In the north of Argentina, surrounded by mountains and forests, Salta is a place of adventure and excitement. It is a famous place for the gauchos and their horses. As our first contact with Argentina it fits extremely well under the description – steak, wine, and lots of fun.
Crossing the Andes
In order to travel from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta we took a bus that crosses the Andes. The road is incredibly beautiful but pretty harsh for those prone to motion sickness. It goes high in the mountains reaching over 4000 kilometers and then it starts descending like a serpent on the edge of the mountain. With the mountain’s edge on one side and hard rock on the other, it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty of the mountains and their evolution from high to low.
The horse and the BBQ
I spent one full day in Salta at a horse ranch and it was incredible. I started early in the morning with everyone else. This part of the day was crowded though, and my horse seemed to be quite a follower. I tried getting her to speed up but there was only so much I could do. Our chemistry wasn’t the best but either way it was good that we got to practice a little bit in the morning like two old ladies.
The enticement for many of those coming in the morning ride was the Argentinean BBQ. This was by far the highlight of the day as we had amazing grilled stake, some salads and other delicious garnitures, wine and of course more stake.
Run like the wind
I decided to stay for the afternoon horseback riding, and this time I asked for a faster horse. Later I found out I got the fastest one. We did have amazing chemistry and it was like she could read my mind. I let her go at her pace, as I was pretty happy that she was fast. We had quite some fun going through some jungle tracks and then galloping for quite a while. The last part just made my day. We both ended up the afternoon extremely tired and ready to just go to bed.
The horse ranch I went to is Sayta (Aymará word that means “where time stands still”). I very much recommend it for its beauty and magic feeling. They also organize different types of tours offering lodging and adventures in the mountain. It is definitely worth checking out if you want to escape from the craziness of the city and enjoy some time just exploring nature.
And then we party
But I did not go to bed. I was carried along by the group to dinner, because when in Argentina one must enjoy the Argentinian nigh life. And when I say night life I mean dinner after 9PM and dancing after 1:30 AM. I somewhat understand why they party so late – so they can burn all the calories from that late dinner.
We went to a restaurant on Calle Balcarce, which is a stretch of bars and restaurants where tourists and local people alike enjoy their nights out. The local had live music from a couple bands, two dancers performing local dances, and a dancing ring for everyone to show theirs skills.
As we were dancing at some point the two dancers took us out of the restaurant in the middle of the street, through the restaurant next door, back to the middle of the street and back in our restaurant. All this while those in the restaurant next door were doing the same. It was pretty cool 🙂
The lost children
After all the excitement and partying, we decided the next day to experience a piece of Salta’s cultural life as well. So we went to visit the unique Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana de Salta, home of the three Inca children found mummified in the mountains by a National Geographic expedition. The museum was built specifically for these children and it displays one every 6 months. We got to see the boy. It is very hard to explain the feeling of seeing a hundreds of years old body that still seems alive. It gave me chills while I looked at it.
The history of the children is phenomenal. On top of the mountain Mt. Llullaillaco at 6700 meters, a 6 years old boy, a 9 years old girl and another 14 years old girl were found mummified and placed in specific ritual positions. They are believed to have been sacrificed by the Inka people, due to many clues surrounding them. Additional information about the discovery can be found in this old New York Times article.
Although not very big, the museum has great deal of information and insight into the Inca empire and their rituals. And the writing is in both English and Spanish.
On display there is another mummy named Queen of the Andes. It was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, however it was lost for almost 80 years. For this reason it is not as well preserved as the others. To see it you have to press a button that lights the small glass box she is in. Be ready for a very morbid sight though as she has no hair and no teeth… You have been warned.
I couldn’t take any pictures in the museum and I’m glad I didn’t because as fascinating as this is, it is also pretty creepy.
The statue and the cathedral
As any other South American city, Salta also has a main plaza with a statue in the middle and a cathedral on the side. The fun part about Salta is that its cathedral is pink. It looks quite pretty in contrast with the green of the trees in the plaza.
From here we went to the Mendoza, the wine capital. The two days we spent in Salta were not enough to enjoy the beauty of this place so I just added the city to my “unfinished business” list in South America. I shall return for sure one day 🙂