Day 1: Argentina North
Thank goodness there was a direct flight from Iguazu to Salta and I didn’t have to fly back down to Buenos Aires to connect. I’m still loving Aerolineas Argentinas and waiting for my frequent flyer card! There was once instance though that the woman at the check in counter told me my bag was too heavy (they only allow 15kg/33lbs for domestic flights). I argued that I myself am not that heavy and should make up for the difference in weight! haha She laughed and said that the other airports might give me a hard time (but they didn’t!!)
Overall, the flight was a little over 2 hours and really seamless. The driver was ready to pick me up and drop me off at my hotel, Patios De Lerma which was hands down the BEST hotel I stayed at in Argentina. The room was HUGE and I had a shower and huge bathtub. The only problem with this hotel was that it was far from the city center in Salta, like 11 blocks away! Again, I’m all for the exercise but can’t imagine myself walking around at night. I also made sure I bought some deodorant since I figured its hotter up in the north region (and dry over in Salta). Oh and Salta is known to have the best empanadas in Argentina, so everyday I swear I ate empanadas and coffee!
Day 2: Welcome to Fresno, California
For today, I was to leave my large pack at the hotel and take a small pack for a 2 day excursion over to the Jujuy Salt Flats and Humahuaca Gorge. My guide, Ramiro picked me up bright and early with only 2 other tourists joining– Pat and Ann from Belgium. I was expecting a bigger group and thank goodness Pat and Ann were so nice and spoke English because it would have been a rough 2 days! Ramiro looks like Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer), I couldn’t help but notice the striking resemblance hahah We all packed in a mid size SUV and headed out for our new adventure.
Ramiro was actually a great guide and driver. He was very cautious and so knowledgeable. The drive had great historic ruins, scattered houses, small villages and amazing landscapes. We stopped by a small town called Campo Quijano and later the lovely Quebraada del Toro, which awesome mountain viewpoints! The Northwest of Argentina is very dry and desert like, reminds me a lot of the desert areas in California so it was hard for me to be blown away since I’ve seen huge cactuses before. I’m sure it was a treat for Pat and Ann since they are from Belgium. Both were so nice and kind and I loved their accent when they spoke English, it was very cute! They were both out here for Pat’s work (he has a traveling job) and left their adult and teen kids back at home haha
Our next stop was at Santa Rosa de Tastil, a pre-Incan city of the XIII century. Ok, this was where I was like AH HELL NAH. I looked around and saw and bunch of dirt and dust! I then heard Carlitos’ voice say, “It’s a lot like Fresno, California!” LOL I was waiting for the tumbleweeds to come rolling in, it was seriously like a dirt city! We had lunch here, but I wanted to get the heck out because I didn’t care to look at all this dirt and dust. I think I ordered some lamb stew which was ok (I just don’t like meat/bean stews in general). I did have this awesome homemade limonada drink which was as yummy as a baked empanada.
Back on the road again and our next stop was San Antonio de los Cobres, a small village en route to the Salt Flats. This little city wasn’t as dusty as the previous stop. It’s funny because Ramiro will tell us that the population for these villages and cities are in the thousands and I think “Um ok where are they??” I saw a couple of people, but definitely not in the thousands! I figured they all blew away in the dust along with the tumbleweeds! I was pretty excited to get to the Salt Flats and take come cool pictures since I didn’t make it out to Bolivia and see the Salt Flats there. The pictures I’ve seen from the Bolivia Salt Flats were mind blowing, so I was excited to see the Salt Flats here in Jujuy. As we pull up, I see what looks like a bunch of snow on the ground. We walk over and honestly I was disappointed as these Salt Flats looked nothing like Bolivia’s. I tried to ask Ramiro and Ann/Pat to take pictures of me, but they didn’t turn out that well haha I swear I take great photos of other people, but when they take photos of me its all wrong LOL
So yeah I was pretty disappointed seeing these dusty villages and underwhelming Salt Flats. The mountains were gorgeous though so that kind of made up for it. It’s just hard for me to be impressed because I see that kinda desert climate in California (Fresno, CA LOL). We then arrive at our final stop, Purmamarcca where the beautiful 7 colored mountains are located. Ok now this is what I’m talking about because the mountains really were stunning colors of yellow, red, green, purple and blue. Ramiro mentioned that the yellow is from the sulfur, the red, green and purple are from the iron and blue is from the cooper. You don’t find these kinda mountains in California!
