15.03.2012 - 22.03.2012 20 °C
Some relaxing days at the end to enjoy times without schedule. Details to follow ...
5 weeks of unspoiled nature (with some culture mingled in)
15.03.2012 - 22.03.2012 20 °C
Some relaxing days at the end to enjoy times without schedule. Details to follow ...
14.03.2012 - 14.03.2012 24 °C
Its wet !!!
The argentinian site is nature pure, with bridges to prevent you diving into the clouds of heavy waters.
The Brazilian site is civilized Disney land buses and mostly dry paths give you a panoramc overview of the falls, with no risks, and only some spots to ge wet.
We took on the Argentinian site the zodiac tour, which is breath taking, ...
13.03.2012 - 13.03.2012 25 °C
Salta day 2
It's an easy going day. Nothing on the program, after a late breakfast, we head for a coffee again on the main square, the museums are closed today, so no obligations, just following up on the blog, and then a lazy stroll through the streets, reaching the cable car which connects the town with the top of the 250 m higher town hill, xxxx. It's a Swiss cable car, but Slobodan is still a little scared to enter, distrusting the Swiss technology from 50 years ago, but it all looks nicely maintained, so we get into our little box wagon, and off we go. Without any major event we reach the top, only Slobodan with a bloodless face, since each photo I took had let the car vibrate. After a recovery walk once around in a circle, looping with the other pensioners, it feels, we re-enter the Swiss box, and travel down.
Since a fancy restaurant is booked for the evening, we head home, not without observing the local rush hour, people and cars crossing in all directions at the same time the traffic light less corners. The only people struggling are the elderly, but often younger stop and help.
Slobodan is queening endlessly in a farmacy to buy some more mosquito spray, bu it takes ages, since each customer causes a new Internet research, or some other trouble, but everybody is patiently waiting, only when I storm into the farmacy after 20min, I get the attention of everybody, including the few staff, but seconds later lethargy takes place again.
The restaurant, Jose barcarole, is only minutes from the hotel, but the street quite dark, a bit more than we're meanwhile used to. And the restaurant also, has only candle light... The power had failed. We sit down, assured that all will be fine in a minute, nothing unusual in Salta, only a few things they can't cook at the moment, and the defrosting doesn't work either. We order from the remaining list, have some try at the local Salta red wines (an area where viniculture has only started 10 years ago). The Laborum we try isn't bad at all, but as many of the Argentinian's it has a high alcohol load, 14.5%, and it takes a while after opening before the bouquet is full. I order alligator (alledgedly from iguazu), but then the power is coming back and switch to another lama recipe, more traditional, bound to the local region.
It's a romantic dinner, to say the least, and we discuss the future, which can't be part of this blog...
12.03.2012 - 12.03.2012 25 °C
Easy going day, after breakfast only transfer to Salta, where we reach proper civilisation of the first time after Valpo, 10 days ago. Slobodan is pleased, in high mood, after all this nature some prospect of a coffee shop, on a paved road.
After me taking the obligatory pictures from Purmamarca and it's colourful stonewalled backyard, just after sunrise, which is not that early, we have another plung into pool, before packing, breakfast, and the pickup arrives.
There are only another few photoshoots to be taken, from coloured mountains, and piturestically laying cemeteries, before we reach the motorway, and Salta shortly afterwards.
We try to engage the guide into a discussion on economics and politics, but don't get too far, as her English doesn't reach that far, but also the remainders of the Menem family are kind of tabu.
But at least we learn that a local teacher earns 1500 pesos, while the local polical representative from Salta earns 10-20 times more. One might think that the middle class would be able to change this, but fortunately for the political class there is an even larger group of people at the bottom end of the society scale, who are unemployed and have no money, aside from the basic government support which allows them without work to survive. They are being promised a base income by any new winning government, and vote therefore quite consistently the feudal family at the top, the Kirchners, him earlier until his death, and now his wife.
We reach the town, a squared, chess board organised colonial city, and quickly enter the oasis of our hotel. It's unexpectedly a little palace with a courtyard inside, sunny and airy, very high ceilings, a balcony, and not much noise from the street.
Since the major attractions are around the main square, 9 Julio, the cathedral, the museum of contemporary art (MOC), some high altitude ethnology museum, and most important many coffee shops, of which the van gogh, based on Slobodan's research serves the best.
We have a break there first, before we enter the ground floor of the MOC, which exhibits some Paraguayan young artists, social exploitation, indigenous rituals re staged, and reflections on unhealthy foreign alliances. The texts are Spanish only, our understanding limited.
The first floor exhibits a Buenos Aires based artist, Marcos Lopez, who restages private scenes which can involve local celebrities from politics and sport, often based on newspaper prints, fotographs them, and partly overpaints them with helping hands from his atelier. The result is a hyper realistic image, comical, placative, sometimes like an advertising, bu with no obvious product. He also stages the resulting paintings to the confusion of his co-citizen covering a whole high raise building or on stalls in malls or on harbour walls. Interesting guy, socially aware, if not critical, based on the people he screens.
Back to our schedule, the main square, which also hosts the local cathedral, we enter as many others do, since it's time for the most important catholic service during the week, Sunday it is.
