Salta and a little of what we've learnt in Argentina
As you head further North in Argentina, you begin to notice the change in people's faces. No longer European but Andean. A look that will characterise our next two months as we venture through the North of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. The most noticeable physical difference of which is height. Rory's started to look likely he is in Gulivers Travels and at 5,3 I am tall. We thought we looked foreign before.
So our first stop to unfold the culture, history and lifestyle of the local people was Salta. The hostel choice on offer was not fantastic so we stayed at Posada Casa de Hernandez, a B&B. Clean, good breakfasts and comfortable. The city itself is marked by the main square that is very colonial featuring grand buildings and churches including Iglesia San Francisco. Day and night it was lively around the surrounding square with restaurants and bars. However, our favourite stop was a bar La Criollita selling very tasty empanadas costing less than a pound (rumours say the North is best for this) which of course was leading to a healthy diet once again.
The city is best viewed from Cumbre del Cerro San Bernardo, which can be reached by walking, cycling or cable car. We took the latter of course to appreciate the modern engineering offered in Sucre and also the views are great the entire way up.
Reaching the Andean culture, one area we were interested to delve in to was the former Incan Empire. There was no better way to start than visiting the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana. It sounds a little creepy and it kind of is but here they have three perfectly preserved Incan children of sacrifice from 500 years ago. The reason they are still in tact is because they were buried (alive!) at an altitude of 6000 meters. The temperature ensured everything from their dress, their expression and ceremonial objects they were buried with are visible to see.
Only one child is shown every 6 months in order to preserve the bodies. We were able to view a 6 year old girl who let's say didn't look happy. I don't think I would be after finding yourself in the ground (as part of the ceremony the Incans would give the children alcohol so they would pass out before being buried and offered to the gods). However, it was incredible to see up close details such as her braided hair, sandals made from wool and also a burnt patch on her face after lighting had hit the ground 300 years after burial. We left quite in awe, I had quite scary dreams but netheless keen to find out more on our journey.
Alongside the history, we took a day to explore the surrounding landscape. We had earmarked Juyjuy (a 3 hour journey from Salta) after seeing amazing photos of the destination. We were not disappointed. The 7 coloured mountains were a particular highlight ranging from oranges, pinks and red. We also went to what we thought was a cactus park (there were hundreds!), took photos of ourselves hiding behind them, took more photos of the amazing landscape, left and realised we should of picked up the guide as it was actually an ancient remains of an Incan village. We might pick up a guide a little earlier next time...
After an interesting few days, we booked our bus to leave Argentina (last Argentine border crossing out of a total of 6!) and head to Chille for one last stop in San Pedro de Atacama. Argentina, whilst expensive (the most expensive country we've been to yet in South America) is perhaps one of the most beautiful countries we have ever visited for scenery. From the South, Patagonia to the North in Salta /Juyjuy it has not failed to impress. As with Brazil, we'll finish by rounding off what we learnt :
Dulce de leche is adored by Argentines. The thick sweet caramel sauce is everywhere. Spread it on toast, in cakes, in chocolate and all kinds of deserts.
Maté - even Che Guevarra said he could think best with a cup of Maté
You're are no-one if you don't wear platforms. This is for women of course, we're not talking about some kind of glam rock revival across the Atlantic.
They cannot pronounce Rory. This is kind of a South American trend but Argentines especially cannot comprehend a double syllable r. From now on Roy will suffice.
They love ice cream, so much so in Buenos Aires they actually do delivery. Don't be surprised if you're in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a heladoria.
Blue dollar - azimo is a life saver
Eat a lot more of the cow than we do - asado with tripe
Heavily influenced by Italians.
The country with perhaps the most diverse scenery in the world: glaciers, volcanoes, lakes, vineyards, snow caped mountains, colourful mountains, modern, ancient, both European and Andean. You name it, you can find it.