Up early to get to walk to border crossing and try and hitchhike our way to Salta. With a budget of $320 between the 4 of us to undercut the bus, we were trying for a joint passage of $100. Far too easy as Chris succeeded in getting passage for all 4 of us with a convoy of trucks going to Salta at the 1st attempt. Quickly got our exit stamps and waited for the truckers to have their breakfast (which worryingly included a bottle of red wine between 4 of them) before Chris and Paul went in 1 cabin, Joel and I in a 2nd, with 3 Argentinian lads in a 3rd. Three hour journey to border more comfortable than a bus with loads of leg room and smooth tarmac roads.
Enjoyed the view, practised a little Spanish and reflected on the steak we were going to treat ourselves to when we got to Argentina. Border crossing a little more laborious than usual as everyone had their bags thoroughly searched but no problems with entry stamp for Argentina. Had to wait a while for one of the Argentines who had been stowed in the back of one of the trucks with his clapped out motorbike (a la Che Guevara in Motorcycle Diaries) but a little bribe later and we continued. However no sooner had we set off than we stopped and asked to jump into the back of the trucks to make way for one of the drivers family who had been travelling in a car but broken down. The car attached to the back of one of the trucks, we were left under canopy.
Fortunately, Joel and I found a couple of knackered deck chairs to sit on whilst Chris and Paul lay on an old mattress. Had a further 5 hours sliding around corners and watching the passing desert canyons filled with cactus through a slit in the canopy. Cant say it was fun but certainly a memorable experience ! At San Salvador de Jujuy, we all were able to pile back into the cabins and continue for a further hour before we were dropped off 57km short of Salta. No buses left for the day to Salta so one of the Argentines suggested getting a taxi. We found one and somehow managed to get 5 passengers, all with full backpacks and daybags into a VW Polo. Joel, Chris and Paul crammed onto back seats with 2 full backpacks and 2 daybags on their knees.
I shared the passenger seat with the Argentine lad with both my bags - one cheek on the seat and one cheek on the gear stick. Probably the most uncomfortable hour of my life. Fortunately most of the journey was duel carriage way so only had to try and stand up a dozen times to let the driver change gear !
Salta as the 1st Argentine city to get to immediately hits you as much more affluent with better living standards, shops and European style coffee shops with seats out on the main plaza. However had immediate problems finding a hostal and was our 10th attempt before found vacancies. We fell on our feet though as the receptionist really friendly showing us around the hostal which included nice looking kitchen, clean hot showers and a free pool table with bar. Quickly changed and went out for our well earned steak off the money savings of the day. La Posta met all our expectations and more and the Argentinian steak fully lived up to its reputation. Fantastic meal washed down with a great bottle of red wine.
Im going to like Argentina !!