Move over Arequipa. Salta, Argentina is taking over as my new home away from home in the Southern Hemisphere. First off, I'd like to say that I'm very disappointed in Arequipa for only being able to hang on to the crown for a month. Frankly, I had expected more. Secondly, I'd like to apologize to our readers for the oversight of annointing a city in the first place that didn't come from a wine-growing region. You can be sure that I won't make that mistake again. So, why Salta? In addition to the wine (which has restored the healthy black glow to Kristin's teeth that we all know and love), the weather is warm, but comfortable (we were strolling around in t-shirts past 1 a.m.), the people are friendly (which is why we weren't afraid to walk around past 1 a.m.), there are lots of parks, shops and pedestrian-only streets (which make for great people watching) and the food options/prices make it seem like the town was created for thrifty, beef-loving Italians (which are my kind of people). The last item may prove to be more of an Argentina thing than a Salta thing, but I'm willing to give Salta credit until I see that it is otherwise.
[Aside #1: The only thing which detracted from my Salta experience was the bit I read in one of the guidebooks before arriving which said that travellers should really try to get invited to an asado (an Argentinian private barbecue, where copious amounts of fire-roasted beef and wine are typically served). What does that mean .... try to get invited? I can't get my best friends back home to invite me over for a barbecue, but now I'm supposed to try and get Argentinian strangers to invite me to one of theirs? I think the best offer I've received to-date was a drag off of somebody's cigarette. Until I find one, I'm compensating by ordering beef at every meal.]
After three days in Salta, we headed a few hours south to the town of Cafayate - in Northwest Argentina's canyon and wine country - where day-to-day life seemed to largely revolve around the main church and evening dinners out with family and friends. Our plans for Cafayate were ambitious - we wanted to mix a modest amount of exercise into the rigorous eating and drinking schedule we developed in Salta. The exercise included hiking around local vineyards and was highlighted by a 50km bike ride through the red canyons and desert of the Quebrada de Cafayate. In anticipation of the bike ride and after much searching, Kristin managed to procure what I'm convinced were the only two bicycle helmets in town. The man who rented the helmets said two things which turned out not to be in my favour: (1) We could only rent his helmets if we also rented his bikes (which meant that I was stuck with a bike seat from the 19th century which violated me so badly that I am still walking gingerly); and (2) we had to pay the full-date rate in advance, but if we got the bikes back to him by a certain time - which he didn't think would be possible - he would refund us 40% of our money (which got Kristin's competitive fires going and ended any possibility of the romantic, Wedding Crashers-like bike ride that I had been envisioning). Kristin happily turned a portion of the inevitable refund we received into 250 grams of ice cream at a local parlor.
[Aside #2: Presumably because Argentina seems so modern in comparison to some of the places we've visited, Kristin informed me a couple of days after our arrival in Salta that we are no longer really travelling.... we are vacationing. Now, I'm not sure that there is a need to differentiate, but if "vacationing" means that I won't be sprinting to the washroom after meals and the showers won't give me mild electric shocks from time to time, vacation suits me just fine. I note that I am writing this post in the middle of a 23-hour bus ride. No word yet from Kristin on whether this constitutes vacationing or travelling, but my aching back tells me that it is still probably the latter.]
Our pictures from Salta and the surrounding area are here. We're heading into Brazil in short order. If I discover there is more travelling to be done there, I hope to post another blog in the next few days. Otherwise, I'm sorry to inform you that I don't blog while on "vacation"...