While in Salta, we booked ourselves onto a full day bus tour to Cafayate (hey it said including wine), choosing an English Tour we thought was a smart move. What we weren’t expecting, was to be on a bus full of Spanish speakers (no hablan ingles!) and for the poor tour guide to have to repeat everything in Spanish and in English! Whoops! He was rather entertaining though, and having taught himself English using British material, he sounded like somewhat of an Argentinian David Attenborough.
We wound our way out of Salta, heading south through some very barren looking pueblos. After a while the windows of the bus defogged, and we were able to see the surrounding area. The bus first takes you through the Calchaqui Valley past some stunning rocky scenery – all different shades of red, green and yellow could be seen, but unfortunately we’re rather hard to capture from a moving bus!
The pictures can explain the rest of the journey 🙂
Having already done free walking tours in Buenos Aires and Cordoba, we decided to head out on Monday morning to do the 2 hour walking tour around Salta. We were led around the city center by our guide (who’s name escapes me…) and visted historical buildings such as the Basilica Cathedral (the pope visited this church and led a mass – hence its now a Basilica) and a Convent that is still in use today. Outsiders can communicate with the nuns through a rotating table/door (put your letter on the table and turn it type thing) but you can never see them face to face.
One thing to always do on a free walking tour, is to ask about the best places to eat! Today was no exception, and although we ended up being the only ones in the restaurant, we had probably the best meal in Argentina! Meals always start with bread, and this time we got a creamy kind of mayo (maybe?) and a salsa to go with. A giant jug of homemade lemonade, with “hiebra” – we’re still not quite sure what this is but it tasted minty, and Darryl reckons almost like spirulina of sorts. It was delish either way. Entre was “sopa de mani” or, peanut soup. Quite possibly the best soup we’ve ever tasted, it was creamy and nutty and had chunks of pork making it almost a meal on its own.
Main was a lentil stew – full of bacon, tomato, beef and all sorts of yummy flavours, we “struggled” through this hearty meal, before rolling on back to our hostel (fortunately only 2 blocks away) for a siesta.
Opting to arrive into Salta in the morning, rather than midnight or some other ungodly hour, meant we had to wait around in Cordoba for a full day until our bus departed at 9pm. Salta to Cordoba is quite a long journey – around 12 hours in total, and boy do they know how to charge for it! Costing almost 1300 pesos each (roughly NZ$120 or so) we chose “cama” seats in the hopes that we might be able to geta little bit of sleep.
While the seats were excellently comfortable, the aircon unit that seemed to be directly behind us, blasting freezing cold air all night long, was not. Lesson for next time: Don’t take the 2 back seats.
Arriving into Salta it was easy to notice a change in both temperature, and pace. Salta was quickly dubbed our favourite city so far – the air was fresher and there were less cars, busses, people etc roaming the streets. We were allowed to check into our room at Coloria Hostel early – like 9am early, which was greaty appreciated. Our double room “Amarilla” was downstairs, under the common area. At first a little strange, it ended up working out quite well for us as no one knew there was another bathroom down there 😉
We dropped our luggage off and ventured out into the city, heading towards the main square, in search of some breakfast. It wasn’t long before we found a great deal – cafe con leche, 2 medialunas, juice, and a soda water for only 40 pesos each (NZ$4). Can’t even get a coffee in NZ for that price!
San Bernardo Teleferico – Salta’s Cable Car
The following day we walked to the top of the “San Bernardo” hill, where there is a cable car or “Teleferico” that you can take up/down, or both. Being Sunday morning, there was hardly anyone about, and the walk to the top took around 40 minutes. There are apparently 1070 stairs, according to the sign, but there are also sections with no stairs, and the last 10 minutes or so is along the road.
The view from the top was amazing to say the least! We were told the best time to go is the morning, as the sun is behind you and you can take some decent pictures. As always with any tourist destination, there were things for sale at the top. Mostly socks, hats, gloves, bags and ponchos in an array of colours, which we would soon learn are very widely available – there is a whole market at the bottom of the cable car with this stuff, each seller having almost exactly the same stock as their neighbour. Another lesson: Don’t buy 30 peso wine from the market, if the homemade lable which is glued on crookedly doesn’t send warning bells, then the half a cork or even the taste might!
We chose to take the cable car back down, and the 10 minute ride cost us 75 pesos each (it’s 150 pesos each if you want to ride both ways)