05.03.2011 32 °C
Well we had a 4 hour bus journey to Salta from Cafayate in order to make our way up north to Bolivia. Nothing particularly exciting about this one except at one point we all had to get off the bus in order for it to cross over a temporary bridge, I guess the extra couple of tons might have tipped the scales. Was interesting trying to interpret what the driver was asking us to do using only broken Spanglish.
Salta is quite a decent town, population is about 500,000 spread out between all the mountains at about 2500m above sea level, 8202 feet for anyone that doesn’t like metres. We spent our first day there just wandering about trying to work out if there is anything in particular worth doing there as well as eating ice cream, oversized steaks and getting my head shaved for two quid. We booked a bus up north for half five in the morning for two days later. The next day we took a gondola ride up to the top of one of the mountains to get a good view of the city as well as having a look at the oversized cross and statue of Jesus at the top. We were told that there is a good exhibition on at the local archaeological museum where they exhibit Indian “mummies” from 500 years a go. The bodies of the children are buried (alive from what I could work out) at elevations of over 6000m in the mountains with their heads facing particular ways for good luck. Their bodies are preserved extremely well due to the very low air pressure and cold temperatures and are rather creepy to look at. We weren’t sure whether we agreed with them being dug up and removed from their graves, who knows. We met a guy from Salta in the garden of the hostel that was trying to give us tips on speaking Spanish like speaking with a pencil in your mouth, which I couldn’t quite figure out but never mind. He told us he had a really scary story to tell us for when it was dark and after we had visited the mummy, we didn’t see him again but most of his stories ended up with him explaining how he was always laughing to himself. I think he may have followed us from Kat´s work.
The evening before we left Salta we went to a slightly more upmarket restaurant compared to where we had been eating, waiters with bow ties, Greensleeves playing on the CD player and free glasses of champagne on arrival. It was my last chance to have some typical Argentinean cuisine consisting of a mini BBQ being brought over to the table with a giant rack of ribs, half a chicken, two pork chops and some parts of beef which were unidentifiable.
We managed to get on our bus at 5am after having 4 hours sleep. Got some sleep until about 6:30am when the bus driver decided to put on a film (10,000 BC or something like that) which consisted of lots of men shouting and killing each other, all dubbed in Spanish. By this point it was getting light though and the scenery is stunning, especially as you cross over the tropic of Capricorn. It was at this point that Kat was curious as to how this would affect our stars and our horoscope….
When we arrived in La Quiaca, which is the border down in Argentina, we were now at 3500 meters above sea level. We had a walk of about 1.5km to the border of Bolivia and Argentina which isn’t that far, but with the lack of oxygen and weight of the bags, it leaves you pretty breathless. We figured it would be quite a quick border crossing into Bolivia as anything illegal is likely to be crossing out of Bolivia as opposed to into it. We got there and the queue was maybe 100metres long which equated to about 3 hours wait to be stamped out of Argentina, and then 5 minutes to get stamped into Bolivia, and low and behold, there is not even the facility to check over bags before entry.
Once we had crossed the border, it was a quick dash to catch a train to Tupiza. We didn’t fancy staying in the border town, there’s never much there except currency exchange places that use horrible exchange rates. There was one train a day which we managed to catch with 20 minutes to spare, tickets costing us 14 bolivianos each, and there are 11 bolivianos to a pound at the moment, so it’s pretty cheap for a 3 hour train journey. The scenery from the train just got better and better but you had to be careful taking photos out of the window as whenever you went past a small village there would be a few kids with water bombs to chuck at you.
Once we arrived in Tupiza, you can see a massive difference to Argentina, much less money, everything is cheaper and there are also a lot more indigenous people. We’ve just been out on a 3 hour horse trek through the mountains which was stunning, following a path that butch Cassidy and the sun dance kid took.
We’ve booked onto a 4 day trek that we start in the morning, will let Kat update about that when we get back to civilisation.
P.s we´re both safe and sound