Salta, Argentina
24° 46' S 65° 24' W
Nov 19, 2007 19:47
Distance 1271km

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Text written in: English

Back to the Highlands and Altitude

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, November 19 to 21

This leg of the trip started with a 21 hour bus ride on Sunday night and onto most of the daylight time of Monday. Drove about 1,500 K. from Buenos Aries to Salta, much less if one was a bird as the roads are not direct or straignt, The seats were good recliners so being comfortable was not an issue. Some of my mates were not aware we were using public transit, so I warned them about noise (loud movies) and chill from the air conditioning. Being forewarned from earlier bus rides, I brought into the bus a sleeping bag for warmth. During the night the bus was not too cold, but in the morning the air con was on - sat inside the sleeping bag watching B-grade movies in English with Spanish sub-titles. The roads are good, so it was just a non-day. The landscape was rolling plains going on forever. This, however, is not the cattle grazing part of Argentina. Most of it appeared to be deserted.

Salta is a town of 300,000 in the north west corner of Argentina, where Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay all touch it. It is at the foothills of the Andes, and at an attitude of about 1300 metres. I love altitude, it is so neat to be higher again and in a setting somewhat like the highlands of Bolivia (which is my favoirite South American country, still). Unlike Buenos Aries, it is not as European in colour or race, there are a large number of peoples of darker colour, more like the rest of South America. Historically, Salta was used as an administrative centre for the north west part of the country by either the Spanish or Argentineans. The city has many buildings in excellent shape which were built in the 1700 and 1800´s. The beautiful arches and balconies you see so often and many in BA are also in large supply here. The weather is sub-topical (warm and wet in the summer, dry and warm after April).

Unfortunately, the wet season started the night we got to Salta. It rained all night. In the morning we were supposed to go to a road which follows the ¨Train to the Cloud track". The track is under repair. The train goes to about 4300 metres (13,000 ft), which is high and spectacular for train buffs. Unfortunately, the rains had washed out parts of the road, so that excursion was off. So, our guide took us to Cashi, which is a town in the Andes 160 K from Salta. We had to go up a very windy and steep mountain road to get over the top of the Andes mountain. It was a wonderful trip, the attached photos hopefully capture the awesome nature of the trip. Whereas we only traveled 350 K for the entire day, it took 10 hours of driving to do it.

Started the day by sleeping in, first time in a long time, got up at 9, whereas usually I get up at 7 or 8. Needed the rest, must be the altitude (and cheap wine).

On Wednesday, we had a free day so I wandered around the city. The buildings are so well maintained and interesting, as are the many churches. Sat in on a mass in the central basilica, it was nice to be in familiar turf, even if the service was in Spanish. Afterwards, climbed up the hill behind the city (600 ft, 180 M). Did the climb as much for the exercise as for the view. Great viewing, gives you a good impressive of the overall area.

Loving the geography and mountains, more of both tomorrow. but in a new city


Photos / videos of "Back to the Highlands and Altitude":

This is the first ¨Train to the Clouds¨.  The train goes to 4200 metres (13000 feet) when it works connecting Argentina to Chile by going thru the Andes.  We were supported to do the road next to track, but last night the first rains for the season came and the road washed out in places. River creek at the base of the Andes mountain range we went to in lieu of the ride along the train tracks. Getting higher and above the tree line.  These are the Andes Cactus in bloom. Field of cactus on the other side of the Andes from Salta.  This is a high dry plain Close up of a cactus flower.  Cactus flower twice a year for only a few days each time To get perspective of a cactus tree.  They grow one to three CM per year, so this tree is several hundred years old Confession booth in the Catholic church in Cachi.  It is made out of cactus wood The rolling desert, cactus forest on the west side of these foothills of the Andes.  Our bus climbed to 3400 Metres (11,000 ft) over a mountain pass to get here.  Makes you want a fast car to drive on this stretch of road Andes on the near (wetter) side Three quarters of the way to the top of the mountain pass.  In the morning the top was in the clouds Over the top.  The rock formations are so startling and vivid. Church in Cachi.  After driving for six hours, we got to the small town of 3000 in the highlands of the Andes View of the steppe mountains just behind and near to Cachi.  Cachi is about 3000 metres high (like many of the cities I visited in the highland of Bolivia) I love mountains, and the Andes are so impressive Wild lamas or alpacas roaming around in the highlands Not the salt flats, but flat desert like landscape Going down later in the afternoon.  We are at 4000 metres (12000 ft).  The road is full of very tight switchbacks. Going meets coming and the valley thousands of metres or feet below One of the many churches in Salta (likely from the 1700´s) Well maintained  and restored buildings around the central square of Salta Inside the Basilica of Salta.  Sat thru entire mass, even though it was in Spanish, felt right Outside of the church with the beautiful altar Third beautiful church in Salta View of Salta from the top of the mountain behind the city.  Climbed the 200 metres in about 45 minutes.  It is so nice to get the exercise.  Did take a cable car down as I need to do my blogging View looking down.  You can see the steeples of two of the churches I photographed individually. Salta in the foreground, start of the Andes in the back ground