Salta, Argentina
24° 46' S 65° 24' W
Apr 04, 2006 13:09
Distance 590km

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Text written in: English

They have supermarkets!

The first thing you notice is the blue. Everywhere, little touches of light, almost turquoise blue - on the taxi plates, stripes on passing runners and sleeveless t-shirts, a small dog with a silly ribbon and the child's football all with their subtle little touches, like an art school debutante's first feature film. Then you notice the food, steaming plates of gnocchi and beef, tasty little pastries, and cheese, wonderful cheese, with lashings of icy Quilmes (with turquoise label) in litre bottles to ease it down. It's already beginning to feel like another planet, a guilt-inducingly cheap planet with much prettier people. And then we see the bus. This shiny, new, road-swallowing spaceship with on-board toilets, serve-yourself coffee and biscuits and seats that go all the way back (without detaching themselves from their fittings and dumping you onto a piss-streaked floor amongst the livestock). The thing even smells nice and we've cleverly booked seats on top at the front for an ace view out the massive window, and the only chickens on board are warmly wrapped up in the pastry of the freshly baked empanadas on sale at the stops. Sitting back in our luxury armchairs, we chuckle to ourselves as the non-pirated, undubbed first film comes on the screens while the first raindrops start to patter.

Luckily, the film is both long and absorbing, as the weather gets steadily worse and the scenery more dull. The novelty of straight, surfaced roads and neat, ordered fields of crops dissipates quickly as the banality of a ten-hour ride in the rain seeps into the atmosphere. But we're on the way to Salta, a city of sunshine and beautiful architecture, and there's plenty to look forward to. We split with Johannes briefly in Jujuy, after steak sandwiches (how I dreamed of such a thing in the altiplano, and there was change from a dollar) and took the late evening bus to Purmamarca, the small village a little north of Jujuy where we planned to meet Marina and Dorothee. Arriving just before midnight, we wondered if it was such a good plan to just show up in the village at this hour and hope to find two, no doubt sleeping, French girls. At least it was dry, and in the low light the place seemed rather pretty. And small enough that we could be heard talking on the square from any of the adjacent buildings, and so we were reunited in no time, and settling into comfortable, adult-sized beds after a an oul' chat.

Purmamarca, for all its tininess, is beautiful. The seven-colour mountain really has (at least) seven colours, arranged in swirling layers on the rocks that undulate round the back of the hamlet. It also has a little bakery with such delicacies as blue cheese and red wine, and a shady plaza to eat and drink them on. Jo-boy rocked up around midday and joined us for a picnic, before a short hike through the colours. Sweet place, but small enough to require moving on after a day and two nights. As we were leaving, the queen of Holland and her Argentine daughter-in-law, Máxima, were on their way to Purmamarca for an official visit. We didn't see them, but we freed up a couple of bunk-beds in the hostel, so at least they would have had somewhere to stay.

Salta then, passing once more by ugly, rainy Jujuy and it's chucking it down here too. Between bouts of lash, we pick out a hostel with a decent atmos, a kitchen with an obvious gas leak, and a bar, for the comparatively cheap price of fifteen pesos a night - about five dollars. Sadly, the weather didn't get round to sprucing itself up until we were pulling out of the bus station three days later, when Mr. Goldensun came out in all his finery and waved us away from his clear blue heavenly home. So, as in any emergency, we spent the entire time gorging on fillet steak (you'd be sick if you knew how nice and costless it was), fine Argentinian wines and lashings of roquefort, parmesan and mozzarella, watching football and films on cable TV, knocking back Salta beer and checking out the night-life. I went out with the lads for one beer and came back at seven a.m, to the great unamusement of 'er indoors. The club was clubby, with brutal music and no space, filled with school-goers and the beautiful people of Northern Argentina. They were clamping down on caps, for some absurd reason (the same kind of clothing-fascism reason the bus driver sternly and insistently warned me about when I dared to go shoeless in his coach, no doubt), which made for fun games of dodge-the-bouncer, and queuing for beer and the one-cubicle toilets was a bit of a misery. All in all, not much to report, were it not for the odd feeling of dancing among people who come up to above your kneecaps.

Despite the lovingly-stocked shelves, the no-doubt lovely architecture and the presence of people who will actually talk to you without scrounging for a few pence or trying to flog you a dustbin on the main street, we could take the wetness no more, and scratched our plans to tour the Cafayete area, just south of us, in favour of a roundabout trip to Iguazu - at least it's supposed to be wet there. We were hoping to meet up with a couple of friends in Asuncion, Paraguay, so each time we had to change bus we checked back for news, which never arrived, and so on through Resistencia, Corrientes and Posadas we trekked, hoping for a break in the clouds, which came, gracefully, with the crossing of the border into Paraguay, at the dreary, yet slightly mad, town of Encarnacion.



Photos / videos of "They have supermarkets!":

Purmamarca, ladies and gents Europe says Hello How many colours? I´m sure one of these shows the mountain... It´s not this one... ...or this one This one has faces in It looked a bit like this I think it might be on the other memory card actually... Not just a pigment of my imagination It's a mizza! A pizza with a base of steak