Charging down the highways of Bolivia and Argentina, we were trying to make it to Salta to catch the Abs vs. Argentina on their home soil. After a relatively painless crossing of the border, we had to wait around 45mins to get a bus. My impatience was already starting to grow and it was significantly stretched when we had to stop at a pointless check-point. All the bags on the bus came off, as did the passengers and the half-arsed searched through the bags – looking for what Im not sure, if it was drugs they should have just used a dog. Argentinian policing / controls looked to be more of a show than anything else, small people trying to make themselves appear more important. Huffing and cursing we got back on the bus, Cel was having to deal with a worked up Brendon. Then, to make matters worse, it turned out the bus we were one wasn’t direct, we have to change buses in San Salvador de Juyuy – livid!! By this stage I’d conceded that watching any of the rugby was a write-off. My spirits lifted a little when the bus driver pointed out my shirt and more or less communicated ‘Do you want to see the game?’ I concurred and he said we’d be getting to Salta by 9, hopefully enough time to watch the second half! As luck would have it, we made it into Salta just before 9, I raced to a cab and then to the hostel to watch the second half of the match with a beer in hand. A great reward for the days pains.
We weren’t planning on spending much time in Salta, as time itself was running out. Our Argentinian itinerary had two “must-do’s”: 1) Iguazu Falls, in the far north east of the country, and 2) The Mendoza wine region, in the central far west of the country. This route dictated that we’d be spending a good 60 hours on buses to traverse the land between the sites. Salta was a convenient starting point with a big bus station and loads of connections.
In order to get a bus to Iguazu, we needed to spend two nights in Salta. Relaxing, after a few days on the go, was a priority, as was eating empanadas. Cel had expertly picked out a local empanada joint that was said to be a favourite with taxi drivers – if they think it’s good then surely we will?! We arrived at Patio de Empanada and quickly realised we’d hit the jackpot. The place was rammed with locals sitting in the sunny courtyard, while 6 or so small empanada kitchen served up piping hot fresh empanadas to their guests. We took a table and promptly ordered 3 Jamon y Queso, 3 Pollo and 3 Carne (Ham and Cheese, Chicken and Meat) along with a litre of Salta’s finest brew. The lady serving us noticed my celebratory wearing of the ABs jersey and brought across the paper that had the Abs plastered on the front – nice touch! The empanadas, a mix of fried and baked, were amazing. We needed nothing more than a serviette, a dish of spicy tomato salsa and a glass of beer – we were set.
On our final day (we were leaving that night) we took what has to be one of Salta’s big tourist attractions, the Teleferico (gondola). The gondola takes its passengers over a couple of the main roads in town and then up a big hill, stopping at the top to give views out over the city. There was even an outdoor gym up the top, luckily we were uninspired in the heat and left the locals to hit the treadmill. The views from up high were impressive, looking out over the city, which seemed sprawling, hot and dusty! We took a few photos to justify the ride up and made our way back down into town.
That was Salta. The food was probably the highlight; we even managed to find a street BBQ joint too which served us up dinner for 16 Argentinian Peso’s ($4USD). It’s a nice city that is easy to walk around and certainly was a step up in ‘western culture’ compared to Bolivia.
We were about to embark upon a 23hr bus journey that would take us into the top east of Argentina to see the Iguazu Falls. It was something that we couldn’t miss, even if it meant horrendous hours on buses. Nature was calling, so to speak.