Friday, November 12, 2010

Estoy enamorada con Salta, la linda

Ooh, Salta. Where to begin with trying to describe the beauty I have seen...

I packed up my bags and was ready to venture out on the road alone!
It didn't last long though because as I was waiting in the bus station, I met up with a girl named Ryan who had been in 2 of my classes, and surprise, surprise! She was going to Salta alone too. So we ended up being together the entire time. She wanted to go to Salta and travel around, but instead we stayed in Salta (capital) and did 3 different day excursions.

Day 1: Jujuy - Las Salinas Grandes y Purmamarca
Jumping in the salt flats!
On the first day we started out by following the path of El Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds). We bought coca leaves to chew on to help with the altitude sickness, as we made the ascent to 4,170 meters above sea level. I wasn't much a fan of the coca, so I stuck to chewing gum and drinking a lot of water to keep the sickness away, and I really only noticed that I was slightly dizzy when I was walking around a lot (which didn't happen much because we were in the car). We stopped a few times just to take pictures and other times we stopped to visit specific towns and sights. The highlights were the Ruins in Tastil, which apparently used to house 3,000 people in 14th century AD. From there we stopped in San Antonio de los Cobres to eat lunch, and then we headed to the salt flats. The salt flats are just SO big, I can't even begin to imagine how large they actually are. We visited an area that had mounds of salt that they had dug up, and an area that they were digging the salt and reaching the water - there are rectangular pools, and the water is under the salt in all parts, but it's just so dry above that! After that, we headed to Purmamarca. I was SO excited to see the Mountain of 7 Colors, and we barely saw it! We didn't stop for pictures because it's colors are better in the morning, and then from the town, you can't really get a good view of it.
Instead I bought some gifts for my friends and family!
We got back in the car without the young Germans because they planned on staying in Purmamarca for the night before heading into Boliva the next day.

Day 2: Salta - Cafayate
Wisdom amongst the mountains.
To go to Cafayate we were picked up bright and early. On this day we shared our car with two girls from Holland and a couple from France. This was just such a spectacular day, I can't even put it into words. We started by seeing a natural amphitheater that the Salta Orchestra actually performs in once a year. Then we headed to Cafayate with minimal stoppage and visited a winery before lunch. On the way back to Salta from lunch  we stopped to take pictures at La Garganta del Diablo, Los Castillos, Las Ventanas, and more. Apparently the lighting is better in the afternoon for these specific sights, and so it was very nice of our driver to consider that for us.
Our driver on the second day was definitely the nicest. He remembered all our names and he also spoke English, but he made sure to translate everything that he said so that everyone in the car could understand the entire conversation.
On our way back to Salta we stopped the Cabra Corral lake, which is manmade and used mainly for hydropower (got that, US?). Here I decided to be the entertainment for the afternoon and I BUNGEE JUMPED!
It was  27 meters, almost a dollar per meter, haha. Looking back, it probably wasn't the safest, but I wasn't that worried when I was doing it, and I really enjoyed it. It was probably the fastest 2 minutes of my life... I got a cute little diploma, a little bit of a rope burn on my one ankle, and some abdomen pain (I think maybe I pulled a muscle?). But it was definitely worth it. It's definitely not that big of a deal and my poor roommate, Caitlin, is still nervous for me even thought it's all over!
I got home from Cafayate, talked to my Dad for a few, and then fell asleep about 8pm and didn't wake up until my alarm went on the next morning at 6:15.

Day 3: Salta - Cachi
I thought this day was going to be so spectacular because we were going to Cachi on La Cuesta del Obispo, which you should google image, but it was cloudy! Which is apparently quite common, but that means that the drive was slow and you could barely see any of the scenery until we were at the altitude about the clouds (which is really strange to think about - we were ABOVE the clouds). On the way, we stopped at a little cafe for some tea and coffee to warm us up, and I met people from Connecticut! They are the first Nutmegers that I've met here in Argentina, and of course it happened to be at just some small roadside restaurant in the middle of Salta. That's just the way this world works. Anyway, they were really sweet, and I got to speak some English with them! Haha.
We made our way slowly up the mountain and arrived at Nacional Parque Los Cardones - aka Cactus National Park! Who ever knew there could be so many cactus in one place... I have some very fun pictures for there though.
Fun fact: Cactus flowers only bloom for a day.
We continued on our way until we made it to Cachi with occasional photo taking stops. Cachi really is not a big deal, like my friends told me, but it's just a quaint little colonial village. We ate lunch and Ryan and I laid out for a few minute and tried to enjoy the warmth before we made our decent back into the clouds and felt the temperature significantly drop. The ride back to Salta is one that I swear I will never forget because we were driving through the clouds and had seriously, seriously limited visibility. We didn't know cars were in front of us until they were right there!
When we returned to Salta, Ryan and I went out to walk around the city a little bit, and I enjoyed some night photography of Salta's gorgeous Cathedral and Church.

The next morning, I woke up, found out that my amazing friend Stephanie had registered me for my classes (thanks, Steph!), and I got on a bus to come back to Buenos Aires.

It was a long bus ride back, but I passed the time talking to a nice woman who was traveling with her young son, and a man who is full blooded Argentine-Indian. He told me that because I have the cleft in my chin, he knew that I would grow up to be una mujer fina (a 'fine' woman, or something pure, affectionate, true, or excellent, depending on the definition), and a lot of things about living life by what your heart tells you to do - for that is how he became the person that he is today with children and a wife he loves. He was a very nice older man and kept pointing things out to me from the window of the bus and explaining things.

I'm really sorry that this post is actually kind of lame to read. I'm so tired, still, after a long nap. And I know that there's no way that I can adequately describe what I saw these past very days, so I'm annoyed with myself for even trying...

But, it's only a few hours until my Mom's plane touches down! So I'll have a busy next week with her and her friend Miss Valerie!

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