I walked across an empty land ...

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
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26
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Trip End Jun 01, 2012


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, February 9, 2012

I... knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete

So onto Salta. This is Argentina's 8th largest city and is in the north-west of the country. It's in the foothills of the Andes and apparently it's where Matt Damon's wife is from (no idea who she is though). It is an old colonial town with the usual main square, a couple of statues of blokes on horses who were involved in the liberation and the obligitory pink church.

I was pretty much toured out so I decided to hire a car for a couple of days. The L.P. said this was a good idea so I got myself a little Volkswagen Gol. Apparently it's the best-selling car in Brazil and Argentina. It's a bit like a golf just without the f - and the f obviously stands for fast, because this one didn't go that fast. So I headed out of the car hire place (please bear in mind I haven't driven a car for over 3 months and it's left-hand drive and a manual). So this makes it difficult enough, I just hadn't factored in Argentinadn drivers. So Salta has pretty much a grid system to it's streets and most are one-way. So you have a lot of junctions. So rather than at each junction having something sensible like some traffic lights, or maybe a give way sign so driver will know about priority they have nothing. This means that every junction is a complete free-for-all. At the first few junctions I did attempt to try fathom the rules of the road, but it appears there are none. I attempted to ascertain who has priority but it appears it's more of a case of 'Who Dares Win'. Brilliant, I am driving in a town where the road rules are based on the principles of the SAS !! The other thing is that drivers don't have any real awareness of other road users, other cars, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians. They must get into a car and wonder why there are mirrors on the side of the car (the 'what we would call' the rear-view mirror is obviously to check that your mullet is still looking good). Then there is this weird thing sticking out of the stearing column with arrows on it !! Because heaven forbid you might want to indicate so that everyone else knows what you are about to do next. So after about half an hour of trying to follow to sense of order and consideration I bagged that one and became Argentinian (no I haven't got myself a mullet) and started to drive like them - as it one the way I was actually going to get anywhere - I didn't quite manage to lose my terrible habit of indicating (other drivers must have been well confused by the amber lights flashing on the car).

So the main reason for hiring the car (no, it wasn't so I could scare the crap out of myself) was that I could drive down to Cafayte which is a wine making region (not a great plan when you are driving Liz !!) and then see the scenery around it. So the wine tasting tours were out due to my transport considerations, so I headed on through the La Quebrada de Las Conchas.

La Quebrada de Las Conchas is The first 50 km (30 mi) of the direct road to Salta from Cafayte, known as the Gorge of the Shells. It encompasses such breathtaking scenery that the Quebrada is now rightfully a major tourist attraction. Various rock formations have been eroded by the river Conchas and the action of the wind into wildly different shapes that havewa been nicknamed the Windows, the Castles, the Frog, the Friar—each name seems truly fanciful, that is until the road winds around the corner and you're actually confronted by the formation itself. The climax is the Amphitheater, apparently it's sometimes used as a venue for orchestras thanks to its outstanding natural acoustics; wandering minstrels offer impromptu performances (my marching band from San Pedro de Atacama should have practiced there instead).

So after my few days in Salta I was heading back to Brazil - except it's nowhere near Brazil. So genius here decides to save money and not fly to Buenos Aires, but instead to get a bus. How bad can it be being on a bus travelling 915 miles? So there is a good reason why God not only invented the taxi but he also invented the aeroplane. 23 hours on a bus is very boring and a tad bit uncomfortable (well the one I was on was anyway - it wasn't the Princess Helen standard). I left Salta at 1pm and finally arrived at the bus station in Buenos Aires 12pm the next day. But I have now seen Changelling dubbed in Spanish with Spanish sub-titles twice. Still no idea what it was about. So I got a cab to the airport and promptly found myself a McDonalds. I'm sorry - I know it's not good but believe me after the same food for 2 months you would end up in McDonalds as well (I met a couple the next day who had done exactly the same). Then I flew to Rio and onto the final part of my South American trip.

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