One of my favourite things to do while travelling is to watch and admire some of the photos people take. Boarding the plane to Salta there was a prime example on the row in front of us. Enormous camera taking a picture of the falls on a small tv screen…
Phil also noted that I’d got the same outfit on as when we left for South America. So 37 days on here’s the pre and post back packing look. Phil looks identical and I think I have about ten times more edge.
So onto Salta. The majority of the trip so far has been pretty much well planned in terms of where we’re going, what we’re doing. But as we move through Salta, into Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador over the next six weeks, it’s a little more into the unknown. This was typified by our indecision on how to spend our two days on our arrival at our hostel – Salta per Siempre – and as we began to stroll round the town.
After much deliberation a plan was struck. Explore the town in the afternoon followed by picking up a hire car later in the evening for a road trip the next day.
The main highlights of the town were its churches. The top three being Catedral Basilica de Salta, Basilica Menor y Convento de San Francisco, and La Iglesia Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria de la Vina, all of which were beautifully coloured and immaculately decorated. For such a small town, it felt very Italian to have so many elaborate churches in such close vicinity.
The rest of the town was a bit of a mixture. It felt a little bit run down in parts. The small streets are lined with that many shops it’s hard to understand how they all stay open. There is also a bit of an odd siesta time, with shops re-opening at around 6pm, and the streets becoming a bit chaotic with cars. This made for great fun when we picked up the car a little later on.
Most of the roads are one way with two lanes. However there’s a distinct absence of driving etiquette leading to no obvious rights of way, all sorts of undertaking and two lanes frequently becoming three. All in all a bit of nightmare, but we got back to the hostel safely ready for an early start.
Waking up we were relieved to see no one had ploughed into the back of the car. Over the course of the day we’d drive for about 8 hours, climbing to an altitude of 4,170m. But as much as it was pretty tiring, I’d say this was one of my favourite days on the trip so far.
After about two and a half hours we reached the small town of Purmamarca, which has the stunning Cerro de los Siete Colores as it’s back drop. The contrast of the colours was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It didn’t stop there either.
Heading for Salinas Grandes, Argentina’s salt flat, we took the Route N52, a spectacular windy route climbing up to a peak of 4,170m, surrounded by more colourful backdrops and cactai.
In total it took about an hour and a half to reach the salt flats. What’s mad about the Salinas Grandes is that a road cuts through them. So you simply drive straight through and park up. No entrance fee or anything.
Pre Bolivian salt flats tour we tried to get some practice at taking some obligatory perspective shots. Phil got a few good ones of me.
Just a shame I couldn’t do similar for her…
Back on the road, and back along the 52, we squeezed in two quick visits to Maimara and Tilcara. The plan was to have a late lunch at the former, but nothing was open. We were able to take in the views onto Monolito Paleta del Pintor, another spectacular part of the landscape.
By this point Phil had also noted she’d unfortunately got a bit sun burnt. Although we weren’t out in the sun that long at the salt flats, I think the reflection of the sun was pretty powerful. This meant she wrapped herself in a towel on the way back to avoid further burn.
20 minutes after Maimara we arrived at Tilcara and did find some food. Really good food in fact at Restaurant Sirvinacu, where we shared Chorizo Pomarola and our first taste of llama.
Conscious of time to get our car back by 8.30, the three hour drive back, and not knowing what traffic to expect in Salta we hit the road again after a very quick look round the town.
To end the day we had a 1am night bus to San Pedro de Atacama. Luckily the hostel were great and had let us leave our bags there all day and also use their shower when we got back. This also marked our last day in Argentina, so Phil let me have a bit of a blow out with our last pesos – a bottle of coke and a pack of crisps at the bus stop…
Songs on in the car