Heading north in Argentina: Cordoba and Salta

I arrived in Cordoba after a 13 hour night bus from Buenos Aires and found my way to a hostel. Having spent previous days after night buses moping around I decided to be proactive and after my success with, and enjoyment of, city tours in Buenos Aires I decided to get on the Cordoba city tour. This was an open top bus and as soon as the bus started moving I realised my mistake. I had assumed that coming 1000 km north of BA the weather would be milder and certainly it appeared that it was so I had dressed in shorts and flip flops but as soon as the bus started moving and the afternoon southerly wind picked up I was soon regretting my choice and was hugging my legs on the top of the bus. I still managed to enjoy the sights of the old colonial architecture and impressive churches, but another gripe was the format of the tour. It was dual language (English and Spanish) so the tour guide had to race through her spiel as we drove passed sights, and her thick Spanish accent combined with the street noise meant 50% of the tour wasn’t understood. What I liked about the walking tour in BA was that they encouraged as many questions as we liked and this wasn’t possible on the bus. So I left slightly cold and dissapointed ūüė¶

Cordoba cathedral at twilight.  One of many beautiful colonial buildings dotted around the city:

Although Cordoba is the 2nd biggest city it has a totally different feel to BA, but it is similar to Rosario (3rd biggest). I guess how London is unique among cities in the UK. Everything just wasn’t as grandioso as BA and a lot of the city looked the same. Cordoba is a large university city with no less than 14 separate universities which means a young and vibrant crowd and in the evenings the streets were jam-packed wherever you were. I was able to draw quite a few similarities with Manchester.

Pondering things to do and with a bit of spare time I visited the city zoo which was awesome and enabled me to see a few South American specialities e.g. Jaguar, Mara etc… But zoos don’t change much around the world so I won’t bang on about that!

Mara, cute little hare/deer thing:

I also took a bus to a small town, Alta Gracia, about 45 minutes away from Cordoba where Che Guevara spent his childhood years having moved away from Rosario due to ill-health. In this town they have the Che museum which documents his childhood and significant parts of his later life.  Pretty interesting and nice to get out of the city having spent my last 3 weeks in city centres.

Che’s bike (i.e. the one from the Motorcycle Diaries):

Me and a young Che Guevara chilling on his boyhood front porch:

On the last day in Cordoba, Crag, Pao and I decided to do some horse trekking out in the mountains. This was a great laugh. Crag somehow managed to get the smallest of the horses which I felt was highly cruel of the guide, but I later learned he had given me the most troublesome horse, Calala, after I had jokingly said I was an expert horse-rider (I said it in a sarcastic tone but I don’t think it registered with him in retrospect). Anyway all was well in the end (well not sure about Crag’s horse) and we had an awesome trip out trekking over mountains, historical sites and through rivers. We even had a few gallops towards the end which were great fun but not good for one’s arse. This was followed by an Assado (BBQ) at guide Marcelo’s place where we ate steak and drank vino tinto as he told us how he used to be a professional polo player in St. Albans earning a fairly significant crust and driving an Austin Martin before returning home to set up his horse-trekking business in the dusty mountains of North-West Argentina! He was a very likeable guy and was so full of energy, he kept us laughing all day.

Me and the horses. Calala, the naughty mare, on the right:

The horse trekkers beneath the statue of Bamba.  There is a haunting legend behind this indian monument which if you want you can read about here.

Crag’s horse after the ride. Knackered.

That night I got the 13 hour night bus further north to Salta. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Salta because it is generally a mandatory stop for travellers on their way to Bolivia or the Atacama desert, being one of the most northern cities in Argentina. I’d also had mixed reviews, some saying it’s just another small city and some saying it’s awesome. Having spent 5 days there I can firmly put myself in the latter camp. The scenery around was fascinating especially if you take a trip out to one of the neighbouring towns. You also really start to notice the change in skin colour and culture from the influence from the indigenous, who are more populous in the north of the country. I don’t know if it is this fact or the large university population but the people seem to be friendlier than Salta’s southern counterparts (Not to say that the other cities weren’t, on the contrary I met loads of really friendly people).

On my first day I had a stroll around the streets which have a very colonial feel to them and¬†similarly¬†to the other cities I visited in Argentina there were some great looking buildings. I stopped in at the ‚ÄúHigh Mountain Archaeology Museum‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúMuseo de arqueologia de alta monta√Īa de salta‚ÄĚ (MAAM) which basically presents findings from several hundred years ago of Inca-related artefacts. The most famous¬†artefacts¬†being the almost perfectly intact frozen remains of 3 children ‘mummies’ found at 6,739 metres several years ago. The story behind the children’s arrival at such a strange burial place sounds somewhat brutal by today’s standards: about 500 years ago the Inca’s used to have a fairly regular ceremony to celebrate key events in the emperors life, where the most intelligent and/or beautiful children would be selected from different tribes around the Inca kingdom,¬†and ‘married’ with other children¬†in the Inca capital Cuzco. The kids along with a large group of followers would then make their way to the top of a mountain called Llullaillaco and after several ceremonial steps would be fed an alcoholic concoction to make them fall asleep at which stage they would be buried, alive. This was considered a great honour for the children and their families. The cold and dry air at such a height conserved the children and the museum has on display one of the three children (on rotation) so as to keep them in good nick; and it’s quite a thing to see.

La Doncella, (The Maiden).  Died aged 15 but her body is over 500 years old:

Crag, Paola and I decided to take a trip out to Cafayate which is a small town about 250km south of Salta. The reason for this was because the drive was supposed to be amazing and also Cafayate is the main wine region in the North of Argentina. The scenery did not dissapoint as the drive is almost entirely through a massive canyon with loads of varying colours and topography; and when we got to Cafayate we were able to enjoy a bit of wine tasting for free which ensured a very snoozy journey home.

Picture from inside a massive canyon:

View across the valley on route to Cafayete:

Later in the day we trekked up a big rock thing that was like something off Mars. ¬†This is the obligotory jump shot at the top. I did the whole thing in bare feet having neglected to ask if flip flops were appropriate footwear for the day. ¬†They weren’t.¬†

Inside the ‘Garganta de Diablo’ (Devil’s throat)

I also had a few rest days just chilling and taking in the town of Salta, the last of which we booked our onward journey which was to include a quick stop off in Chile before heading into Bolivia. 

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