Part of a “wandering” style of travel is a rejigging of plans as you go. A major rejigging occurred for us in Cordoba and we were lucky to be granted a refund for one night of Air BnB accommodation, allowing us to leave sooner than planned with no penalty. We decided to commit to a road trip and take in as much of northern Argentina as possible.
We are headed north to Salta in our rental car as I write this. Our present route includes one long day on the road north (about 9 hours but both Javier and I are driving) to Salta where we plan to stay two nights and them on to Jujuy for a couple of more nights and then a marathon drive across much of the north of Argentina to Iguazú falls, dropping south and finally returning the car to the airport in Cordoba by the 21st of February, in time to catch our first class “cama” (bed) bus for an overnight trip to Buenos Aires. Stay with me and we’ll see if we can make good enough time both see what we want to see and still enjoy ourselves.
Aha!!!! We made it to Salta from Cordoba in one day. A long day of driving but we kept our bilingual car hopping the Spanglish lessons and singing and games. There were some interesting events along the way. On occasion it poured rain and made driving difficult and both Javier and I had to drive their some pretty challenging conditions. At one point, about half way to Salta there was a really bad localized windstorm that tore the serrated tin roofs off the houses in a little pueblo. We could see the people of the pueblo in the aftermath as they stood outside their homes, looking around, a little stunned and they looked to be searching the streets for family members. Emergency crews were already on hand and judging by the ambulances there were some injuries. Not long afterward, the sun came out, the air temperature rose and we were in a swarm of pale yellow butterflies for some time. Sadly we took out a few with the windshield but there were thick clouds of them and likely there were enough survivors.
Reaching Salta late in the evening we booked ourselves into the lovely Hotel Salta, right on the main square where everything is easy to get too. I loved the hotel, it was old, colonial, clean and I had a great view of the square. We stayed three nights in Salta, one more than planned because we liked it so much, even with the cloudy weather we could understand why Argentinians call it “Salta La Linda”. The hotel manager, Geraldo is from Mexico City, a very nice man and seemingly very happy to chat with his compadres from Ciudad. He has lived in Argentina for many years and rarely gets back to Mexico.
The first morning in Salta was spent wandering to get the lay of the land, and then in the afternoon, visiting first a museum of archeology and then a museum of the history dedicated to one of the War of Independence heroes that hailed from Salta. In the archeological museum there were three perfectly preserved mummies of children who had been selected to meet their ancestors “early”. Not necessarily a sacrifice as the Incas believed that their early exit would assure prosperity for the living and happiness for the dead. There were loads of photos of the poor little things but only one was on actual display. In another part of the museum was a mummy who had made the circuit of private salons where in modern times, collectors were prone to displaying strange objects. Eventually she was repatriated to Salta from whence she came. In the big scheme of things the Incas were only in this part of the Andes a brief century a half before the Spaniards turned up. The second museum was about Guermes, the beloved son and hero of Salta who led the “Gauchos” in the war of Independence but was himself killed. A hero of the war of independence he has numerous parks, squares, roads, restaurants etc named after him. The multi-media exhibit in the museum is very entertaining and well done. Javier liked it because you only had to listen, not read. I have a tip though…..if an Argentine woman asks you what the word equivalent of “gaucho” is in Canada, take some time to consider before you answer with “cowboy.”
It was easy to pass three days in Salta, it is safe, clean, beautiful and has many attractions including a touribus and a gondola. On the touribus you are driven past the highlights and for my benefit the guide threw in some English an Ali filled in the rest for me. We hit all the usual types of historical, political an social reminders of Salta’s past and near the end we were driven into the hills to look back on the city and enjoy it’s beauty. The cost of these excursions is very cheap and as I said before most things we want to do are very affordable, and of course walking is free and we did plenty of that. Salta is where we really started to enjoy Bife Chorizo, which oddly enough is a steak, not a sausage. My Mexican friends are having their fill because of course in Mexico beef is expensive and the cuts are limited. Many a Malbec was sacrificed along with the vacas which added to our culinary experiences.
Another noteworthy event in Salta, was that Ale made her debut on stage in one of the “penas”, basically a friendly type of bar where you are invited to the stage to sing and dance. With very little encouragement she took up the challenge, singing a Mexican folk song, exhorting her audience to “Come on Salta”, “I love you Salta” “thank you Salta” etc. Until finally a large table of fans yelled back, “we are not from Salta”. (Video not included)