Monday, May 19, 2008

Free Salt!

Picking right up in San Antonio de los Cobres. We had almost given up on even getting any kind of a decent breakfast (potato chips and Oreos from the corner store don't count) when we stopped by the one nice hotel in town to ask for directions. And lo and behold, they were serving a pretty nice breakfast that we were allowed to partake of.

Then it was right back on the road. It was another slow, gravelly stretch, but at least there were plenty of donkeys to keep us amused.

First stop: the salt flats. We thought we overshot the entrance when we lost sight of them in the distance, but then we rounded the bend and saw that they were much bigger than we had first imagined.

Salt, as far as the eye can see! Piles and piles of it. In Argentina, first you get the salt, then you get the power, then you get the women.

Seriously, free salt! Grab your shovel!

If I have driven just one salt miner to our website with this carving, then it was all worth it.

After playing in the salt for a while, we hit the next stretch of road, paved thankfully, up to Purmamarca. Again the scenery was otherworldly.

And Purmamarca turned out to be a great little town. It's nice and quaint, with a spectacular backdrop of vibrant red, yellow and green rocks. We didn't get a great picture of the rocks, unfortunately, but we did get a few pics of our spectacular lunch. First up, five different empanadas. I think they were llama, carne, pollo, queso and... something else I can't remember. The llama was best.

And then I splurged and ordered the lomo de llama. This was really good... extremely juicy and tender like a nice cut of pork. And the flavor was excellent. Salty, tangy, savory. The cheese was kind of a semi-firm goat cheese that was a nice, soft complement to the tanginess of the llama. And the potatoes were nice too. This was one of the top 3 meals I had in Argentina.

Liz, meanwhile, had some quinoa fritters that were good in their own right, if not as spectacular as my dish.

There was a nice outdoor market with local crafts, and Liz picked up a little something for our future house (not from among these, though).

One of the signs advertising coca leaves. I think they're technically illegal, but the locals in northern Argentina get away with chewing them quite frequently. "Bica" is bicarbonate soda, or baking soda (I think). I think you use a little of it to mellow out the leaves, or something.

Purmamarca was only a quick lunch stop, next we headed north to Tilcara and Humahuaca. We breezed through Tilcara pretty quickly, then decided to go all the way to Humahuaca and decide from there where we wanted to spend the night.

The views, again, were worth all the driving.

When it came time to secure a hostel, we decided on Tilcara over Humahuaca. And we just grabbed the first place we looked at because we were tired and everything was expensive. Then we looked a little closer at the place we had rented. Ugh.

That night we went to one of the fanciest restaurants in town because they had a roaring fire. The food was a little weird, though. This was supposed to be a quesadilla. Uh.... what?

I ordered llama again, thinking of my awesome lunch, and got this. The llama itself wasn't bad, but the rest was disappointing. On the left, that's just chopped tomatoes with four potato chips sticking out of it. And the green stuff was mashed peas... disgusting.

The next day on our way back to Salta, we stopped in Purmamarca for breakfast. And coca tea! Liz found it a little odd at first, but I liked the taste and thought it was actually quite mild. No dramatic side effects, sorry to report.

From Salta we blitzed on through to Iguazu falls. And now I have to renege on my promise in the previous post. I said I'd get all the Argentina stuff up right now, but it's already 9pm and I've been sitting in this cafe for like 3 hours. We have a billion shots from Iguazu, so it's just going to have to wait. Until then...

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