A Lovely Day in MexicoJune 7 in Argentina
Up until now I had never been to Mexico. Along with the Congo, Kazahkstan, Iceland and about 160 other countries I had never had any reason or desire to travel to the land of cacti, sombreros and siestas. You can therefore imagine my surprise when that is exactly where I found myself. Well almost.
The day began with yet another early start and a long 200 km bus trip to the mysterious sounding Cafayate region of Salta. When putting together this part of the trip, I cannot now recall why I decided to include the Cafayate, other that it probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
After making our way out of Salta, the bus joined the famous "Route 68", apparently one of the most "iconic" national highways of Argentina. Paul and I were both clutching our passports since we had been warned that, on any national highway, police roadblocks are common and everyone has to produce their identity papers. Neither of us had any wish to be sent to some sort of Argentinian salt mine, so we decided to behave ourselves.
About two hours later we were leaving the flat plateau and entering into a strange, alien looking landscape of huge twisted and raised tectonic plates. Whole mountains appeared to have been lifted and dumped on their sides. Weird manifestations had been given wonderful names like The Titanic, Amphitheatre, Devil's Throat, Obelisk, etc. This was not what we expected to see. If fact I am not sure what we expected, but it wasn't this. In any case, it really was impressive.
From time to time the bus stopped to allow us time to take photos of the landscape. Each time this happened three young American girls took the opportunity to do what all young Gen Y people now do - take selfies of themselves in front of each and every interesting place. When they got back on the bus they then spent the next 10 minutes admiring every photo. Sad but true.
As well as the amazing mountains, there were also numerous cacti scattered across the barren landscape. Apparently it only rains here for about 2 months of the year. The rest of the time it really is as dry as dust. At this time of the year every day is clear and sunny, although the temperatures do plummet to around freezing very soon after sunset. It is actually the perfect time of the year to visit. The air at 1500 metres was clear and fresh and the viewing was excellent.
We were also warned about the various dangerous creatures that live here in the desert. These include Black Widow spiders, huge tarantulas and rattle snakes. Apparently the huge spiders can sometimes be seen running across the road, maybe with a large rabbit in their mouths. On this day we didn't see any, although I would have loved to.
After passing through the Cafayate Mountain region we finally reached the lovely little town of Cafayate. To our delight it looked even more Mexican than any town in Mexico possibly could have. With the brightly coloured shops, large central plaza (every town has a plaza) and the blazing blue sky overhead, it really seemed magical.
Paul and I found a sunny cafe and sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee. A few of the local stray dogs were sleeping in the early afternoon sun, while the rest of the population looked like they had knocked off for the daily siesta. After the early start to our day, a sleep would have been very welcome. In any case, we were both really glad that we had discovered this treasure.
We wandered back to the bus to face the long journey back to Salta. We followed the same route back, however the changing angle of the sun allowed some better photos to be taken. As the afternoon drew on, the gentle rocking of the slow moving bus rocked just about every one on board into a deep sleep. It had been a lovely day.
In the evening Paul and I wandered to the centre of Salta in search of dinner. Hundreds of people were happily walking the streets. A few buskers filled the evening air with bright music and many of the old colonial buildings were beautifully lit with feature lighting. We both agreed that this seemed to be quite a lovely place to live. We also agreed that the cold was starting to creep up our legs so we returned to the hotel to thaw out.
Tomorrow we have a free day to do some more exploration of this fascinating city.Read more