BLEEDIN' DRIVERS!

Trip Start Jul 12, 2009
1
80
255
Trip End Aug 18, 2010


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Flag of Argentina  , Northern Argentina,
Monday, October 26, 2009

We had been instructed to be up and ready to depart for the Argentinian border for 8am. This is a difficult challenge with three children who hate to be prized from their duvets and fluffy toys. Thankfully all luggage was packed the night before but as with all our early departures we are still scoffing cereal and poaching bread five minutes after departure deadline. However, on this one occasion we were all fed, watered and relieved and ready to go, unfortunately no driver. Eventually one arrives an hour and a half later questioning our guide on why we have to leave so early as the Argentinian guide would not be there until 1pm and it is only two hours away. For one reason or another we left, squashed in a five seater car with our luggage bouncing in the open boot.

And then we breakdown. The sulphide smell we attributed to the geysers in the area (what geysers any experienced traveler down this road would ask) was actually from the engine. Heaven knows what was wrong but the driver spoke "nada" Inglesa and our Rosetta Stone training has not covered mechanical breakdown. We sat for two hours in what felt like a mini cooper with no air conditioner, no mobile phone signal and no bloody traffic. Eventually a police car ventured by and returned forthwith to San Pedro seeking replacement vehicle. Thankfully spirits were high in the car and it was not long before we were cheering at our new (five poxy seater with open boot) car.

Hooray on our way. Ah when we arrived at our allocated exchange point there was no sign of our Argentina guide or driver let alone car. We waited and waited until the steam began to perforate out of Ian's ears. About two miles down the road was the border but for some reason our driver would not go any further even though we were sure our driver was there. Another hour went by and Ian and I drew straws to walk to the border - Ian won and he could escape the monotony of sitting in a car and trying to entertain (by now) very bored children. So after explaining in hand gestures to the driver that he was a Pratt, Ian walked off.

Thankfully the Argentinian driver could see us up the hill but was not allowed to cross the border, even with the border control and asked the next driver entering Chile to tell our driver to drive down. He had sussed why the driver did not want to come any further - it would cost him money so the Argentinian said he would pay. We picked up Ian on the way.

How happy we were to be in Argentina with all our luggage?

Roman our guide had packed a picnic for about thirty people so we got stuck in and after sorting out the passports, paying tax etc we were off. Our first port of call was the Salinas Grande, Argentina's salt flats. They process the salt differently here, about 30 families work on the salt flats but they tend to dig holes, allowing the water to crystallize over a period of six months and then process it rather than dig and leave in piles. It is also an Argentinian venture so they earn more money. The squares look like mini swimming pools and are a beautiful aqua colour. We sat and admired the talented salt farming whilst drinking a good bottle of wine and eating sweets all arranged by a guide and driver Roman, how civilized.

We took an amazing winding mountain pass and eventually arrived at Purmamarca which lies in the northernmost province of Jujuy. We were staying at El Manantial del Silencio which it certainly was not after we arrived. We appeared to disrupt the other guests with our excited arrival and was asked to be quiet by another guest! Pretty difficult with three children under ten but we will try.






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