18 April – 21 April, 2018
Not all travel destinations feel the same, some resonating more than others, whether in your home country or abroad. Some destinations will surprise us, with treasures found beyond tripadvisor reviews, while others, even after all our research, will fall short of the mark.
“Lo siento, Salta, ¡no estamos tan interesados en ti!”
Sorry Salta, we’re just not that into you!
Looking back, I’m not sure what we were expecting from Salta, the stop before our final Chilean destination, but it just didn’t do it for us. Perhaps it was because Salta came on the heels of Mendoza, a city that captivated us.
Salta, relatively the same size as Mendoza, has been described as the most visited colonial city by tourists in northwest Argentina. As we sped away from the bus station in our taxi, it looked nothing like the lovely city we had just left, feeling more like a tired, worn sister to Mendoza. Gone were the lovely storefronts and cobbled walks, replaced with crumbling facades, peeling paint, and trash in the gutters. Many streets were blocked off, causing our cabbie some anxiety, which he expressed from his open window, to anyone who would listen. The city was noisy, dirty, crowded, chaotic, and everyone around me seemed to smoke, none of which was a positive start to our visit. Ironically, we had the best hotel stay of our entire trip here and the best view of the city from our 7th-floor room.
And in fairness, we discovered many more attractive neighborhoods once away from the bus station.
Each day we walked the city streets, looking to feel something more, something that would grab us and draw us in. One little gem, food-related of course, was discovered at La Tacita restaurant, where the most delicious empanadas and humitas (think tamales) can be found, along with the most engaging owner, Porfidio. His little family restaurant and tasty creations raised the likeability meter of Salta for us. We also discovered a lovely vegan restaurant, Chirimoya.
Salta is an interesting juxtaposition, with shop owners washing down walls and sidewalks in front of their businesses alongside people tossing wrappers and cigarette butts into the streets and little tikes dropping their britches and peeing into the gutters. No one seemed to bat an eye, except me, whose eyes were a bit bugged-out before our stay ended.
Not all was a loss however, as our lack of interest in exploring more of the city allowed me to play catch-up on processing photos and gave us time to research and book tours for our next stop.
We left Salta via a double-decker bus, this time with front-row seats on the upper level. No more overnight rides (yay), just interesting scenery to entertain us. The landscape slowly changed from lush green to high desert, with saguaro-like cacti dotting the hillsides.
The road seemed to fold in on itself many times as we slowly crept up the mountain, traveling from ~ 4,200 feet up to 13,430 feet (4,170 meters). The effects of altitude greeted many of us as we stepped off the bus at Chilean immigration. We crept further up the mountain before we made our final descent, topping off at 15,820 feet. All I kept thinking was “I’ve got to find me some coca leaves”.
Next Up: Our final destination (and one of our most spellbinding) – San Pedro de Atacama