This remarkable event occured on a trip I made, today
. Technically, it was a tour in some sort of 4WD truck. To the small town of Cachi. To be honest, there's not a lot in Cachi - tidy little church, archeological museum, small square with a few restaurants around it. But the drive there from Salta is amazing. Through the Cordones National Park. Mountains of amazing colours, cactii, animals. Apparently, there were pumas. Up in the mountains. We didn't see them. It's rare. Just ask the French, a couple of weeks back - ¡Vamos Los Pumas! There were three Spanish women, myself, and the driver Gabriel. Whose name sparked a conversation about archangels. My theological Spanish is insufficient to understand the full details of what was said, although I think it was ascertained that there are four archangels - San Gabriel, San Miguel and another two. I'm sure someone more superstitious than myself can correct me if I'm wrong. The presence of the Spanish women helped things, though - Gabriel seemed more inclined to stop in places where he wouldn't normally. He would probably have been reluctant to drive down to the Valle Encantado if asked by, say, a tattooed, bearded Lancastrian...
The salt flats in northern Argentina are also impressive. I saw them yesterday. Another trip, another guide. This one a Belgian hippy. The tour took the route of the Train Of The Clouds. Which is, sadly, currently not functioning. Apparently, the former governer of Salta was also the owner of a tour company. One which runs a bus tour along the route of the train
. It was suggested that the governer didn't want to spend public money on something which would be in competition to his business. I personally cannot believe that democractically elected representatives would behave this way, and so suggest there must be another explanation. Anyway, that governer is now gone. A new one replaces him. This is the era of Cristina. President-elect. Only one name necessary. Like Evita. Although to suggest she was simply trying to capitalise on the former Senora Peron's legacy whilst cruising to power is nothing short of disgraceful.
In any event, another tour, more coloured mountains. More desert. Some vicuna. And salt flats. Vast expanses, stretching off into the distance. Eerie.
Salta, itself, is a very pleasant city. Colonial buildings. Cable car up to the nearby hill, to gain good views. And the park at the top of the hill has waterfalls. Well, small water features, but they're pleasant enough.
There do seem to be a lot of French people here, though. Some of them even have the termerity to speak French. This is a disgrace, and will be something I deal with in my forthcoming novel, "Dr Kiss's House Of Love" in which the eponymous hero travels to France to teach the natives to speak English, on the basis that their language will soon be dead. Go out and buy it. Once it's published.
Which will surely not be long after I've written it. I will start some day soon. And then move onto the sequels. I have a dream - Dr Kiss will be the Sherlock Holmes de nos jours... I can envisage it now. Dr Kiss, the cocaine-addled aesthete, camping it up with his male housemate (a man named Theodolyte Shore, who does little more than stare at trees and hop), solving crimes, teaching English and flying a spaceship. Whilst playing improvised chords on his electric guitar, until Shore starts to get sick of it, whereupon he switches to riffs of tunes by Slint, Mogwai and Cannibal Corpse. And when I finally kill him off, the national hysteria will be greater than when Our Lady Of Landmines forgot to fasten her seatbelt.
One more thing. My hostel here - El Andaluz. It is probably the friendliest place I've stayed in since Quito. Helpful owners who organise events, invite you to the bar, and so on. If you're in Salta, stay here. Unless you want luxury.
Time presses on. And so do I. To Bolivia, in fact.
Recall, if you will, the series of I-Spy books. A few years back, now. Good fun, though - you looked for mushrooms or squirrels or what have you, and ticked them off when you found them. Whilst learning about them in the process. Educational. Would never work for the youths of today, though - they're all far too busy sat with their Playstations and such like, troughing down chips and burgers, only ever venturing outside to mug old people, and steal their pension money to spend on glue to sniff. Nonetheless, the I-Spy books. There isn't, so far as I know, one entitled "Cameloids of the South American Continent". Which is a shame, because if there were, I would just have completed it. Yes! I saw a guanaco. Which, technically, I also did back in some sort of mini-zoo thing in Peru. But that doesn't count - this was in the wild! So that's all four, in the wild. LLamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos. Woo! I feel so happy.