Welcome to ARGENTINA

Cowgirl

Tuesday 10 November, one hell of a long day crossing the border from Bolivia into Argentina. We leave Tupiza and get on a bus to the border, I’ve never been on a worse bus in my entire life, it feels like the whole thing is going to fall apart! The seats are dirty and worn out, the driver has virtually no mirrors, the windows are moving so much I don’t dare try and open one as they look like they will fall out of the pathetic metal frames and break. Thankfully this is only a short journey, and we soon arrive at the border to find we need to wait in line for a very long time. We are all cranky, hot and sweaty with our bags. We’re not impressed when we find that security need to open our rucksacks and look right into our things. Fine, if they want to rummage through my packs of sanitary towels, dirty underwear and perfectly folded clothes and ruin them all, they can. This is extremely annoying as we’re all at that stage where we can just about close our backpacks as they’re bursting. We get through and then enter another line to get more stamps. I think it takes about 90 minutes but it feels like forever. We get in taxis to the bus station, then board a bus for Salta.

What can I say about this City? It’s great. Not overpopulated, fairly clean, nice plazas and shops, and you really notice the change in people on arrival in Argentina, they are more fair skinned, you see taller men, it feels a lot more European here. Salta is a place to relax over a coffee on the square watching the world go by, eating steak and drinking Malbec, and enjoying the nightlife. Like I said, pretty European in fact it feels like I am in Spain, one of my favourite countries. On our first night we are shattered after so much bus travel. We’re staying at the Nuestro Sueno Hotel, its pretty nice. I’m sharing a room with Sammy and George and get the top bunk-not happy I can never sleep on top(!). Dinner tonight is at a gas station around the corner, we’re just to tired to venture further away.

Lunch at the Estancia

The following day I explore the centre and pop into the contemporary art museum-not impressed, an exhibition about architecture-don’t get me wrong I love architecture-but for me its it is just to dry and my visit lasts about 10 minutes. Its not really a day for staying indoors anyway the weather is gorgeous. I grab a few empanadas for lunch and head back to the hotel, on the way looking at some hand made jewellery being sold I the street. I chat to the designer-makers who are so friendly and it feels so good to be practising my Spanish again. I buy some earrings and walk on. Sammy is going to a hair salon and I’m tempted to join her so off I go. The place is lush and I get a refreshing new do. Alexa comes along too. On the way home we grab a nice bottle of wine and drink it before heading out. The evening is wonderful, more wine, my first ever steak in a very nice restaurant and great company. We drink some more before heading home.

Thursday 12 November is one heck of a memorable day, it was brilliant! We take a 45- minute drive to an estancia (ranch) to go horse-riding with some genuine gauchos (cowboys). During the 19th century gauchos made up the majority of the rural population herding cows and practicing hunting in Latin America. We ride through some wonderful scenery. This is my second time on a horse, the first was on Galapagos. I absolutely love it, although don’t like to gallop, I’m happy plodding along enjoying the views. We ride for a few hours and head back to the ranch for a late lunch. The gauchos prepare a barbecue for us; of lots of steak, sausage, roasted vegetables served with fresh salad, potatoes and lots and lots of red wine. The food just keeps on coming and the wine, well lets just say it’s a very happy afternoon for all! Gonzalo and Milagro look after us well. We hang out at the ranch for a while before heading back. Everyone is drunk and the drinking continues back in the hotel garden over cards (its no wonder I put on weight out here, the food and drink was just too good!). We’re off out again tonight and the drinks are still going down well, wine wine and more wine! Sebastian our tour leader has a love for vino tinto and gets a cab home before everyone else, he has over done it tonight! Don’t cry for me…

Sebastian with his beloved vino tinto

The following morning there is no sign of Sebastian. Perhaps after he left us last night he went on to a club and hasn’t got back yet. Or he is staying with a friend. Or he got lost and is alone somewhere. It’s 11am and no sign of him. We’re leaving on a 3pm bus this afternoon, it’s not like him not to be here. Panic sets in and we later learn he has spent the night in a prison cell! He scrambled out of the taxi on our street the night before but knocked on the wrong door. A single middle aged woman felt harassed by his persistent knocking asking to be let in so called the police. Poor Sebastian, our fabulous 25 year-old Peruvian tour leader spent the night in an Argentinean prison cell where he was question and bullied all night, for knocking on the wrong door. We have no idea when he will be released and discuss our options. In the end we organise ourselves with the help of the lovely women in our hotel who speaks a tiny bit of English and get on the 18 hour overnight bus to Mendoza, without Sebastian.

We arrive at our hostel at around 10am and Sebastian greets us at the Quinto del Rufino hostel. He flew to Buenos Aires then took another plane to meet us here! What an ordeal, but he’s here now safe and sound. We spend the next couple of days eating and drinking well, the girls get some retail therapy and we enjoy an afternoon at the park. I have some ME time and quite like this city. The next day we’re off to Chile…

Gonzalo and Milagro

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