Argentina felt comfortable from the off. Maybe because we (minus Bet) had been here before. Maybe because we arranged a small but very necessary luxury of an airport pickup in B.A. Either way it was great to be back. It felt like a very different place to Colombia.
After a few days of getting ourselves together in Buenos Aires, we headed to the Northwest and the provinces of Jujuy and Salta. Being the 6th largest country in the world, Argentina has a lot of contrasts both cultural and geographical. Sharing borders with Bolivia and Chile, things here on the high Andean steppe run at a very different pace to the rest of the country. With a large percentage of Bolivians in Jujuy province, you could at times be forgiven for thinking you were in Bolivia, were it not for the Boca and River football shirts on every street corner!
This is also road trip territory. Serious road trip territory. It isn’t cheap to hire a car in Argentina and the driving can be truly shocking at times, but it is worth getting yourself some wheels if you can because the scenery in this part of the world is special.
Tilcara was our home for the first few nights in the north. A touristy but likeable andean town with great food. It was also a good base to explore the area which included the salt flats of Salinas Grande. While their not quite to the level of the Bolivian flats of Uyuni, they were worth the drive, if only for Betty looking cute in her shades!
We’d talked about doing some sort of volunteering for a while and we were excited to have found a family running a reserve in the “Las Yungas” mountains of Jujuy.
We had three weeks off the grid completely. No power, no internet, just conversations to be had and batteries to be recharged.
Aldea luna (Moon village) was owned and run by Martin and Elizabeth who took in a constant stream of volunteers from all over the world, some staying a week, other’s like ‘Franoline’ , were staying long term. We worked in the morning and learnt Spanish in the afternoon.
The thing that drew us there the most, was the chance to do some work and the fact that Martin and Elizabeth had a young daughter, Anna who was Betty’s age!!!
It took a while, nearly the whole three weeks, but they became friends in the end and it was nice for Betty to learn about new things with a little friend in tow.
We all took away new skills from our stay. We both learnt a bit more Spanish, Steve built a roof extension along side the ongoing job of fixing the fence to stop a rogue cow from destroying the garden! Nay learnt how to make bread, delicious bread! And Betty now knows where eggs come from after her daily collections from the chickens. All good skills for the future right!?
Aldea Luna was great, and at the time needed. Without a doubt, we will be looking at doing some sort of volunteering again, most probably in Asia. Hopefully there will be another Anna for Betty to play with and not a cow in sight!!!
At certain times, you realise that the world really isn’t that big. It turned out one of our Aldea Luna roommates ‘Vitto’ lived on a street very well known to Steve, from his time working in North London, and also two roads away from Nay’s first London based home.
It’s a small and very well travelled world right now.
Road trip part two was better than the first, and the first one was pretty good. This time we were heading south from Salta along the ‘Ruta 40’ towards Cafayate. We also had our new friend Vitto along for the ride. We even managed to meet his ‘ACDC’ request in the form of a cranked up “thunderstruck”.
The ruta 40, goes from the Bolivian border in the north, through to the deep south of Patagonia close to Rio Gallegos. This is an epic trip which would be incredible with the right vehicle. An ageing Renault Clio isn’t quite the vehicle to make it the full length, however served it’s purpose for this short, bumpy and incredibly beautiful section.
The couple of nights in ‘tranquilo’ Cachi and a brief stop in Molinos, where we had the best value ‘menu del dia’ of the trip so far, ended with a few nights in Cafayate.
Cafayate is the second centre for wine production in the country and there’s plenty of bodega’s to sample the torrontes and tannat’s as we found out. At prices considerably cheaper than in Mendoza (From 10 Peso’s!), it’s easy to be an irresponsible parent in Cafayate! Thankfully we had a level headed Italian with us, who could handle his wine.
We’re heading back to Buenos Aires and then down South to the vastness of Patagonia. It’s really exciting as we are going to meet Naomi’s parent’s and travel the south with them! Who knows there may even be a brief re-encounter with the Ruta 40 at some point!
- The night sky on a clear night in the mountains. Wow.
- Learning maté etiquette from the locals.
- MAAM museum, Salta. Fantastic high altitude museum, with Inca mummies.
- Scenery! Other worldly at times.
- Gaining some new friends.
- (Betty to mummy or daddy, first thing in a morning) “Sleep well, sleep well!?”
- (Steve to Nay) “Are they all like this at two?”
- If she carries on like this, we’re going home in January!
- Do you think they are bites or a rash?
- Such a good girl, isn’t she!!!?
- (Betty) “Eggs from chicken bottom”.
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