A Few Days in Salta
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I caught a bus out of Tupiza in the morning to go to Salta, in northwest Argentina. I had a fllight out of Salta in a few days to southern Argentina and Patagonia and I wanted to make sure I got there in plenty of time. All the missed connections I'd had in Bolivia were making me nervous that something would go wrong.
At the little Tupiza bus station, I bought a ticket from a lady with a huge blond hairdo, spandex pants and long, hot pink fingernails. She really stood out! She told me to ask for Mr. So-and-so at the company's office at the bus station in La Quiaca, once I crossed the border. It didn't work out that way, of course, so I ended up buying another ticket when I got into Argentina. Arg!
The bus out of Tupiza was the norm for Bolivian buses - an old tour bus with torn seats and dusty windows
The Russian girl got off a few hours later at a little town she'd heard about. It was set in red rock cliffs as pretty as anything in the southwest United States and even though it looked like a quiet town, I read in my guidebook that there was actually a lot to do, cafes and restaurants and hiking and ruins and art museums, which really belied the appearance of the town, along an empty road winding along dry red and brown hillsides for miles and miles. If you've ever seen the Painted Desert in Arizona, you get the idea. It was called Tilcara, and I was tempted to get off the bus right there. If I go back to Argentina, I want to go back to this place. I'd only been in the country for a few hours and already I was thinking the two weeks I had left wasn't going to be enough time
Myrthe and I talked a long time on our way to Salta. She didn't have a hostel picked out yet, so I suggested she come to the one I'd found and we did that. We got to Salta well after dark and got a taxi to the hostel, where a young guy answered the door without a shirt and introduced himself and said if we needed anything, let him know. He was just staying there, not working there, and the only other times we ever saw him he was fast asleep or waking up at noon. The whole atmosphere was laid back, people hanging out on the patio, drinking, smoking, playing pool in a back room, cooking in the kitchen and watching t.v. It was like being in college again. Myrthe and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and get a Coke. It was so pleasant there - nice houses, pretty, tree-lined streets, quiet. We both noticed what an immediate change Argentina was from Bolivia, as soon as we crossed the border - paved streets, better infrastructure, more modern, bigger and better kept up everything. It was like being in Europe, already, and I hadn't even reached Buenos Aires. It was kind of a relief after Bolivia.
My intention, truly!, was to catch up on my blog for those three days while I waited for my flight to Patagonia, but instead, I wrote just a little because every day Myrthe was suggesting this or asking if I wanted to go here or there
We also went to a small archeology/anthropology museum that was very modern and very well-done, with guides in English, yay! I was amazed at the things they'd found and preserved - wooden spoons, embroidery, all from Incan burial sites. The highlight of the museum was three child mummies. They only displayed one at a time and there'd been some controversy about putting them on display at all because some people don't want to see child mummies and also people thought they shouldn't have been removed from their burial sites at all
The one on display was a girl of maybe 10, sitting cross-legged with layers of fabric and shawls around her. It was all there - her face, long braids, eyelashes. The photo showing where she'd been discovered (and the site that was the basis for the museum) was even more amazing - high up on a mountaintop that looked like every other mountaintop around it. A big sloped area covered with rocks and rubble, completely non-descript. Amazing that they could find this burial site in an area with no markings whatsoever. A couple hundred years after she'd been buried, with lots of things, probably some of them metal, for the afterlife, she was struck by lightning and had a black splotch over half her face where the lightning had burned. The whole thing really stuck with me. Here's the link showing one of the mummies: http://www.turismosalta.gov.ar/internacional/in/reco_maam.asp
After a few days it was time for me to leave, so I said goodbye to Myrthe and packed my bags for a real temperature change. Off to Patagonia!