Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Salta the Earth

After a few brief stops in Posadas, Corrientes (very brief), and Resistiance (all fine little cities, but not much to do besides sitting out on the plaza watching people go by), I arrived in Salta. Resistiance has a large number of sculptures scattered around town, but not a many that I found to be interesting. At most, it´s a rest stop between Puerto Iguazu and Salta (which is otherwise a 27 hour bus ride).

That brings me to Salta. A much more interesting town, in a number of ways. First, it is located in northwest Argentina, on the edge of the Andes. It´s also the closest big city to Bolivia. So that makes it a big stopping point for backpackers (and other travelers, but I try to avoid them) on the way to and fro. Whereas the other cities have no hostels to stay at, Salta has numerous. So my accomodation cost is more then halved. Plus, the hostel where I am staying (Terra Oculta) has a decent kitchen, tvs with cable, and a bar.

Its been a busy week here, with lots of sight seeing and activities. On Monday afternoon, a group from the hostel took an excursion to the local futbol (that´s soccer to people in the US) pitch (more of a basketball court sized, carpeted park) for some game. There were about 20 people who showed up to play, with 6 on 6 games going for a couple of hours. Almost everyone else was European, with a few Argentinians mixed in. They were all impressively good. I pretty much covered my ineptitude by playing goal.

On Tuesday, I took a tour down to Cafayate. Somehow, I got stuck on the seniors tour. Wow, was that exciting. Almost as much fun (or frustrating, depending on your mindset at the time) as going to see the Great Wall with a Chinese tour group (during which time, I saw people get insanely excited over Jade, dried food, traditional Chinese medicine, a Wild West Town, and what other tourist traps Í´ve erased from my mind). But the secenary was magnificant. The 190km (each way) route passes through an amazing canyon with the jagged Andes on either side. Colored stratas of silt deposits zig and zag at odd angles, looking like they just emerged from the earth. Sand stone monuments carved away by wind and water look like they´re ready to crumble down upon you. It was a great tour, although I would have preferred to go with some people from the hostel who rented cars for a two-day trip down there. Unfortunately, I didn´t find out about it until I was already paid up and waiting for my van Tuesday morning. Oddly enough, I ran into them at a road side look out point / handicraft stall on the way back from Cafayate in the afternoon.

I spent Wednesday recovering from the 12 hour tour, and taking in the sites around town. We also had a barbecue at the hostel that night. On Thursday, I had another tour, this time to the north and Humahuaca. Again, alot of gourgeous scenary, and a more anglophile group - an Australian couple and an Argentinian-American. The best was saved for last though, as we wound our way over the mountains returning to Salta. Unlike most of the other areas around here, it received enough percipitation to support a sub-tropical forest. The trees (not sure what kind) were covered with mosses, vines, and orchids. From across the valley, they looked like a musty old carpet, the vines drapping and sagging from tree to tree. Quite remarkable.

Friday night was another adventure. This time white water rafting. After a couple hour bus ride (I´ve spent more time on buses here then in my entire life) we arrived at the rafting center at around 9:30. Following a brief training session, we headed out to the launch and floated down the river for a couple of hours, transversing some Class III rapids. The clouds covered up the full moon, but there was still plenty of light to see. We were surrounded by mountains, which could be seen in silhoutte. This was followed by a barbecue (they love barbecues here), and of course, another two hour bus ride home.

So that leaves me ready to escape Salta and move on. I have a bus this afternoon going to Mendoza - 16 hours. I´hope to spend a week or so there with more rafting, maybe some trekking, wine tasting, and of course barbecue. There are some ski slopes around there as well, but they may closed. Hopefully I can get a day of skiing in though.

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