Our first Argentinian destination fulfilled all my Argentina stereotypes: fantastic steak, Messi football tops being worn around town and we even saw a guy at the border with a Falklands badge on his backpack. I nearly went over and said "wow have you been there?" and then I saw it said 'Malvinas siempre (always) Argentina'. Good job I didn't cause an international blunder after only being in the country for 5 minutes. (But for the record they're British.) During the bus ride from Chile we passed the beautiful colourful rocks of Pumamarca and also "steaks on legs" as Katy called them - yes Katy they're cows.
So we arrived in Salta after a long 10 hour bus and were delighted to check into an amazing place with a swimming pool, a gym (a first for us and no we didn't use it) and an incredibly helpful owner called Tomer - an amazing recommendation from Tijs and Jacqueline. This place was cheap for us because we were using the Blue Dollar rate. After a quick shower we headed out for steak but first we had to get our Blue Dollars. In Argentina the economy is in a mess and inflation is reported at 25% so some Argentinians prefer to change their pesos into US dollars. They do this by buying US dollars in cash at about 33% more than they are worth. So once we changed our US dollars into pesos on the street everything is 33% cheaper for us. This is technically illegal but the police turn a blind eye and the rates our even published in newspapers. We changed our dollars in three amounts over our time in Salta but as the biggest note is only worth a fiver we ended up with bundles of the things; we now just need to find places to hide them.
Anyway back to the steak; it was so tender that the waiter could cut it in half with a spoon for us to share it. It was so good! You can get steak like this in England but it won't cost £2.50 and you'll have to look very hard for it.
Throughout South America in almost every place we had seen Argentinian hippies selling jewellery or juggling and here was no different apart from there were even more of them.
The next day, our first and last full day in Salta, we climbed the hill next to town to get a view of the city and to work off our steak. We caught the cable car down and went to a recommended empanada place for lunch. They were much smaller than the ones in Chile but very tasty. We then walked around the city a bit and Katy was very excited to buy some good toiletries - the perks of civilisation. We then returned to our hostel (buying some expensive bus tickets on the way) and chilled in the pool for the rest of the afternoon. For dinner we tried another recommended steak restaurant - this one was a lot posher but wasn't really worth the extra spend but was obviously still so good.
Tijs and Jacqueline had told us that we had to go horse riding in the countryside; at first we thought we hadn't the time but after hearing so many good things and being suggested a way to fit it in we decided to give it a go and travel much later that day to Cafayate. We were picked up and taken to a beautiful farm in beautiful country side and were greeted like long lost friends by the owners and the other guests. After a relaxed chat we got ready and were off. The horse riding was beautiful through green fields and past fields of tobacco and the drying facilities (some old ones used wood but most were modern and hooked up to large power grids). The guide got us to gallop, the fastest I've ever been. The horse riding was good but the real highlight of the day was the Asado (a traditional Argentinian BBQ). It was an all you could eat and drink affair and the wine came from the local monks. Apparently because the monks don't use any chemicals the wine doesn't give hangovers. I quickly learnt the first rule of an Asado: make friends with the cook. In this case it was a French guy who had turned up for two months work but hadn't left after six. Every time Katy got one piece of meat I got two. The meat was fantastic and we had sausages made with blue cheese and champagne and lots of different cuts of meat all well cooked. It turns out that Argentinians don't like rare meat. One of the other guests was a vegetarian but she was quickly eating meat - apparently she was the 25th vegetarian they have converted which made the elderly owner very happy. After two hours of eating and drinking it was sadly time to leave and catch our bus to Cafayate. But as we were saying goodbye I got one of the best compliments of my life; my new French friend said to me "Simon you eat well".