The juice was worth the squeeze. That’s really all I can say to justify the 18+ hour micro (bus) ride from Buenos Aires to Salta. Despite the terrible food and awkward choice of man-eating-crocodile flicks, the bus ride itself might have been the most efficient and organized service I’ve experienced here in Argentina. Unlike an airplane ride, the stewardess keeps you on a strict schedule of eating and drinking, she’ll even wake you up mid-nap to tell you its dinner time. They also provide you with enough free alcohol to make sure that once its time for bed… you’re kaput.
I regained consciousness around 9am as the stewardess came around to wake everybody up for breakfast. We dined on some crackers with dulce de leche and a few small granola bars. I actually traded one of my dulce de leche packets with a lady across from me straight up for an extra granola bar… jackpot!
Entering into Salta was a lot different than I imagined. After driving into Rosario, Argentina I expected the city limits of Salta to be lined with villas and slums, rather than beautiful modern homes. Despite the definitive Argentine touch, it was like we were driving through a normal US suburb. The city was clean and beautiful. The air was fresh and cool. The people were darker, shorter and had big smiles. The hostel was… interesting.
Perfect for a group of backpacking buddies, the Exxes Hostel was fun, friendly and cheap, very cheap. It’s a hostel you go to if you’re not going to stay long in the hostel. The bathrooms were less than spectacular and the rooms were weathered yet functionable. It wasn’t really the best place for my hygenie-consious companion, but she sucked it up as we showered quick and hit the town.
We cruised by the impressive Iglesia San Francisco (Church) and picked up some delicious $1 peso empanadas as we passed through the Mercado Artesanal (market). We made our way through the city by foot and ended up in San Martin Park at the gondola to Cerro San Bernardo.
Cerro San Bernardo is a hill that lies on the edge of town which overlooks the entire city of Salta. Rocio and I paid the $20 pesos and hopped on the quick Teleferico (gondola) ride up to the top. The summit came complete with a nice little park, fake waterfalls and great view-points of the city. In retrospect, it was the perfect place to kick off the trip and get a grip on Salta.
We hiked our way back down via a foot trail that led us to the Monumento a Güemes (Güemes Monument) where we broke out the Mate and watched the sun go down
After a quick stop back in hostel to freshen up we headed out for dinner at La Casona del Molino (pictured above). This place might be one of the greatest dining experiences I have ever had. Yeah, the food was great and the wine was cheap but it was the atmosphere that really gave me one of those WTF moments. La Casona del Molino is this big ‘ol house with different rooms filled with a collection of random tables and chairs. Each room was like its only mini jam session as guitar players and singers mixed in with diners. As you walked through the restaurant one song picked up where another faded away and you could feel the brilliant energy of the space.
The place was authentic, warm and artistic. It encompassed everything we felt on our first day in Salta. It’s funny how 18-hours on a bus can be quickly forgotten with a day of exploring, an afternoon of sunshine and an evening of good wine and great tunes. I had a feeling this was going to be a good week.