Purmamarcca is a charming city and not dusty and lifeless like what I have seen earlier in the day. Pat and Ann stayed in the next village and Ramiro was staying at the village I was at too. Ramiro mentioned that there’s a great steak with red wine sauce over here and he would join me for dinner if I headed over there. I thought hmm ok why not, then I had a flashback of when I hung out with my Peruvian tour agent, Jhonathan back in Peru. I figured Cesar Millan doesn’t seem that bad, but then when I was going to leave, my door locked myself in! I couldn’t get out of my room and had to get out from the back door! I then went over to the front desk to ask for directions to the restaurant and the guy called the restaurant and told me they were closed. Then I thought it must be a sign, I am not supposed to go out tonight! Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice shame on me. Not going to play the fool tonight!
Day 3: That Argentine Mountain Life!
I didn’t feel bad about not meeting Cesar Millan for dinner because the restaurant was closed! So when he picked me up, he totally felt bad about that and asked where I went. I just said I picked up something to go and went back to my hotel. My hotel, Los Colorados Hotel was pretty darn awesome with this cool clay interior and huge space inside. Best of all, I am right next to the amazing 7 colored mountains. Ramiro calls my hotel the Fred Flintstone house since he’s been there before haha When we picked Pat and Ann up, we swung back over to the 7 colored mountain and did a quick hike up to appreciate the beauty and take some great photos. Now we were on our way to move forward with our itinerary before heading back to Salta.
Our first stop was at the Humahuaca Gorge, which I thought was really stunning! These mountains.. I can’t even compare to California anymore! The colors and the shapes. My favorite were the red clay colored ones with rain erosion markings, just beautiful! While there, I asked Ramiro to take a photo of me with arms out to the mountains, then a group of Argentine women wanted to take the same photo with the same pose as me! haha I started a trend! On our drive back we visited Maimará, “Paleta del Pintor” (a great photo stop from the road) , Tilcara, Trópico de Capricornio, Uquía (Pinturas Cuzqueñas) and finally, the small town of Humahuaca. We even stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn and I asked Pat where the Tropic of Cancer is at and said, “Iceland?” Pat was like “No that’s way too far north, it’s only a couple degrees higher and probably running through Mexico.” I would like to blame the high elevation for that air headed moment! haha Overall, I actually enjoyed this day much more than the previous day and appreciated the beauty of the mountains.
On our way back to Salta, we were stuck in a little bit of traffic and wondering where it was all coming from. Ramiro tried to cut through a different path, but then we saw the traffic was still bad. He was saying it was most likely a strike and when we take another path to cut through it was indeed a strike! OK, if you want to strike thats fine, but NOT in the middle of the road! Can you strike off the road?? They were just sitting there, chilling and made a fire. I was thinking, “isn’t it time for siesta so they can take a break??” Ramiro said sometimes their strikes will even last a few days. Luckily, he found some off the beaten path and was able to bypass all that nonsense. Pat and Ann had to catch a flight that night so I felt for them!
In the car, I was thinking that I wasn’t ready to go back to Buenos Aires. Its a great city, but I wanted to see more of the countryside! When we got back to Salta, I called Say Hueque and told them to move my flight to the following day instead of tomorrow. Ramiro suggested to book a trip to Cafayate and I called their tour agency and they mentioned they don’t have an overnight available, but have a day tour so I took the day tour for tomorrow. Lots of last minute changes but I wasn’t ready to go back to BA quite yet!
Day 4: Revenge of the Body Odor
So since I moved my flight, booked an extra night in Salta, lost a night in Buenos Aires, I was hoping Cafayate was going to be worth it! In the morning, the tour picked me up in one of those large vans. I hop in and notice all the single seats were mostly taken so decided to take a 2 seater to myself hoping this tour wasn’t going to be full. We then stop at some dodgy looking hostile and out comes this hobo looking guy wearing a bright ass yellow tank top, board shorts and flip flops! Umm this ain’t the beach son, last I checked it was starting to drizzle rain a bit out here. So he comes in the van and no one says “Buenos Dias!” like they did to everyone else. All of a sudden he goes up to me and asks if anyone was sitting next to me! AHH HELL NAH!! I look back and there were still seats available!! UGHHH So then he sat down and LORD BABY JESUS I almost passed the eff out! He had this nasty ass raunchy spicy body odor like he ate at an AYCE Indian restaurant without showering the last few weeks! I almost passed out!! When the van was getting fuller, I was getting even more upset because there were no free seats to get away from him! This was going to be a LONG and STINKY day.
