No longer in Club Med

Trip Start Oct 08, 2005
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63
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Trip End Oct 06, 2006


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Saturday, August 19, 2006

Well, I was beginning to think that all the stories of how hard it was to travel in South America were made up. Its been a breeze for me - up until now. Travel has been horrible and I donīt feel like Iīve achieved a whole lot this week.

I left Mendoza feeling rubbish (and not just because of the hangover), I didn't want to go at all, could have stayed much longer. Wish I had done when I got on the bus to San Augustin Valle Fertil - it was cramped, hot and stopped at every 2 bit town on the way. Not that SAVF was a sprawling metropolis mind, although it did have a certain charm. The reason I had come here was to visit two national parks - Parque Ishigualasto and Parque Talampaya - and I did a day trip out to them both the next day. The journey there was undertaken in a tiny Renault 5 type car with 5 of us in, driven by SAVFs version of a boy racer (I'm sure he had blue lights underneath the car...). I didn't wear a seatbelt on the way there cos it was dirty but I sure as hell did on the way back. The parks were absolutely spectacular though, and well worth the crap drive out and back. Parque Ishigualasto is an important archaelogical site, that resembles the surface of the moon in parts - it is a valley created by a volcano then the wind and water eroded it away, underneath the volcano lava they found tons of dinosaur fossils, enough to put together whole ones (you can see them in the museum, they're cool). I don't know a whole lot about it, as the tour was in Spanish and my classes didn't stretch to geological terms, but anyway, it was still very beautiful out there and when I took just a few steps away from the tour group it felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.

Parque Talampaya was even more spectacular, its rock formations basically, but they are amazing, and bright red. The tour of the park is really interesting (but again in Spanish)and again its like being in the middle of nowhere. And there are cool petroglyphs on the rocks. From when I didn't catch, but a long time ago, lets just put it that way.

Back at the hostel, and the conversation with the guy behind the desk went something like this. I started by asking him in my best Spanish when the next bus out was.
"Miercoles" he replied. It took about ten seconds for my brain to work out what that meant. "Wednesday??" I said, confused. It was now Monday. "Si, Miercoles." Great. SAVF does not have a whole host of amusements for a whole day. "Ok, a que hora es el colectivo?" I asked. "Tres." Ok cool. "A la manana." Three in the morning?? Blimey. I was not a happy bunny, used to getting a bus when I wanted one. So I had to spend the day wandering round SAVF (that actually took about 7 minutes, then I went to a restaurant). The highlights were a pizza that I had, and being wolf whistled at by the local boys. Small mercies.

I got the bus at stupid o'clock to La Rioja, arriving four hours later. Its a nice little town, with a gorgeous cathedral and square, really interesting museum about local village life (they use cows heads to make handbags, with the eyes left in and everything, nice). But thats it. Everything closes for siesta at 1 and doesn't open until 6. My bus out was at 8. Argh!! So there was nothing for it but to sit in a cafe. Argentine culture positively encourages nonstop eating and drinking. Luckily it improved my mood slightly.

Ha, only temporarily though, until I got on the bus to go to Salta, a long way north. I know this isn't a very PC thing to say, but the fattest lady EVER sat next to me and took up half of my seat as well as her own, to make matters worse she smelled like she'd bathed in garlic cheese. I was retching. As if my mood couldn't get worse, the films were put on really loudly until 1am, and they were loud, shooty ones that blared in my ears. And THEN, argh, the old crone (she must have been 100) sat behind me kept leaning forward, and every time she pulled herself up using the back of my chair, her hands went all over my face and hair so I kept jerking awake in terror that I was being attacked. It was such a horrible journey.

Salta is really nice though and I had a good couple of days there. Went to a couple of interesting museums of local artefacts and art, mooched round the shops, ate awesome food (naturally), looked in some churches (Salta has some amazing ones), and bliss of blisses, slept a lot. There is a lot to explore in the surrounding area - salt lakes, mountains, little interesting villages - and I would like to have spent more time here, especially after I discovered how good the nightlife was too, but now that time is moving on I felt like I should head out of Argentina and into Bolivia to do all the things still on my list.

I have had a fantastic 3 weeks here though, I have loved everywhere - the cities are gorgeous, and I love the big sunny plazas they have and the amazing churches. The weather is good, the wine and food are cracking, the people are so friendly, and the opportunities for outdoor life are plentiful. I think I've said all this before though, I think I should go and work for the Argentina Tourist Board, I can't say enough good things about it. Fave place so far and I want to come back as soon as possible.
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