The South American Way

Day 60 – 30 Apr, 2015

Until the 11th hour departing for Salta, I didn’t know where I was headed.  To La Serena, Chile and the beach or to Salta, Argentina and the desert….  I had bypassed much of Chile during long haul bus rides in Argentina and I was beginning to feel like I had missed some good spots, but after a peek at the weather in La Serena and determining that it wouldn’t be warm enough for the beach, my sights were again set on Salta.  I bought a bus ticket and within 2 hours I was on my way north.  Feeling a little disorganized with the last minute decision, I was already thinking about being more prepared for my departure and knew I needed to do some research as soon as I arrived.


My patience that day was a testament to already spending 2 months in South America, but buying a bus ticket to leave Salta proved to be quite the challenge in logistics.  A bus company that only accepts cash.  Multiple ATMS that kept rejecting my debit card, not including a Citibank that I knew would accept my card except for the fact it was closed for renovations.  I made 3 trips to the bus station, the third being the time when I finally had cash in hand, only to find that the bus company was closed for siesta!  I waited 2 hours for the joint to reopen, tried to pay, and was told that their system was down so they couldn’t accept my payment!!! Oy!

With nothing else I could do, I had spent too much of the day running bus errands so I decided to finally have a look around the city.  I climbed the stairs to the top of Cerro San Bernardo, rode the teleferico back down, and ate my first Super Pancho (gross) in Paseo San Martin.


The main attractions in Salta are actually not even in Salta at all so the following day I joined a tour going to Cachi,  a town in the desert surrounded by noble mountains.  Cachi itself is not the prize of this tour, but the road between Salta and Cachi was beyond stunning.  This is what I came for.  Painted desert.  Mountain scenery.   Remote and isolated.  Northern Argentina is often passed over by tourists, but it shouldn’t be.  We arrived in Cachi in time for lunch, on a holiday, so needless to say, it was empty except for us and a woman who was playing a drum and singing in the plaza.


Because of a limited bus schedule to San Pedro, I couldn’t stick around longer to visit Cafayate, the wine region, or Quebrada de Humahuaca in Jujuy Province, although both received rave reviews from fellow travelers.  Instead I made my way to the bus station early Saturday morning, hoping that there was still room for me and that I could purchase a ticket.  Of course, their system was still down, meaning they couldn’t print me a ticket or a receipt.  I did what any other traveler would do – I handed a random guy 800ARS (about $80USD) and trusted him when he told me it was ok to get on the bus without a ticket or a receipt.  I held my breath waiting for security to come and drag me off the bus, but when the bus departed without incident, I bid a silent farewell to Argentina and could finally laugh about how typical this had been.  Ah, South America….