Argentina > Salta
Salta city is north-west of Argentina, 22hrs from Mendoza and offers a year round balmy climate... Mendoza to Salta was a pleasant transition: another overnight business class bus and the sun ready and waiting for us at the other end. The transition from bus station to hostel and hostel to city centre however, was less pleasant, witnessing a man get knocked down by a car and two young Argentinean chavs embed their nails into each others throats. It turns out that rush hour in Salta is a bit of a zoo. At the other end of the spectrum, during work/school hours and siesta time, our only companions were the stray dogs that guard every street... Perfect for us when sitting in the picturesque plaza square. The closer to the square you go, the more beautiful the architecture becomes, which are all surrounded by natural orange trees - a couple of tourists soon confirmed that the oranges are inedible as they spat the "bitter" fruit out as quickly as they plucked them from the branch.
The next day, our grizzly bear Onno from Mendoza, checked in at the same hostel as us and invited us to hire a car and drive around Salta Province to visit a church and the construction site of a secondary school being funded by the pastor of the church and a friend of his from back home... 9am the next day, we put on our geeky backpacks and set off in a very cool Chevrolet Corsa. An hour or so later we arrived at the church which is in a lovely little town off of the tourist radar. When we arrived at the church we were taken to a hidden building where we were allowed to have a look around. We found the Pastor eating his lunch with 30+ children that was being freshly made by the families of these children. We discovered that the Pastor had built this for the poor people of the town, the rules being they have to grow all of their own food (they have vegetable/fruit plots, chickens and rabbits), prepare and cook it before enjoying it; teaching them to earn their shelter and their daily food. We were told that these rules were hard to put in place at first as all of the children despise vegetables, and the parents having to think of new ways to disguise them in the meals! These rules gives these people somewhere to go and something to do each day - feeding their appetite to keep them alive and making them feel alive by teaching them the values of working. After turning down platefuls of food; their generosity humbling us - we were told a few stories of why these people were here. Each one sad and unique, yet by the smiles on their faces, you wouldn't guess it, happily playing and asking this white girl for her autograph. It certainly helps putting things into perspective. A few whiskeys later (It's their equivalent to saying "cheese" when posing for a photo!) we were back on the road.
Due to time and money Nick and I were unable to get "the train to the clouds"; an infamous 14hr journey that literally takes you to the clouds, but it transpired that the route to the secondary school followed the train tracks to at least half way. At least in the car we could stop as many times as we wanted/needed and when driving through mountains, graveled hills, cactus forests and the most amazing scenery, there were plenty of stops!!
At the church a guy working on the construction site of the school asked to hitch a lift which meant he soon became our tour guide, showing us far away snow-topped mountains, telling us about the roadside graves and even becoming our photographer!
At the grounds of the school, we had a tour in their museum, which informed us of the rituals of the locals. This is to be the first secondary school in the area; education stops at primary level and so the Pastor wanted to give children the opportunity to better their lives and offer more to them than what is currently available.
The whole day was really inspiring and a great way to see Argentinean culture outside of the big cities. If our trip was longer than 3 months, we'd love to be able to do similar things at every destination we've been to.
Back at the hostel, feeling highly cultured and inspired, Nick and I found a new passion, a new love. Ping Pong. It's extremely addictive and the most exercise we've had for a while! Either that or something else for us to be competitive over and with the scores so tight, needing to play more games to establish a winner. I'd like to think it's the former reason... but that's only because I lost.
Ok, are you ready for it... we visited yet another statue. Just like all of the others, the statue itself wasn't impressive but the grounds it is held in was pretty and a pleasant one to walk around. Standing on top of St Bernard Hill made us realise how big Salta City really is... Following a group of locals, we came across a some musicians performing live music that was being broadcasted. We're not sure to where but we had fun listening and having a little dance to the Argentinean/Mexican music.
To be continued - we've got a train to catch!!
Ok so we've been on an 14hr death train (due to how painfully boring the journey is, not because of any danger/injury), arrived at a new destination and set up camp.... and now i´ll continue the Salta blog...
Our visit to Salta turned out to be not only a great location, but also a great place to meet people. Onno introduced us to a local girl who is a host on Couch Surfing. For those of you who don't know what Couch Surfing is: it's a worldwide online site where once you've made a profile you can ask to stay on someone's couch, for free - truly living like a local. If only we knew about this site two months ago! Although, she did tell us of how in Argentina, Couch Surfing is infamous for orgie-organising, and I can't speak for Nick but that's not how I would like to be introduced to a country. Anna, the host, took us and some other travelers to a local restaurant that is always busy, serve great typical Argentinean food, isn't aimed at "tourists" and a place where customers can ´sing for their supper´ accompanied by a musical instrument or two. Very traditional, a lot of fun and a great way to spend an evening, or two in our case.
With no strict agenda, Nick and I continued adding extra nights to our Hostel in Salta bill. This time, unlike Buenos Aires, not because the city has endless amounts to offer, but because of the socialising that became apparent. We would spend afternoons and evenings sat around a BBQ, cooking up our own food, drinking cheap wine and indulging in great company and conversation.
From here we are planning to head into Bolivia. We've only got 2 weeks until our flight from Rio so we need to squeeze as much of South America in as we can...! We hope you're all well.
Lots of love XXX
PS - More pictures to come once we find a computer that stops crashing!