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Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part III

Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part III

Old Jun 6th, 2008, 06:54 PM
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Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part III

On a nice Sunday morning we took a cab to the domestic airport (30 pesos) and flew w. LAN to Salta. The plane left on time and was a comfortable, clean new plane; they don’t make them like this any longer for flights in the US… Slightly more than 2 hours later we landed in Salta where the driver sent out by Irene Mintzer was waiting for us (was part of the package). It took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel, Hotel Almeria. The hotel is relatively new, we were quite pleased with it. It is close to the center of town, in a quiet area. It has an outdoor roof top hot tub, a small exercise room, a nice restaurant. Salta is an interesting city, many colonial buildings, a lively center, a cable car up to a park on the top of a hill; the view from there is very nice. We didn’t have a lot of time to see the city but we managed to go to the Craft Market and at night to a pena (La Vieja Estacion). Here we had a good dinner and watched a well performed folkloric show. One of the pleasant surprises was a couple sitting next to us. They didn’t speak any English but we understood that they came from BA to celebrate the wife’s birthday. When the cake arrived they insisted that we share it with them. The experience made the evening special.

Next morning Viviana picked us up at 7am and dropped us off at 8pm. We drove to the North through a tropical forest, then through Juyjuy to Purmamarca where we the hills are “painted”. Viviana gave us a special tour around the colorful mountain. From there we headed towards Tilcara, a nice little town with some amazing partially restored former homes of the incas. Next we drove to the Salinas Grandes. The road itself is spectacular. The Salt Flats are hard to visualize. From afar, they look like huge white lake. When I first walked on them I felt like on the top of a frozen lake and thought that I have to be careful not to slip. No danger, the surface was coarse. The day was incredibly bright, no clouds, a very blue sky with shining sun over the endless white “lake” of salt surrounded by mountains made the scenery eerie. Viviana told us that when people drive around they use a GPS to avoid getting lost, which is very easy to do. We saw the way the locals collect the salt, it is very hard work; we saw how the surface is showing hexagons of salt, similar to shape of the salt crystals. It was definitely worth the trip. On the way back we saw many wild donkeys roaming around. It was a very long but also very eventful day. We learned a lot from Viviana who knew the area and its history very well. On our way back we stopped at Irene’s office. Irene is juggling three jobs: she is running the travel agency with her mother, she is teaching at a local collage and she is a mother of 3. It was nice to get to know them.

The following day Juan picked us up with a 4D. This time we had company, two travel agents from BA, Fernando & Sergio. They came to learn more about the region. They spoke English so we had many interesting conversations over the next few days. First we traveled to Cachi through incredible scenery. The area has a very interesting micro climate, in fact a few of them. It is high desert and there is no rain between April and October after which the rainy season brings a LOT of water. The locals figured out how to deal with this and they have fertile lands where they grow tobacco, vegetables, fruits. One can see many huge river beds, completely empty. We went through a National Park with very tall cactai, very different landscape, and impressive gorges with all kind of rock formations, really high up, some places above 4,000m. Juan explained the reasons for the way the rocks looked like. The car had AC and we needed it because it was quite hot and in many places very dusty. We arrived mid-day in Cachi, a small but pretty town with many stray but friendly dogs. We stayed at El Cortijo. The hotel is very clean and interesting, with friendly staff. They do not speak English but that was not a problem. Each room is different and rustic but very pleasant with all the modern comforts except AC. However that was not needed as the fortress like walls kept the heat out and at night the temperature went down almost to freezing. In the morning we had to use the warm jackets for the first hour. We had our lunch and dinner in the center of the town and both times I had a “locro” soup which I really enjoyed. Locro is a hearty thick stew popular along the Andes mountain range. It is considered the most typical Argentine dish prepared by the different native Indian tribes at a time of the Spanish conquest. The main ingredients are corn, beans some meat, hot "chorizo" or hot Spanish sausage and vegetables.

Next day we took off heading for Cafayate. The road again was spectacular, reminded me of Arizona. We stopped in a very small village and visited a local craftsman who showed us how he produces hand made wool rugs and ponchos. I fell in love with a red one and bought it. I am not sure when exactly I will use it but if nothing else, it is a life time reminder of this trip. Cafayate is a larger township and it has a famous cheese factory and wine producers. We visited the cheese factory and the goat farm and were surprised to learn that while milked, the goats are listening to classical music. We also went for wine tasting the local wines that have a nice fruity flavor. There is even an ice cream store that sells wine ice cream. We stayed at Hotel Killa, highly recommended from every perspective.

The last day we drove back to Salta through a gorge. We stopped in a few places where the mountain formed amphitheatres. Some were used occasionally for concerts. The accoustic is impecable. Hippies were stationed in some of these places and some of them were playing music. We stopped many times to take pictures of red rocks and strange formations. The area looks like a huge Sedona. The time went by very quickly and by the time we noticed we were back in Salta. Juan gave us a tour of some of the very nice residential areas and took us out to see the small subtropical village of San Lorenzo about 20 miles away from Salta. From here we headed for the airport to catch our return flight to BA, this time with Aerolineas Argentine. We were not impressed by the treatment from the airline staff. The airline regulations are laxed, they didn’t care about what w as in our carry on luggage. We were requested to go into a waiting area where there was no air and it was hot. The plane was late and nobody said anything. Luckily the delay was only 40 minutes, we have heard about a lot worse. We arrived at the Mariott by mid-night ready for another 3 wonderful days in BA. The 4 days in the NW allowed us to see a very different part of the country, with a very different culture, geography and climate. At this time of the year the weather is gorgeous and it is off-season and as a result it is not crowded and it is less expensive. We barely saw tourists and the roads were quite empty. Everything worked out exactly as planned (thanks to Irene) and it was a great diversion from the busy city.
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2008, 02:55 AM
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Thank you for a great report, Suzanna!

I'm sure forum members will be interested and I'm glad you had a good time in our NW.

When should we expect you back, so we can have that dinner we missed?

avrooster is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2008, 04:23 AM
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thank you for posting!! I loved all the details you provided on what you saw. Brings back many happy memories for me! We did not go to see the Salt Flats, though, and your description gives me an idea of what we missed.
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Old Jun 7th, 2008, 06:58 AM
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Thanks so much for the trip report. We are thinking about taking a trip to Argentina in Feb - March. It was great to read all of your information and tips. With reports like yours, it really helps us decide if we want to go.
fontmn is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2008, 09:14 AM
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Thanks for the great reports.
It brings back so many wonderful memories. We were there in April.
I'm glad you had a good time.
kodi is offline  
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