Monday, 12 July 2010

Catch-up post

Well, didn't manage to get online long enough to write an entry since the beginning of our time in Salta, so have quite a lot to catch up on... I started doing one with photos but it was taking waaay too long to upload the pictures, so have given up on that and will try to just quickly bullet-point some highlights before I forget...

  • Our four day excursion around the Salta/Jujuy region was awesome, we pretty much saw all the scenery we wanted to see including the 'Las Flechas' rock formations, the coloured mountains - coloured because of the different minerals in the soil, red for iron, green for copper, etc, the cactus national park, and the salt plains. I was probably as impressed as when we went to the grand canyon.
  • A non-highlight of the trip was getting altitude sickness when we arrived at the famous bridge/viaduct thing of the 'train to the clouds'. After a few painful hours in the car we stopped in a lovely little town, and I left some literal altitude sickness behind in a gutter outside a really nice church built in the 1600s. Yum. At least I felt better afterwards!
  • Saw quite a few animals on our trip as well, including vicuñasguanacos, and of course llamas. Also visited a goat dairy farm where they make goat cheese, which wasn't too bad! Unfortunately a bit difficult to transport back to NZ so we didn't buy anything in the shop.
  • Speaking of our trip, our driver/guide was a guy called - believe it or not - Billy Smith. Apparently his parents were English even though he grew up in Argentina, and his English wasn't too bad at all. For some reason when we booked the trip I thought he might be a young guy around our age, but turned out he was more of a retiree-grandfather. It was amazing, all the details and numbers he knew about all the places we were seeing etc.
  • By now we've found that pretty much every restaurant in Argentina has the same menu... grilled meat, bad pasta, bad pizza, and some sides (salad with tomato and lettuce, or limp fries). Of course when we landed in Buenos Aires we didn't really appreciate this, the parilla (grilled meat) was still novel and overall pretty good, but after two weeks it gets a bit old... As James said, he could walk into most restaurants and pretty much name every item there'll be on the menu by now. We've had some great meals, sure - the grilled goat I had in Cachi was really nice, and even the grilled river fish I had for dinner in San Ignacio last night was perfectly cooked, but they really don't seem that keen on variety in flavour or type of meal here.
  • The most interesting habits of the locals, particularly around San Ignacio, is drinking yerba mate (pronounced mah-TAY), a herbal tea. The interesting part is that it seemed that every second person we saw in that town had a cup in their hand, and a thermos of water to refill their cup when required. I guess it's a bit like guys who go on the road with a big thermos of pre-made coffee and keep drinking it - but not something we do with cups of tea or cappucino-type coffee in NZ...
  • San Ignacio in general was really nice, the main attraction were some really well-preserved Jesuit ruins, but overall the thing we liked was the fact that everyone was so friendly and it just felt so much more safe, most of the houses didn't have big gates and bars on all the windows for a change, and the guy whose hostel we stayed in was super friendly and helpful, despite the fact it was actually the cheapest place in the whole trip!
  • The bus ride from Salta to San Ignacio was pretty comfortable, they seemed to have a weird-movie theme (Shutter Island, The Box) which morphed into a Cameron Diaz theme (What Happens In Vegas). After breakfast they started a movie I hadn't even ever heard of before called 'The Circuit'. Michelle Trachtenberg was the only person I recognised in it - not a good sign... Fortunately we left the bus before it had gotten too far into it. 
Anyway, have to head off to dinner now, tomorrow we're off to see the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls, then will cross over to the Brazilian side, stay the night, see that, and then fly to Rio! Can't believe we're almost finished with the trip...

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