Salta, Cafayate & Humahuaca
02.04.2010 - 11.04.2010
Finally it was time to point myself in the direction of north and see where the road took me with the first destination to be Salta, from there nothing more than a loose plan of moving towards Bolivia. Arriving in Salta it is difficult not to be seduced by this quaint little city that lacks the energy and tourists of other cities but at the same time retains its colonial come South American charm. From the very random colourful buildings that contrast beautifully with the otherwise bland streets to the church that my friend so eloquently described as the "cupcake church" owing to its icing-style finish this is a place that can't help but feel Latina. Add to that the best empanadas (actually Cafayate ending up taking this one), tamales and humayitas to occupy your taste buds and the popular (and not too shabby) Salta beer to wash it down with there is certainly plenty to fall for.
The weather however wasn’t quite ready to join the party and produced two days of miserable weather with rain, wind or both being ever present. In one of those random travelling moments that you always seem to have I met an American girl that was sitting next to me on the bus that also happened to be staying at the same hostel (a hostel that was entirely run by the resident cat that should have been called cappuccino such are his colours) . We managed to find a couple of hours of just wind and I convinced her to come tomale hunting with me, in search of a place I had visited the last time I was here. This was to become a theme for us hunting for this tomale place and soaking in the charm of the town is about the best (and possibly only) way to dismiss the afternoon. Sadly after two days of hunting I was unable to locate the "mystery" tomale place and we had to settle for some that were not bad but not the best, we did however manage to supplement things slightly with some good icecream - it was easter afterall.
In between tomale hunts we headed out to see a live band with containing some of the hostel employees. This band was different to say the least with four guitars, a base guitar, drums, a violin and two singers contributing an incredible and incoherent amount of noise. If it were just for the noise this would be ok but the fact that there was three different tempos being played made it quite terrible and difficult to pick who could play and who was destroying it.
Next its off to do a tour down south taking in the wine valley of Cafayate, home of the torrontes grape as well as the ruins around Quilmes. A place that is now more commonly associated with the local Argentinean beer rather than the tribes that held off both Inca and Spanish conquests there. The ruins there are well preserved trenched walls and strategically placed lookouts that combined with the flat wide open spaces make it easy to see how it was defended so successfully. Nowadays there is little here and you are left to share the ruins only with the mountains and the thousands of cactii that now populate the area.
Along the way we visited the sites of the Quebrada de Cafayate, containing among other objects castles, frogs, windows and the titanic of which part had coincidentally collapsed the week before! The highlight however was the devils throat and amphitheatre which were the largest and most spectacular of the rock formations. The most amazing thing however was finding a take-away tortilla stand at the amphitheatre some 50+ kilometres from town!
That night we stayed in Cafayate a quaint little town that is 10 minutes walk from one side to the other but littered with wineries. We managed to take in quite a few wineries despite being thwarted by the strictly observed long siesta and extremely flexible re-opening and tasting hours. Here service is very much a distant second to adhering to the town motto of "go slowly" - seriously nothing happens in hurry in this town. Still we had a nice walk through the vineyards, sampling the wine with some locally made goat cheese and some amazing gourmet empanadas which were the best I have had especially the blue cheese ones.
The next day we returned to Salta and with a little help from a friend managed to finally track down the tomale place that I was desperate to re-visit, Patio de Empanadas. Once again I dragged Megan along and to my delight (and a little relief) they did not disappoint and were nothing short of fantastic.
With the impending northern journey needing to happen sooner rather than later I left Salta and my travel buddy for the elevated pastures of Humahuaca, home to Quebradas at 3000m. Driving through them on the bus was a great trip and well worth the experience. The Quebradas are just as spectacular as those outside of Cafayate.
Sadly with little time left and no bus further north on Sunday it would be but a very short stopover. A very short trip across the border with surprisingly little fuss resulted in me heading to Tupiza that day with a tour to the famous sites of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on the agenda. But alas I now have a new motto for Bolivia, “Anything is possible, but not everything is achievable.” With no other tourists and nothing, literally nothing other than horse riding possible for the next day I would continue my journey north, dealing with the obstacles that Bolivia throws at you. With the latest example being a lack of ATM and little money in my wallet and tomorrow being Sunday. With that in mind I thinking drifting back to Potosi on my budget is the next plan of action. The journey to Potosi was a typical local experience with most people speaking quechuan as opposed to Spanish. This combined with a 40 seater bus with 60 people on and the terrible state of Bolivian roads made for a bit of an adventure.