Mountains, Salt, Llamas, and Peñas
This past week, all of the IFSA kids took a week off from school for a “pretend” Spring Break to get to know a new part of Argentina and/or South America. I say “pretend,” because I still had classes last week, however it was exam week for the Argentine students, so many of the other IFSA kids didn’t have class. To my understanding, the Argentine students take their final exams several months after finishing the material. In other words, the exams held last week were the final exams for last semester’s classes. I can’t imagine having to study for exams for two months after finishing the class, and learning the new semester’s material at the same time, but luckily, I shouldn’t ever have to do that! It wasn’t too difficult to decide to skip two classes in order to go to a new place for a few days, but it was very difficult to decide where to go! A good number of IFSA kids chose to head northeast to Iguazú Falls, and then on to Paraguay, Uruguay, or Buenos Aires. Others chose to go to Bolivia, while others explored Peru or Chile. After much research and consideration, another IFSA student and I decided to explore the provinces of Salta and Jujuy in the north of Argentina, and let me tell you: IT WAS INCREDIBLE!
Day 1: Hopped on a double decker bus for a short 20-hour ride alongside the Andes. I know, the thought of sitting in a bus for 20 hours straight sounds miserable, but it was actually the most comfortable, fastest 20 hours of travelling that I have ever experienced! We had “cama” (bed) seats, which reclined almost 180 degrees. We had great service, we were given a ton of food, and we watched some great movies.
Day 2: Arrived in Salta early Saturday morning. After dropping our luggage off at the hostel, we headed out to do a little research on tour companies. We went to several companies, compared prices and excursion locations, and tentatively planned out the rest of our time in Salta. After lunch, we went to the Cerro San Bernardo, which is a small mountain that sits right next to the city. There are thousands (literally) of stairs that you can take to the top, or there are gondolas that take you to the same place for USD $5. Since it was in the 90’s, sunny, and I was still getting over some kind of respiratory illness, we decided for the latter. The views of Salta from the top of Cerro San Bernardo were breathtaking. After, we went shopping for a little while, and had a relaxing night (we were pretty exhausted from the bus ride/lack of sleep due to anticipation and excitement!).
Day 3: Woke up at the crack of dawn (okay, not that early, but early for vacation!) to catch the tour van waiting for us outside of our hostel. Today, we saw some AMAZING landscapes, views, etc. Our first stop was La Cuesta del Obispo, which left me without words. We were close to 11,500 feet above sea level, and it was a beautiful day. The clouds were swirling around below us, and the view was overwhelmingly magical. We got back in the van and headed for my personal favorite location of the day: El Parque Nacional de los Cordones (type of cactus)! Some of the cordones were incredibly tall, as you can see in the pictures below. Surprisingly, the cordones grow extremely slowly: the maximum growth per year is 3cm. It was amazing to see SO many cacti in one place, and the mountains around the park added a nice touch to the view. Then, we were on the road again to check out the small village of Payogasta, where you can find the highest registered bodega (winery/vineyard) in the world. We had a quick lunch and a short lesson on how to make wine, and finally headed for our ultimate destination: Cachi. Cachi is a small, antique town in the Chalcaquí vallies of Salta province. There wasn’t much to do in Cachi because we were there during siesta, so the museum and artisan fairs were closed, but we enjoyed some great ice cream, warm weather, and a beautiful atmosphere in Cachi’s small central plaza before making the 3 hour trek back to Salta capital.
The first half of our trip was over, and my impression of Salta was that it was impeccable. Due to the length of this post thus far, and the likelihood of you all getting bored reading so much, I think I will stop here for today. I also want to be sure that I can load a good number of my pictures so I can share with you the beauties of which I have been trying to describe (although, as per usual, the pictures just don’t compare to seeing it in person!).
To Be Continued…