We observe for a while the incoming people, as in Mediterranean churches, whole families attend, kids running around the corridors, and only after the chaplain, a lady, opens the service announcing the priest, which I'm not sure of since he's too young, could because of his rope be a cardinal, but I doubt it. The people get of their seat soon, and start singing lead by a small choir, filling the room with an unexpected harmonic sound. After listening to a parable, which I didn't understand, only something on the sevens day happened and some readings from the corinth letters, we decide too leave.
The ice cream parlour is also on the square, in case we didn't mention it, has three different sorbets, which we all try on the way home. But we're no staying long, since another drink is due tonight, bu figuring out a bar starts getting difficult. We search the internet first, but only a few places popup, two in hotels and and in wine bar. We reach the hotel first, a high rise, but the bar integrated into the restaurant is on the ground floor, no ambition of the hotel to provide a nice view with a drink, matching the ambience, a postsocialistic style, although the stuff nice, we leave quickly. The next place on the list is the wine bar (feisty something), which is closed! Next on the list then is a busy street, where one bar/restaurant is next to each other. It's quite a noisy stretch, sit down in a spot where they life stage, play back, some 80s rhythms, and we order a pizza and some drinks, finally. After midnight w head back home into our oasis.
10.03.2012 - 10.03.2012 25 °C
Now today the UNESCO heritage site Humahuaca is on the program. We were offered a cooking class in conjunction, not much to our delight, but the travel organiser said, it's really worthwhile to learn cooking empanadas. Having now eaten the sparse variety of pollo, beef, or even vegetable, for many days, we're not less worried as to what the cooking class will be about.
But to our relief, the cooking class is very nice, and the UNESCO site remains a little miracle.
We are greeted by our cook, Mercedes, the owner of a little restaurant in Tilcari, introducing all the local spices, vegetables, and herbs, and how they are been processed, manually, based on indigenous methods, and imported colonialized ways of using them. The variety is huge, especially on corn, and what one can do with it. From flour for bread and doughs, to fermentation process which turns it into a liquor of a least 15p alcohol. But also some sweet juices come out of a redish corn, which tastes like raspberry juice.
After this intro into the ingredients, we are lead to the kitchen, need to prepare onions and tomatoes for the lama stew, and once that cooks, we prepare the empanadas, filled with a mix of quinoa, carrots, cheese, and a preparation of onions in various spices. It takes some time to get them into the right shape, and everybody is amused about our skills, since only our empanadas will be eaten at lunch with the driver and the guide. Once everything is prepared and the empanadas are in the oven we stroll through the vegetable garden, viewing quinoa, quince, amaranth, and all the other organic products being grown by her, Mercedes, the cook.
We sit down under the volaire and get served a nice meal, the stew is for some too spicy (Slobodan), for others to little (Martine, the driver), so probably we need to come again. It was a nice intermezzo, and after a stroll through the village, which is less touristic than San Pedro, we drive further through the valley, towards Humahuaca.
The mountains right and left are very colourful, which is actually the main attraction, but since we're after lunch the light is not gorgeous. We stop a few times, at the summer turning point at the latitude of xxx degree, a holy spot for the locals, on the 21st, of both months, December and June, and a little village, uquai ... Where we see the local colonial church, and buy small flutes from the locals. They don't want to get fotographed, which we respect, and instead we photograph at the shops the produce from cactuses especially the huge trunks which we'd never be able import to Europe...
Humahuaca isn't far any more, but also not to much of an attraction either. Some stands in the pebbled (colonial) streets offer nicer flutes, so we buy a third one, and Slobodan owns himself a bag of mañi-mañi, a local herb, which when mixed with mint makes a nice tea, we had tried earlier at lunch.
We look at some more churches, and an official building, in Mauric style, not sure how they ended up here, but we were told there were even Islamic emigrants from Spain, which ended up here in on this remote spot in Argentina. Namely architects, for the matter of having build this blue coloured dome, which reminds of cordoba/Spain. Anyway, beyond the colonial quirks we don't see much indigenous, aside from another main attraction which is the monument on a hill, depicting general gümes in his fight against the Spanish forces, by using all farm people and their kettle, which must have been so impressive that the Spanish gave up, and this part of the land became partly sovereign, at least for a little while.
Our guide tries to ensure us that the locals (who decended from the Inca) mixed with the Spanish or other emigrants, but based on the physiognomy on the streets we're not sure how far this went.
I guess the intention of the UNESCO grant is the opposite effect, which is from an ethnological stand point probably right, but it also didn't alter the two tier system, which we could observe between the colonial and local descendants at any hotel, bank or government institution. There might be equality rights, but the implementation lags behind.
We drive back, the light has changed in the afternoon, with now the other side of the valley being illuminated, lots of photo opportunities again, ...
After a plunge in the pool on our return to the hotel, we head to the centre of the village in search of a recommended vegetarian restaurant, but after strolling over the sandy pavements for a while, asking the locals about it, we realise it's not there anymore, probably because vegetarian customers aren't the most prevalent species here again.
On the main square a local we find a restaurant, which will serve me another Lama dish with Andean potatoes, a mix of local varieties, which Hix serves in London as a delicatesse, and here comes nearly for free. Something to export to Europe? Probably not, since that type of business wouldn't be aligned with the Unesco charter and principles.
When we leave the place the other restaurants in the village are still empty, so we still don't understand when the people eat here, at least not between 9 and 11, only a few tourists went where we went.