Friday, May 9, 2008

The Volkswagen Gol Diaries

Diving straight into our time in the Salta region.

No, I have not been kidnapped. This is the best way to sleep on an overnight bus.

Our first (and only) afternoon in Salta, we headed out to check out the fancy restaurant and bar district up on Balcarce. But we got sidetracked by a local market. This part of the country feels different. Like Mexico or something. And we actually found some spicy food! These are called Humitas, and they're just like Tamales. They even had spicy salsa.

I mean, the food in this country is good, but outside of steak, wine and ice cream, it's a little bland. You almost never find pepper on the tables in restaurants, and when they tell you something is "picante," they are almost always lying.

This stuff had a legitimate amount of heat to it. So delicious.

It also appears to be more Catholic up here.

We were lucky to witness the start of a Quince. It's like a Quincinera (sp?) in Mexico, where they throw an elaborate bash to celebrate a girl's 15th birthday. This lucky girl made her entrance on the back of a motorcycle.

Seriously, the amount of money they must drop on these things is mind-boggling.

Later that night. This is the drunkest I have ever looked in a picture. I wasn't even drunk!

To prove it, I overcompensated in the next photo.

The next day we secured a rental car and hit the road. A Volskwagen Gol, which I think is identical to a Volkswagen Golf. Not sure why they drop the "F" in latin America. Anyway, the original plan was to hit Cafayate, Cachi and maybe Humahuaca before returning to Salta. We ended up extending the trip by 2 days and also visiting San Antonio De Los Cobres and Tilcara.

The scenery in this region really is out of this world. We did over 1200 km in about 4 days... but that's not all freeway driving. It was cliffside, twist-and-turn, high-altitude, dirt-road driving, and it ended up being the most demanding drive I've ever undertaken.

At the start of the trip, we discovered that there IS water on Mars.

The colors were incredibly striking.

The "Garganta del Diablo," the first of two "Gargantas" we would see on this trip. AKA, the throat of the devil. It was impossible to photograph properly as it was so large that the exposure never worked properly. Aim at the top and the bottom is too dark. Aim at the bottom and the top is washed out. This is the best we could do.

I'm posting this because Liz raved on and on about how well my shirt matched the background.

This one has a bit of scale. Lower left hand side.

And so does this one. Bottom center.

I'm hoping this makes the cover of a rock climbing magazine.

Liz has a shot as well.

That mountain in the middle was even greener in real life. Like the color of the Statue of Liberty. So weird!

Where did we leave the car?

Oh yeah, down there.

Apparently they also have trees on Mars.

We finally arrived in Cafayate after pulling over about 462 times appreciate the scenery. Unfortunately it was too late to visit most of the wineries, but this one was still open.

It was the most scenic winery either of us has ever seen.

But the wine wasn't so great. Their most expensive bottle on offer was 25 pesos ($7), and most bottles ranged from 6 pesos to 12. That's not to say you can't get a very solid bottle of wine for 12 pesos in Argentina; but these weren't up there among our favorites. We posed for this picture (and bought a 6-peso bottle of Torrontes) to be polite.

You didn't think there could be anything nastier than fried cockroaches or a mayonnaise waffle, did you? How about Tuna flavored ice cream?

We must have gotten the honeymoon suite... hence the sexy monopillow and satin-accented blanket.

It's getting late here; I'll try to wrap up the rest of these photos before we shove off tomorrow.

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