolls and well preserved mummies of Incan children who had been sacrificed. After our amazing experience with empanadas the night before it wasn't hard to persuade the boys to visit the ‘Patio of Empanadas’, an open patio with about ten shops, all selling various types of empanadas. Every single one was delicious, although only Peter was adventurous enough to try the tripe one!!!
The next day we had booked a tour up north to see the hills famous for their many colours and the 33rd UNESCO world heritage site we had visited on our trip. Our guide was excellent and also gave us a really good explanation of the history of the area, which was particularly bloody as it changed hands multiple times during the war of independence with the Spanish. After retracing the last 2 hours of our bus ride from Chile we arrived at the cute town of Pumamarca, which is very popular with tourists due to the seven coloured mountains which can be viewed from the town. We were suitably impressed.
Seven coloured mountains
Anoher stop at ruins in the valley which used to be a trading outpost
The other main stop was at Humahuaca, a similarly touristy town which is famous for the fourteen coloured mountains which were ok but nothing special. We also stopped at an early 1600's church and another set of colourful mountains, called the 'painters palate' which were nice in the afternoon sun.
The painters palate
We arrived back in Salta quite late and made the easy decision to get empanadas from the place we went on our first night again. Peter wasn't feeling well the next day, I blame a delayed reaction from the tripe empanadas a couple of days earlier, so David and I explored solo for the day. We went to another museum which was 100% in spanish and looked at all sorts of mildly interesting displays like old vases, cloth, pictures of stern faced revolutionary leaders, and religious paintings. The highlight was the veranda, which had a lovely view of the main plaza. We then had a look in the markets and learnt to be careful when ordering food here, our meal for two was gigantic!!! Most of the shops closed from 2-4 so we decided a siesta was in order. When we woke up at around 5 we were still full from lunch, so we decided to climb the hill which overlooks Salta. It was a really nice climb, with greenery along the road, although it took us about 3 hours return.
The next day the three of us had booked another tour, this one to the wine country of Cafayate, which is in some lists of the most romantic cities in the world. The drive was beautiful and we passed through some very diverse countryside.
We got lunch at the famous Casa de Empanadas and bought more empanadas of course. These were amazing, with blue cheese, goat cheese, and some amazing local flavours. After that we toured a local vineyard and tried the first of the local wines which were fantastic. The late harvest wines were too sweet for us but the rest were fantastic, and we were interested to taste the white wine from the Torrontes grape which the region is famous for.
On our first morning we tried to withdraw cash and it was here where we first ran into trouble. We had exchanged some US dollars which has lasted us for the first few days but now needed some cash from an ATM. Having not had trouble anywhere else we assumed that Argentina, being more developed, would be a breeze. There were only 2 ATM's in Cafayate, and the banks didn't open on the weekends (we had arrived on Friday night). One of the ATM's didn't work with our cards and the other has run out of cash! We queued up for an hour a second time after they topped up the ATM at 10am but the ATM ran out of money before we reached the front of the queue!!! We counted our money and had about $14 between the three of us until we got back to Salta in 2 days time! We managed to make it last by restricting our vineyard visits and food options to places which would accept payments by credit card.
We visited some amazing vineyards but our clear favourite was El Transito, which had both delicious wine and a friendly, rugby-obsessed owner - we got in really well and ended up purchasing a fair amount of wine, some of which might even make it back to New Zealand!!! The first night we had a delicious Argentinean dinner with am amazing steak - the excuse of needing to pay with credit card 'forced' us to splash out on a nice meal.
That evening we tried Fernet, an Italian liquor which is very popular in Argentina and to be honest we hated it. We spent the last of our cash money on more empanadas for dinner and the next day we had ate bread for breakfast at our hostel and then were starving when arrived in Salta at 3. We finally found a working ATM and got a fantastic lunch, before discovering our next mishap. The laundromat where we had left our washing which we had left a couple of days earlier was shut as it was Sunday, and we had already booked an overnight bus out of town. Peter and Laura were keen to forgo the washing but David decided he would wait and bought another bus ticket for the next day.
Peter and I set off that night, leaving David to a night alone in Argentina. Our overnight bus arrived in Resistencia, halfway across Northern Argentina to Iguacu falls, early the next morning and we spent a reasonably quiet day looking around. It is famous for its sculptures which, while numerous, were not particularly varied or interesting. Meanwhile, David had found a hostel and become a walking, talking advert for travel in Bolivia for other tourists. After his extra day in Salta during our bus ride he caught an overnight to catch up to us.
The next morning we met David and our washing and jumped straight on another 10 hour bus to Iguacu - where we saw the final amazing nature of the trip and got our first taste of Brazil.