Salta....End of Argentina.....doesn't have a moustache.
Our bus trip to Salta wasn't the best. Very very cold and very hard to get a good night's kip! We all disembarqued the bus shivering and with cricks in our necks - we stood out already, it didn’t help that we were all leaning to the right! One positive of the Flecha bus experience was the showing of "The Illusionist" in ENGLISH! Absolutely rubbish film but the fact that it was in English made it Oscar worthy in our eyes!
Arriving at the bus station, we looked out for the rep from the Backpackers home Hostel which had been recommended by some of our fellow travellers. Taxi to the hostel was complimentary so that saved us a lot of pointing at maps and saying Backpackers home over and over. Now, our first mistake was thinking that free meant good! We were led out to the "taxi rank" by our rep only to be greeted by 4 tin cans with wheels! We kid you not! We split into 2’s and Maggy actually saw her taxi driver push his car to the front of the taxi rank! SAFE! Sarah and Eilis headed off in tin can numero uno and Eimear and Maggy followed in tin can numero dos - within which the driver’s door couldn’t open anymore so he had to enter in via the passenger´s seat.
Got to the hostel white knuckled and a bit out of breath and checked in to a room of 5 beds - no roomies hurray! After we had been fed and watered we decided to head up to the teleferico- a cable car which brings you to the top of the mountain overlooking Salta (Cerro San Bernardo) which gives very pretty views of city. Arrived to discover the baloody cable car was closed - had to walk instead didn’t we! 1070 steps to the summit (that 1070 does not include the walk to the foot by the way). It was spectacular once we got there but it was a very sweaty and steep climb - of course we thought we were invincible and didn't bother bringing water or any sort of energy giving substances with us. It wasn't the worse though- good training for the Inca Trail. We were all pretty happy with our pace and stamina until we were over taken by 2 women in their 60’s, one with weights in her hands and the other with weights strapped onto her ankles. Bit of a dent to the confidence after that!
That night we enjoyed our complimentary dinner in the hostel and a few bevvies in the "Babylon Bar". Here we met the lovely Siobhan from Esssex (who will feature a lot in future episodes) and we instantly had a fifth member to our possie! The entire crowd in the hostel seemed to form a group straight away so we had a little circle of friends to go out with. Small world actually, we met 3 girls from Dublin who went to college in Tallaght I.T and who are Bessie mates with Sarah McCourt. Met one interesting Argentinean who took a shining to Eimear and Maggy, hilarious. Once he heard Eimear had a boyfriend he swiftly moved on to Maggy explaining to Eimear "I love you but I am in love with her"! As with our previous experiences of Argentinean men he was fairly persistent, at one stage literally pushing Eimear up on the bench to get to sit beside Maggy. Needless to say the 2 girls politely made their excuses and hightailed it to another table! The staff in the bar doubled up as a band so we experienced some of the local tunes - very impressed by them (see video) but they turned a bit Christy Moore on us a few times telling us to shush while they were playing. We had a fairly tame night - a crowd was going out from the hostel after the bar closed (2am - night only starts at this stage in Argentina) but we had booked in for a tour the following morning starting 7am so Sarah, Maggy and Eimear hit the hay while Eilis and Siobhan decided to head out for a night on the tiles.
Following morning, 6.30am had to drag Eilis out of bed, think she had half an hour's sleep max! We got her on her feet and off we headed on our trip. The tour was to bring us on a round trip of the surrounding region. Here in Salta there is a famous “train to the clouds” (El Tren a las Nubes) which travels through amazing landscape of Northwest Argentina. It is one of the “must do” attractions in Salta – basically a typical gringo activity. Good marketing behind it too "Reach the sky with your hand"! We were too cheap to get the actual train ($150….scoff) so we got a bus that just drove along the tracks of the train! In the end didn't even get to see the baloody train.
Highlights of the tour
Laughing at Eilis all day - very hungover! She pretty much slept through the whole trip, at one stage the guide actually stopped her spiel and asked "Is Eilis still alive down there?"
Visiting the small little native Argentinean towns- one of them had only 30 people living there!
Getting to see loads of llamas and Cacti.
The purchase of Audrey - our special llama friend (will feature in photos a LOT).
The Salt Flats - These were a mini version of what we hope to see in Bolivia. Really interesting to see- salt lakes, houses and ornaments made from salt. Our guide explained all about how the salt is harvested- not the kind of farming to get into if you want to make a lot of money…the salt is literally worth nothing and takes forever to dry (11 months for 1 tonne). Sarah reached into a small salt pool with her hand and the guide flipped out and said she was crazy….only making Sarah assume her hand was about to burn off, which you think the guide would have mentioned before letting us loose on the salt plains….nothing happened though, except continuous examination of the hand for a few hours after.
During the tour we got to meet more "real" Argentineans. We were out in the mountainous Jujuy region and the people who live here are much more Bolivian looking- very weathered, poorer in appearance and more traditional style of dress. Very interesting to see the contrast between these people and the people we were meeting in the likes of Salta,Cordoba and Buenos Aires.
The tour was supposed to be over at 9pm but we got back at 7pm. We weren't complaining though- we were all toured out by then!
That night, hair and slap done we headed to the Babylon for drinkies- Happy Hour 2 drinks for 15 pesos (that’s 3 euro folks!). Our poison of choice here in Salta is Cuba Libres (Rum & Coke) so we got a few of them into us. There was a dancing show to assist the bar staff band tonight – both Eilis and Maggy were brought up on stage. These 2 aren’t known for their graceful dance moves but in fairness their partners managed to make them look like they knew what they were doing! 2 o’clock rolled around and we headed to da club! Great night had by all.
The following day Sarah had one of her legendary hangovers – she looked like death, couldn’t help but feel sorry for her! The rest of the gang didn’t feel much better so that was a slow day. Took it easy and just sauntered around the city. It was then we copped on to the sport of Gringo Perving. Absolutely unbelievable. You cannot walk down the road without getting shouted at, getting blown kisses or beeped at. Really don’t get it – hungover, greasy hair, sun burnt faces and trackie bottoms- whatever floats your boat mates. Examples of such behaviour include one guy tripping over a kerb whilst staring at Eimear and Eilis and Maggy getting “sexy vanilla” hollered at them!
Our last night in Salta we headed out with the 3 Dublin girls (minus Sarah who was still suffering). Night rolled into the morning and we arrived home to the hostel just in time for breakfast. Good timing or what! Another hang out day ensued where we just lounged by the pool until it was time to get our bus. The pool by the way, was one of the deciding factors for us in choosing Backpackers Home. When we got there decked out in bikinis all a ready the pool was empty……yep bone dry! We seriously have the worst luck of all time!
We topped the evening off nicely with a steak dinner in El Viejo Jacks (steak addiction had seriously set in at this stage) before picking up Siobhan and heading to the station to catch our half 12 bus to Tupiza.........