A backpacker to the clouds

Salta Travel Blog

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Che amigos!
After an intense two weeks of travelling I've now arrived in Malargue, already one of the last stops on my trip. Non-functional computers, slow internet connections, power outages during blog-writing and generally action-packed days have made it a bit more challenging than expected to keep this blog up-to-date. I'm writing this on wednesday the 23rd, but I will backdate the coming few blogs to the date I was there. Let's hope I still remember everything!

Let me start were I left off: Salta. After another 12 hour overnight busride, I arrived in this beautiful capital of the Salta province on friday.
The town is situated just east of the altiplano (high lying desert) and south of the multi-coloured mountain ranges of the Jujuy province. I've now learned that information provided by the tourist information office about, say, the location of the hostel usually cannot be trusted. Back in Salta, I hadn't learned this lesson yet. So, after doing an unintended tour of the city in the taxi, I finally arrived at Backpackers City hostel. The hostel seemed ok enough. The superfriendly staff made up for the fact that the bathrooms had a ridiculous layout (with the shower pretty much over the toilets). Here is a free tip for everyone: if you ever build a house or hostel in Argentina, do NOT give an Argentine the contract for doing the plumbing/building the bathroom.
You´ll likely do a better job yourself. Anyway, the activity started shortly after arriving with a real city tour. This tour was part of the package I had booked with 4 nights in the hostel and 3 tours in the surrounding areas. The real reason to book this package was the tour planned for the next day: a 15 hour tour to the altiplano and the mountains of Jujuy.

The minibus left the hostel at 7 am, meaning another short night. The first leg of the trip was among the route of the "Tren a las Nubes", aka Train to the Clouds. This is apparently one of the favourites of train-enthousiasts everywere. It goes up 2 km from Salta to the altiplano with many hairpin turns and high bridges. After lunch in a small miners town on the altiplano, we set out for the salt flats via the RN40. The RN40 is a 4500 km road that goes all the way from the Bolivian border to the south of Patagonia.
Since this section is about the worst there is, the 40 km ride took us more than 2 hours. The salinas allow for quite good photo opportunities. An hour of making fun pictures with the group was also enough to get completely sunburned. The tour continued over a 4200 m pass towards the tiny town Purmamarca. This town is home of the "Mountain of the seven colours". This was a truly amazing sight. Unfortunately we only had 20 minutes there. At night there was of course another asado. An asado is basically a big BBQ with loads and loads of Argentinean meat. The tour group was really cool and therefore the party lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Of course, when you're drunk (sorry mum and dad) and having a great, you don't really consider the fact that you have to get up at 6 for the next tour.
.. This indeed turned out to be too much, which led to me making the bus wait for me to get dressed. Next tour: Cachi, a tiny town on the altiplano.

For me, this tour was mostly about the busride there, going up 2 km over a distance of 20 km on a dirt road with many hairpin turns.  Unfortunately, the weather wasn't so great so the whole ride up we were in the clouds (literally). The only upside was that I could add a few hours to the 1.5 hours of sleep I had had before. Up on the altiplano we first visited the park Los Cardones. Cardones are cacti, so you might imagine what this park is about: thousands upon thousands of cacti for as far as the eye can see. Pretty special. The tour ended in a tiny town called Cachi. Very beautiful and peaceful, but not much to do (not that that is a problem).


The next day was again one with a lot of hours in the bus. I wanted to reach the city Tucuman by the end of the day, but instead of taking the boring route over the highway I decided to take a detour via Cafayate. The busride there was absolutely amazing. Again many multi-colored mountains and ever-changing landscapes. Cafayate is a nice and touristy town in the middle of wine-country. Since I had a few hours to kill there, I went and did some mountainbiking. The guy at the rental shop recommended me going to a town further down the road, where apparently the view would be really beautiful. I never got to find out, because the 25 km ride there in the burning sun without any shade over a dusty highway while you seriously sleep-deprived and suffering from a cold, turned out to be a bit too much. I just turned around after the first icecream shop (13 km away) and went back over the same aweful road (which was again the RN40, BTW). After another 6 hour busride I finally arrived at the next stop: Tucuman! Time for the next blog entry...
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Salta
photo by: wvijvers