Do you get carsick? Are you afraid of heights? Then Salta is not the place for you. I learned this the hard way over the weekend on our trip to the Northwestern regions of Salta and Jujuy.
We left Buenos Aires on Wednesday evening and arrived Thursday afternoon in the town of Salta. The most wonderful thing about stepping off the bus (besides the fact that we had finally stopped moving after about 20 hours) was that it was warm outside! The weather in Buenos Aires has been miserable ever since we arrived—cold and rainy almost every day. This was not the case in Salta. I was able to wear a t-shirt and flops for the first time since I left California and it was amazing. We spent our first afternoon doing a blitz tour around the city of Salta and ended the afternoon with a gondola ride up a near mountain so we could watch the sunset over the valley. I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not been dreading the actual ride up the mountain. The sunset, however, was magnificent, and so I ended the day excited to explore more of what the region had to offer.
I wasn’t really sure where we were going the next morning when the bus showed up at 7:30am to pick us up for that day’s excursion. We were told that we would be visiting this little town called Cachi and seeing the valley. I had looked it up in my guidebook and all I saw was a little, cute town in the middle of nowhere. Little did I know, it would be one intense bus ride just to see this town. We basically spent ten hours on a bus/minivan winding up the sides of mountains, climbing thousands of meters and stopping along the way to take pictures. The worst part was that I don’t think Argentina really values guardrails in the same way that we do, so on some sides of the mountain, the only thing standing between your car and a tumble down the cliff is a little wooden pike. It didn’t exactly make the ride much easier, especially for me because I don’t do very well on these types of car rides. In fact, I try to avoid them whenever possible. Luckily, we arrived safely in the town of Cachi, spent a few hours looking around and then had to make the trek back down the mountain to Salta.
The next day was round two of mountain adventures. I cringed when our guide Maria told us that it would be an even longer day and that we would be climbing even higher into the mountains. Our first leg of the trip was a stop in a town called Purmamarca where they sell hand made goods. We only had an hour to do a quick shopping trip and have our picture taken in front of Cerro de los Siete Colores (or the Hill of Seven Colors) before it was back on the bus and straight up the mountain (not exaggerating—the road was so steep it felt like we were driving at a 90 degree angle) so that we could reach the top at over 4,000 meters. I declined the photo op at the top of the mountain and instead hid in the bus with my eyes closed waiting until we reached a lower altitude, chewing furiously on my coca leaves to help balance my oxygen levels. When we finally did reach the valley it was to stop at the Salinas Grandes, Argentina’s famous salt flats, which are in the neighboring province of Jujuy. You could see the salt deposits from miles around and close-up it looked like a combination of snow and sand. After Salinas Grandes we made our way through the valley via an unpaved road they refer to as a “famous highway.” I couldn’t be sure if that was irony or not, but either way, the scenery was beautiful, the car ride, however, was a nightmare.
We made it back to Buenos Aires two days later after another long overnight bus ride and I am so happy to be back in the city on flat land. It was cool to visit Salta and Jujuy, but if I don’t have to see another bus or mountain for a while I’ll be very happy. Now I just have to catch up my schoolwork and write my first paper of the semester.
Katie Riley '14