I seriously was getting motion sick from his nasty BO and was trying to desperately crack a window open but it was bolted shut. Thank the lord we stopped for a bathroom and snack break and I almost collapsed out of the van gasping for air! I asked our guide, Noah if there were any extra seats available and he said our van was full! I wanted to pay one of those guys that took the single seats to sit next to him. Every stop we made at a mountain or cave was like getting some oxygen from holding my breath. I couldn’t even focus because I was so upset of how horrid he smelled. I get it, you’re a backpacker and you don’t want to shave and take a shower, but you are sharing a van with other people! PLEASE be considerate and at least put some deodorant on! On one of the stops, I was sitting on a rock and I saw him trying to get close to me to chat and I quickly got up and pretended I was taking pictures of something.
On our way to the wine vineyard, he finally tapped me and asked where I was from. He thought I was Chilean (really white guy?!) and said he was from England. Do they not use deodorant or take showers in England? JESUS he stank so bad. Ok, we got to Finca Quara Winery and I got out and dodged him. There were a ton of other people around so it was easy to get away from him and not sniff his nasty odor. The winery was big and there were so many old pushy people around that I didn’t expect to be back dealing with mannerisms of the Mainland Chinese! The wines we tasted were not that great and I was eager to get some lunch and actually go back to Salta so I didn’t have to sit next to the stink bomb any longer.
After the winery, we stopped by the downtown of Cafayate which was super charming. I joined a solo Australian and solo Dutch at lunch so I can get away from the stinker who sat with two women and I immediately felt for them if they lost their appetite! The Australian was touring around South America and the US for about a month and the Dutch guy has been all over South America for about 5 months now. He mentioned that Colombia was his absolute favorite, but he knew someone that got stabbed in the hood part of Bogota for their cheap sunglasses! Yikes, but rule 1: NEVER go to a hood!! After lunch, I ventured around the downtown area, got some dairy free ice cream then met up at the cathedral with the rest of the group to head back.
The weather was warmer which unfortunately meant he was only to become stinkier! When he walked in the van and lifted his arm up to put his beat up plastic bag away, his BO was already to the skunk level and I was a very very sad girl. He also started coughing up a storm which infuriated me even more because I didn’t want to get sick! I was already sick in Vietnam and the Philippines and it was NOT fun at all. I don’t know what karma I deserved for sitting next to a skunk that just fired off a storm of coughs! We did make some more stops at some cool looking caves like Devil’s Throat ands seeing the red rock walls of Quebrada de las Conchas. I forced myself to sleep on the way back so I didn’t have to think about how nasty homeboy smelled and woke up when they were dropping off people. When they dropped him off, the tour guide was talking shit about him in Spanish with the girls in the van and calling him, “Feo!” LOL I wanted to add in, “And he stunk too!” but didn’t know how to say that in Spanish haha
Day 5: The Maiden, The Lightening Girl and the Boy
My flight wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so I decided to take some time to explore Salta a bit more before my transfer arrived. Coincidentally, I was reading an article about these well preserved Inca mummies that were found on top of a mountain and low and behold, they were exhibiting the mummies right here in Salta!! I was super excited and checked out of my room and left my bags with the hotel to walk over to the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology.
The museum had a few rooms exhibiting Inca items, but the real star of the show were the mummies. Basically back in the Inca days they would sacrifice children to the Gods and leave them at the top of the mountains. Due to the altitude and cold weather, they were preserved so well. It’s sad when you think about children getting sacrificed, but unfortunately those were their beliefs back then. I didn’t realize this, but the mummies are actually rotated at the exhibit every few months for preservation. So when I was there, I got to see The Lightening Girl who had lightening struck on her face hundreds of years while on the summit. The mummy was fully guarded by security and there was no way in hell you can sneak a picture. The mummy was also protected in the right amount of cold temperature to keep the preservation. I was hoping to see all 3 mummies, but just seeing one was mind blowing and one of the best museum experiences thus far in my travels.
After the museum, I made a quick stop for empanadas and cafe! That has been my go to combo in Argentina. Ok, so people say that Salta has the BEST empanadas and honestly the best I’ve had was’t in Salta. Shocker huh? Well the bigger shocker was that the best empanadas I had was at the Buenos Aires airport at the Esmeralda Cafe! I KNOW I KNOW, but I’m not kidding! The crust was buttery flakey and almost like a filo dough and the filling was yummy ground beef! But yes I’m going to say that was the best empanada I had from eating empanadas everyday in Argentina LOL